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Lake Point Tower's Skyline Terrace: A Green Roof Pioneer

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If you walk by Lake Point Tower, as thousands of tourists do every day, on their way to Navy Pier, you'll notice a curious sight: A canopy of large trees hovering just out of reach, above the building's three-story parking garage. Those trees belong to Lake Point Tower's Skyline Terrace, a private park that was designed by famed Prairie style landscape architect Alfred Caldwell back in 1969. (if you've been to Cladwell's Lily Pool in Lincoln Park, this should look familiar.) Over the weekend, we paid a visit to Skyline Terrace, along with photographer Tim Hiatt, who took these pretty pictures.

To describe Skyline Terrace as a green roof, as we've done and as architect (and LPT resident) Trish VanderBeke did in her excellent paper, 'Lake Point Tower: A Green Roof Case Study,' is accurate, but it sort of misses the point. This isn't just a deck with some piddly heat-absorbing plantings; it's a bona fide park.

When Lake Point Tower opened in 1969, the 70-story building was pretty isolated, so adding green space and other building amenities was viewed as a necessity. Caldwell planted dense sumac and a small forest of aspen, white birch and other smaller plants over on the terrace's western edge, in an effort to dull the roar of traffic on Lake Shore Drive, which is just a few feet away from the edge of the deck. A waterfall spills over thick slabs of limestone and trickles into a large, oxbow-shaped lagoon.

Only the western half of Caldwell's original design was ever built due to budget constraints. A grassy lawn covers the eastern side of the deck, which LPT condo board director Paul LeRoux, who served as our guide, told us would be relandscaped in the coming years. And just to the east of the lagoon, there's a smaller bean-shaped swimming pool. According to VanderBeke's paper, the soil is about one foot deep on the eastern portion of the deck, and an average of four feet deep on the east.

Skyline Terrace is closed to the public, but the Park District and others frequently give tours.
· Official website: Lake Point Tower [LPT]
· Lake Point Tower–Green Roof Pioneer [Lake Point Tower Blog]