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What’s new on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s miniature model?

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Several new high-rise projects have been added to the popular miniature model in the last year

AJ LaTrace

While the Chicago Architecture Foundation may be best known for their popular riverboat cruises, their scale model of Chicago’s downtown is something that architecture buffs absolutely cannot miss out on. What started off as a temporary exhibition in 2009, the Chicago model—which depicts 400 downtown blocks—is now a permanent fixture at the landmark Railway Exchange Building, nearly occupying the entire atrium of the historic Michigan Avenue building. And every year as new towers join the city’s skyline, the Chicago Architecture Foundation adds a miniature version of each building to their model. It’s been a while since we last swung by, so we stopped by recently to get a look at what has been added in the last year and a half.

From this view, we can see at least a few major additions to the Chicago skyline. Over the last few years, the West Loop area has been booming with new construction, and from this view we can see 150 N. Riverside and River Point Tower on the river’s edge and The Parker at the very front.

Here’s a closer view at The Parker, which lines the Kennedy Expressway. A couple of block over is Skybridge, a 39-story condo tower built during the condo boom of the last decade.

Here’s a better look at the confluence of the Chicago River, which has received a number of notable new entries in the last year. Near the bottom right, we can see Wolf Point West, a 48-story, 509-unit apartment tower which just officially opened a few months ago. In the center of the photo, we can see the still-under-construction River Point and 150 N. Riverside office towers. Combined, the two towers will deliver nearly 2.5 million square feet of new office space to the city’s downtown once completed.

It’s a little tough to see here, but the Chicago Architecture Foundation even updated the old London Guarantee Building, which reopened this summer as the LondonHouse hotel. A glassy addition was built between the London Guarantee Building and the Mather Tower, which now houses hotel rooms and serves as the main point of entry for the LondonHouse. To the far left, we can see that the new MILA apartment tower has also been added to the model. The 41-story, 402-unit luxury rental development, which opened earlier this summer, features a design from Chicago’s bKL Architecture and interiors by Philip Koether Architects.

This view of Streeterville will change dramatically once a new project for the failed Chicago Spire site is eventually built. But for now, there is a giant foundation hole in the ground, and a large circle depicting this failed project on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s model. Towards the left side, we can see the recently completed Loews Hotel/North Water Apartments tower with its sliced minimalist design. Directly to the above right of the North Water/Loews tower, we can see the Optima Center Chicago, another notable project designed and built in the the so-called sliced minimalism aesthetic.

Speaking of sliced minimalism, the new One Eleven apartment tower has landed a place on the CAF’s miniature model of downtown. Standing at 630 feet, the 504-unit apartment tower is actually one of the tallest buildings erected in this most recent boom. The rental tower opened last summer and has since become of the priciest places to rent in the city.

Moving along into the Loop, we can get a glimpse at a miniature version of the new apartment tower at Block 37. Formally titled Marquee at Block 37, the new apartment development is not the tallest building in Chicago, but it’s one of the most dense with a whopping 690 units. The large new rental project opened just a few months ago.

The South Loop is an area that is expected to change dramatically in the next five to ten years. There are several major projects currently in the proposal stage that if built, would not only change the South Loop landscape, but would change the city’s famous skyline. But for now, we have a look at one tall new project for the neighborhood—1001 S. State. The curvy tower has long been in the works, but is finally becoming a reality.

The Old Main Post Office, a hulking Art Deco behemoth that straddles the Eisenhower Expressway, has not been updated—yet. The redevelopment of the building (or rather, lack of redevelopment) has been considered by many to be one of the biggest missed opportunities of this most current building boom. However, the 2.5 million-square-foot property exchanged hands this summer and its (highly anticipated) redevelopment is finally moving forward.

Nothing new here, just a reminder of Chicago’s humble beginnings. The old Chicago Water Tower is surrounded by towering skyscrapers, but it will always remain as a physical connection to the city’s early days.

In addition to the buildings highlighted, the Chicago Architecture Foundation has also added a number of new projects to its model, including the new British School Chicago at Roosevelt Collection, the Hyatt Place on North Franklin Street, the Hilton Garden Inn, Jones Chicago, AMLI River North, and Lake Street Studios.