As the installation of glass at Vista Tower continues at a brisk pace, dramatically altering the appearance of the tower, onlookers may begin to wonder about the inspiration behind the vibrant blue and green hues of the panes of glass. There’s not only a story behind the selection of the custom-created glass, but also behind every aspect of the gem-inspired interiors of Vista Tower. Here, Studio Gang Design Principal Juliane Wolf and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the interior designer of Vista, share the firms’ vision for Vista Tower.

A view looking down Lakeshore Drive to Vista Tower

The following excerpt is from an article originally published in No Parallels: Issue IV.

Title: A Chicago Gem
Author: Kimberly Writt and Zak Stemer

When Chicagoans and visitors gaze up at the undulating structure of Vista Tower, they’ll probably think the design was influenced by the soft ebb and flow of Lake Michigan, a logical assumption given the building’s very viscous vibe. But not quite.

Designed by world-renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her team at Studio Gang, the skyscraper is based on frustum geometry (a frustum is essentially a flat-topped pyramid). It’s a shape commonly found in gems like sapphires. Each trapezoidal block is stacked and rotated on top of the one below. While Gang created the concept, it’s up to Design Principal Juliane Wolf to make sure the construction stays true to her vision. As it turns out, that isn’t always easy.

“One of the very early things we did was an energy analysis,” she remembers. The results were interesting: The apartments at the skinny “waists” of the tower heated up much faster than the apartments in the broader “shoulders.” (If you’re curious why, it’s because both receive the same amount of sun, but the waists have less area, meaning they get hotter faster).

Fortunately, Wolf and her team found an ingenious solution: As the floors got smaller, they’d use darker glass to block heat. As an artistic flair, they chose hues of blue as an homage to the sapphires that inspired the design and a nod to the neighboring Lake Michigan. “It started very functional, and we were excited because by changing the glass at the different steps, it helps enhance the shape of the tower,” she says. “It’s design and performance coming together.”

Overall, Vista Tower uses 640,000 square feet of glass in six different shades of blue, ranging from pale sky to a rich aqua. Architecture buffs might be interested to know that these aren’t hues you’re likely to find on any other building in the world — they were custom created using a new technology especially for Vista.

The concept of function driving design is something that’s carried over to the tower’s interior as well. Enter: Hirsch Bedner Associates, the interior designer for the Vista residences, who was inspired by the geometric shape and vision of Studio Gang and wanted to replicate it indoors. “The faceted geometric aspect led our firm to develop design schemes based on the precious stones and the psychological aspects of each,” says Kathleen Dauber, partner at Hirsch Bedner Associates. “We selected topaz (success, love, creativity), fluorite (stability, order, concentration), sapphire (joy, peace, prosperity) and amethyst (spirituality, contentment). The materials selected for each of the four schemes reflect the aspects of these stones.”

Each theme evokes an ambiance and “every buyer will select the one that best speaks to their own unique personality traits,” says Dauber. “The amethyst scheme, for example, has individual accents of soft purple and soft neutrals — all selected to enhance the soothing elements of the stone and provide a comforting atmosphere.”

The themes are accentuated by fixtures boasting natural stones, bespoke wood floors and custom lacquer finishes. In the kitchen, Snaidero created multiple models to match any mood. “We worked directly with the designers to ensure the gem finishes were executed in our kitchen designs,” says Erika Klimenko the company’s Director of Projects. “Some were trendy and contemporary while others were warm and soft or white and bright. Shape and function were of the utmost consideration.”

Meanwhile, in the baths, Kallista and its parent company, Kohler, incorporated their Per Se design — a sleek collection of slender bent levers available in an array of finishes, from gold to ebony. “The line was done with a certain amount of minimal elegance,” says Kallista’s Tom Steven. “The lines and the contour lend itself to high-end luxury. The outcome is beautiful.”

The Vista Tower stands apart in myriad ways. It’s the world’s tallest building designed by a woman. Its colorful façade is one of a kind. Its interiors have been considered to the smallest detail. Like the gems that inspired it, Vista is virtually flawless.