Hope for 2,000-Foot Chicago Spire Springs Eternal on Lake Shore Drive

The Windy City might have a new crown jewel.


There’s hope once again for that massive hole at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive where the ill-fated Chicago Spire, a 2,000-foot condominium skyscraper, was once slated to stand tall, pushing Chicago’s skyline closer to the stratosphere. Since creditor company Related Midwest announced the official cessation of the Chicago Spire in 2014, city officials have attempted to divert attention from the gaping hole where the spire was supposed to stand so as to avoid constant reminders of what could have been an extraordinary addition to the Windy City’s skyline. But global architecture firm Gensler has rushed to the skyline’s rescue with plans to fill the void with a new, equally tall skyscraper.

Gensler’s new conceptual design for the Chicago Spire site is known as Gateway Tower, which will rely on structural X-bracing to appropriately distribute the weight of the towering structure. Related Midwest hasn’t collaborated with Gensler on the newly released designs, which makes them entirely conceptual, but the mere fact that a plan is brewing marks an exciting prospect for Chicagoans and design enthusiasts around the world.

While matching the Chicago Spire’s 2,000-foot height was a significant part of Gensler’s conceptual design for the Gateway Tower, the architecture firm wanted to push more boundaries than just height. The infamous construction site lends itself to a stunning variety of structural approaches that Gensler’s new design investigates. “Our solution was to create an anti-tower, one that was not designed purely as an object to look at but rather one that is engaging at different scales to the entire city, one that would welcome newcomers as it simultaneously embraces locals,” Brian Vitale, Gensler Principal and Chicago office Design Director, told Curbed Chicago.

Gensler’s design for the Gateway Tower urges people to let go of what the Chicago Spire would have been by exploring a mixed-use concept that would invite more people to use the space and serve as a lucrative revenue stream for the city of Chicago. Rather than erect a building that exclusively offers expensive private property like the Spire, Gensler’s plans for the Gateway Tower include an observatory, a museum, retail stores, a hotel, and several other attractions in addition to condos and apartments.

Consider New York’s relatively new condo skyscraper at 432 Park Avenue that exclusively offers some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Standing nearly 1,400 feet tall, 432 Park is the second-tallest building in New York and a skyline eyesore that only reminds New Yorkers and the rest of the world of the exorbitant living costs in the Big Apple. Perhaps if the developers had thrown in something for the public it wouldn’t have garnered a poor reputation, but the skinny, towering building stands out against the rest of the skyline, highlighting the smothering tendencies of corporate America.

The Gateway Tower’s design also explores how the building could interact with its surroundings, namely the lakefront parcel east of Lake Shore Drive.