When designing the Orchard, Chicago-based architecture firm Antunovich Associates was tasked with bringing the modern feel of downtown living to the property, while also inviting in the natural elements found on the tree-lined streets of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The firm took inspiration from the elegance and grandeur of early-20th-century architecture found in the prewar co-ops lining the streets along the city’s iconic Lakeshore Drive to bring that vision to life.
The original design for the project incorporated Indiana limestone to gain the desired aesthetic; however, high costs caused the developer to choose a precast concrete facade, which delivered the same classical profile at a lower cost.
The final facade design is evocative of Chicago’s historically significant grey-stone structures of the early 20th century, many of which can still be found in their original splendor throughout this area of the city.
The design was complex, with intricate balcony details, roof-level cornices, door and window trims, and various linear reveals. To deliver these features, the formwork required highly complex build-ups and precise detailing; this level of precision could have only been achieved using precast concrete.
To achieve the ribbed pattern on spandrels and radiused balconies, the precast concrete producer placed PVC pipe sections into the formwork and then covered them with rubber to create a concave, reusable ribbed formliner. By casting the negative first and then creating a master rubber mold, the production team was able to achieve a precise level of detailing that could be replicated over many panels.
While most areas on the building have a similar appearance, many panels have windows or doors that shifted positions. Therefore, duplication had to be interrupted to accommodate the various locations of openings and projecting trim details. The large number of panel shapes on the project presented similar design and production challenges.
To maintain reveal lines, minimize piece count, and help facilitate erection, panels were cast in N-shapes, M-shapes, C-shapes, column covers, spandrels, radiused balconies, squares, rectangles, angled stair steps, and assembly-cast corner pieces.
Each shape required unique formwork, which also interrupted the process of duplication during production. However, by creatively panelizing the project, the team was able to maintain the placements and sizes of all openings, which reduced the overall number of pieces and decreased transportation and erection time.