Chicago’s Near North Side was once home to Cabrini Green, a vast housing project that was notorious for violence and neglect. In 2000, the Chicago Housing Authority began demolishing those towers and replacing them with more modern, durable, and family-friendly homes.
The latest addition to this transformation is Clybourn 1200, a 157,000-ft² mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment project that leverages precast concrete to provide a resilient, sustainable living and working space for the entire community.
The project includes a combination of retail, parking, and residential options within a tight triangular site located in a busy section of the city. The building exterior material also had to be cost-effective, durable, and low-maintenance.
The designers had originally considered a brick and metal design, but precast concrete quickly emerged as the better choice. “The use of precast concrete started as a cost-savings strategy,” says Michael Henning, associate with Pappageorge Haymes Partners.
Once the decision was made to use precast concrete, his team reimagined the original design. “As part of the adaptation, ownership expressed an interest in using the material honestly and not disguising it,” Henning says. That led to the evolution of the aesthetic.
Like an Open Book
The new design uses precast concrete to create a book-shaped massing for the seven-story building featuring an acute angle to fit the nontraditional infill site. The “spine” of the book, which is located at the narrowest point on the lot, includes full-height glazing with a steel and glass canopy providing a backdrop.
The exterior panels and columns use different planes of relief with features that are either light acid-washed or sandblasted and, with the exception of selected accent areas that are stained dark, the surface is untreated. Window units punctuated with bright contrasting color and alternating orientation from floor to floor play up movement in the elevation and reduce the building mass. The glassy, open base, accented by contrasting colored precast concrete piers and banding accents, provides an active and engaging street presence.
Henning’s team chose a single precast concrete system and provider for the structure and enclosure to achieve cost and time efficiencies with a durable and attractive solution. They gained many benefits by combining structural and architectural elements, adds Mike Walsh of ATMI. “We were able to fabricate architectural components that act as the exterior load-bearing frame for the building.”
Because the building footprint is pushed to the lot lines along two sides, the project team faced significant staging and erection constraints, and they had to come up with an innovative access system for parking. To accommodate access to the parking structure, the precast concrete producer designed a precast concrete ramping system that extends beyond the footprint, allowing the architect to maintain the parking stall count.
To minimize traffic disruption during construction, they positioned a single large crane inside the V-shaped site to set the entire building. “On-site, the simultaneous assembly of structure and enclosure kept costs down with a tight, controlled schedule,” Henning says.
“It does not look like a precast concrete structure at the first glance,” Walsh adds. “The colors are very vibrant and accented with depth of structure, and you have to look hard to see the subtle differences.”