Contemporaine Building Downtown Chicago

July 11, 2012


Let me introduce you to the Contemporaine Building located in River North Downtown Chicago. Construction for this building started in 2002 and was finalized in 2004. In 2005 the building won an Honor Award for Outstanding Architecture from the American Institute of Architects National Body. In my opinion, this was well-deserved. As you can see, the building is made entirely from glass, concrete, and steel, with a lot of glass! The architect, Perkins and Will, incorporated the building and is currently being used for residential condominiums with commercial and parking near the bottom. Although I tried to lookup the reason for the name of the building I have yet to find it, so if you know perhaps you can tell me!


Large brick pattern windows reveal a wonderful view of the city and exposed beams bring a contemporary feel to the space.
A side view showing the parking garage.
A corner view at dusk.
A facade view.
Black and white sketch.
An average floor plan


Personal Architectural Opinions

Now that you know some of the information regarding this building let me explain my architectural opinions regarding it. Well, so far this is my most favored contemporary structure in Chicago. I truly like this building for its unique shape compared to other high rise buildings in Chicago. Most modern style buildings are simple and don’t have as many creative elements that this building has to offer. The Contemporaine Building offers a more universal style, with a detailed clean look.

Fun Facts

  • The all-glass 4-story garage base is designed so people passing the building can view cars circulating on the ramps inside.
  • Features balconies cantilevered over the lot's edge like "mini-catwalks".
  • The garage is glazed in a playful pattern, with the windows arranged like bricks.
  • Four units each have a 2-or-3-story atrium, one at each corner of the building. These atrium units are staggered between different floors (11,12, 14, and 15).
  • The second-highest penthouse sold for a higher price than the top floor, since it is slightly larger and features an oversized terrace.
  • The building uses a 4-pipe heating and cooling system, which allows different units to be heated and cooled at the same time.
  • Site prep began on June 10, 2002 with the demolition of an auto repair shop, and foundation work began on August 19.
  • As in architect Ralph Johnson's previous work at Skybridge this building uses giant columns at the top and base to create a unique shape and to connect the residential floors visually to the ground.
  • In 2004 the building won an Honor Award for distinguished architecture from the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
  • This was the first high-rise built in Chicago with an unpainted concrete facade since River City in 1986.
  • In 2005 the building won an Honor Award for Outstanding Architecture from the American Institute of Architects national body.
  • 52 units were originally marketed but the number was reduced to 28 because so many buyers consolidated units.

Boring Facts

  • Main Address: 516 North Wells Street
  • Architects: Perkins + Will
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Design Principal: Ralph Johnson
  • Project Manager: Dave Gutierrez and Nicol Chervenak
  • Technical Principal: Fereidoon Afshari
  • Project Designer: Bryan Schabel
  • Project Architect: Marius Ronnet
  • Specifications: Raymond Coleman
  • Additional Team Members: Curt Behnke, Cengiz Yetken, Nicolette Daly, Steve Santucci
  • Structural Engineering: C.E. Anderson & Associates
  • MEP & Fire Protection: McGuire Engineers
  • Civil Engineering: Terra Engineering
  • Mechanical Design Build Contractor: AMS Mechanical Systems
  • Electrical Design Build Contractor: New Aspen Electric
  • Plumbing Design Build Contractor: C.J. Erikson Plumbing Co.
  • Fire Prot. Design Build Contractor: US Fire Protection Illinois, Inc.
  • Client / Owner: CMK Development Corporation
  • Construction Manager: McShane Construction
  • Project Area: 96,000 sqf
  • Photographs: Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography
JJ Sterling
As the co-founder of Urban Splatter and an architecture graduate from Chicago, I thrive on crafting a digital nexus where architectural innovation intersects with boundless digital opportunity. My academic roots in the Windy City's rich architectural tapestry inspire a unique vision for Urban Splatter's journey into the ever-evolving digital frontier of design. Join us as we navigate the exciting confluence of structure, style, and technology.

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