Valerio Dewalt Train Associates


Valerio Dewalt Train Associates
5. February 2018
Photo: Tom Harris

Hyde Park is a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side that is anchored by the University of Chicago. Although the school has been in the midst of a building boom this century, other parts of the neighborhood are also flourishing. Vue53, a mixed-used building designed by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (the firm has also designed a couple buildings recently for U of C), is a stunning example of such an "off-campus" project. The architects answered a few questions about the project.

Project: Vue53, 2016
Location: 1330 East 53rd Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Client: Avison Young Development / Peak Campus / Blue Vista Capital Management
Architect: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Chicago
Design Principal: Joe Valerio
Project Architect: Steve Droll
Project Manager: Sheri Andrews
Project Team: Lauren Shelton, Spencer Olsufka; Joe Lawton (signage and graphics)
Structural Engineer: Robert Darvas Associates
MEP/FP Engineer: AMS Mechanical Systems, Inc., Environmental Systems Design, Cartland Kraus Engineering, LTD.
Landscape Architect: Jacobs Ryan Associates
Lighting Designer: Hugh Lighting Design, LLC
Interior Designer: Searl Lamaster Howe
Contractor: James McHugh Construction Co
Building Area: 330,253 sf
Important Manufacturers/Products:
EFCO Windows – Exterior Window Wall System
Neolith Tile – Accent Wall at the Lobby
Pinnacle Lighting – Linear Light Fixtures in Public Spaces.

Photo: Tom Harris

What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project? 
Valerio Dewalt Train was one of three firms invited to participate in a closed competition, organized by the University of Chicago. The university’s facilities department selected VDT based on the proposed design and business plan.

Photo: Steve Hall

Please provide an overview of the project.
Vue53 is the newest addition to the rapidly evolving skyline of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. A mixed-use development with 267 units, modern amenities, and 28,000 square feet of retail space, Vue53 offers contemporary living space in a historic area.

Photo: Steve Hall

What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
Design Narrative according to Joe Valerio, Principal at Valerio Dewalt Train:
"Vue53 is, more than anything else, an expression of both its structure and its materials. The exposed concrete structure is of the earth, rough, a material first invented thousands of years ago. In intentional contrast, are the metal and glass skin that encloses the structure, they are sophisticated, taught, and smooth.

"Every effort has been made to let every material express its basic nature – good design is honest. This is principle is also highly sustainable. In most buildings significant resources are used to cover up one material with another. Vue53 is – environmentally friendly.
"Vue53 is a response to its context, good design makes things understandable."

Photo: Steve Hall

"The architecture also carefully considers its context. Nichols Park, ten acres in area, extends from the University campus on 55th street all the way to 53rd street where Vue53 acts as a bookend to the space of the park. The park makes the height of the building acceptable and even welcome. 

"The mass of the building is divided into two towers. The south tower is on 53rd street, deliberate voids in the elevation minimizes the structure’s perceived mass while framing views of Nichol’s Park, just across the street. The north tower is set 100’ back from the street to minimize its mass. Vue53 is able to accommodate its complex programmatic needs while remaining within the bounds by the precedents of its eclectic context."

Photo: Steve Hall

"Just two blocks north of the University of Chicago’s urban campus and less than a mile from Lake Michigan, Vue53 sits in the heart of Hyde Park’s commercial corridor. 53rd Street was once the retail center of Hyde Park, lined with an eclectic mix of buildings, typically three to four stories, but also included 8 to 10 story buildings, with the Hyde Park Bank Building reaching the same height as Vue53. At 13 stories tall, Vue53’s blue glass exterior and rectilinear, concrete frame is expresses rebirth of 53rd street as a retail and entertainment destination.

"The design of Vue53 was intended to be completely integrated, the architecture, the interiors, the furnishings, and the graphic program all supported the creation of a whole that would offer a high level of design consciousness. Good design is thorough down to the last detail."

Photo: Steve Hall

How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
The architecture carefully responds to its context. The 10-acre Nichols Park extends from the university campus on 55th street all the way to 53rd street, where Vue53 acts as a bookend to the park. The mass of the building is divided into two towers. The south tower is on 53rd street; voids in the elevation minimize the structure’s perceived mass while framing views of the park across the street. The north tower is set 100 feet back from the street to minimize its mass. Parking occupies the two floors above the retail level, screened from 53rd Street by apartments and amenity spaces lining the south facade.

Photo: Steve Hall

How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of the building?
The project didn’t change significantly from its initial concept. The second- and third-floor parking levels were originally visible from the park across 53rd Street, but during the review process, the University of Chicago requested that the view of the parking be obscured from the park. As a result, apartments were added at the second and third floors separating the parking deck from the street. The added units ended up with an amazing view of the park as well.

Photo: Steve Hall

Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
The building is constructed from local materials manufactured within a 500-mile radius as well as from recycled components. Additionally, every effort was made to let materials express their true nature. By exposing concrete as an interior finish, the overall material usage could be significantly reduced. Natural materials such as wood were also used for interior furnishings.

Photo: Steve Hall

To reduce the heat island effect, a series of green roofs are planted with local vegetation and highly reflective materials are incorporated in openly exposed areas. With 50% of the parking tucked below the building, hardscape surface area is also minimized.
As measures to combat urban sprawl, the developmental density is kept at a minimum of 60,000 square feet per acre and is within near proximity of alternative transportation options. Residents have access to local bus routes at the edge of the block, a commuter train line a half mile away, and are provided with extensive bike storage within the parking garage.
Vue53 was designed with many agendas in mind. Urbanistically, it works to strengthen neighborhood connections and boost economy; and architecturally, it’s highly sustainable and optimally livable.

Photo: Barbara Karant

What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
The simplicity of the exterior building materials: glass, exterior concrete and metal panels, allow the geometry and form of the building to be strongly defined architecturally. The use of full-height glass in the apartment provides daylight and views of the nearby park and neighborhood.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Site Plan (Drawing: VDT)
First Floor Plan (Drawing: VDT)
Fourth Floor Plan (Drawing: VDT)
Eighth Floor Plan (Drawing: VDT)
South Elevation (Drawing: VDT)
Cross Section (Drawing: VDT)

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