EXTRAORDINARY METHODS: HELIX TOWER

Year

2021

Studio
Maged Guerguis

Program

Mixed Use

Location

Chicago, IL

Tower Height
1175ft / 358 m

Home to a vast array of entertainment offerings, Chicago is no stranger to crafted experiences. Nearly 58 million tourists a year visit the Windy City - guests to the city are treated to a wide variety in arts and culture, sports, urban wilderness, and, of course, architecture.

Known for its bold architecture, Chicago’s built environment is one of the most recognizable in the United States. 

 

Helix Tower serves as an adventurous proposal for, and a way to partake in, an already storied skyline. This 77-story hotel is a unique addition to the Lakeshore East community, offering space for entertainment, immersion, and education. The tower is intertwined with an interactive observation track, taking guests just over 1,000 feet into the sky while twisting around the building.

Urban Analysis

In close proximity, one finds St. Regis tower, Aqua Tower, and an assortment of residential developments. 

The tower stands as one of the taller, but not the tallest, in Chicago. It bodes well with its neighbors, and soars high enough to offer sweeping views of the city.

Design Information and Decisions

Design inspiration for the shape and twist of the tower comes from the Lakeshore East community’s landmarks - the adjacent Lakeshore East Park, Millenium Park, Lake Michigan, and neighboring towers like Aqua Tower and St. Regis. These local landmarks informed observation track routing, which, in turn, influenced the rest of the site. 

The soft pentagonal shape of the tower takes these design decisions into consideration, and the podium “climbs” from the ground up, tapering off in size and massing as the tower itself climbs and tapers as well. 

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Structural Analysis

Each floor is intersected by 18 concrete columns that help balance the torsion of the building’s twist. They, along with a reinforced concrete core, provide structural support for the tower. 

The exterior is clad in a double-facade system, complemented by sun-deflecting louvers to reduce solar heat gain. This is made of cold-bent glass. 

Helix Tower twists 60 degrees from bottom to top at a rate of f(x)=4.57x - 0.025(1+x).  , resulting in a tapered turn that dramtically finishes at the crown.

Structural Analysis

Each floor is intersected by 18 concrete columns that help balance the torsion of the building’s twist. They, along with a reinforced concrete core, provide structural support for the tower. 

The exterior is clad in a double-facade system, complemented by sun-deflecting louvers to reduce solar heat gain. This is made of cold-bent glass. 

Helix Tower twists 60 degrees from bottom to top at a rate of f(x)=4.57x - 0.025(1+x).  , resulting in a tapered turn that dramtically finishes at the crown.

Section Drawing

Typical Hotel Floor Plan

The Observation Track System

Suspended by tension cables, a hybrid Vekoma-style track takes guests on a nearly 1,100 foot climb around the tower, offering views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Helix Tower’s facade acts as a support mechanism for the track as it climbs and twists around the tower. Tension cables extend from the building, holding the track, and guests, gracefully and safely in place.

The Observation Orb System

Connected to the track via an electormagnetic system, the pods are able to travel freely around the building. The circular base guests sit on rotates 360 degrees, and is controlled by them as well. Essentially a “sphere in sphere” design, the guests are able to tilt, turn, and twist their perspective to enjoy the views, and perhaps be a little thrilled, too.