Olin Associate Jessica Henson

Olin Associate, Jessica Henson

Please describe your role and experience with Vista and Lakeshore East. (Jessica Henson)

OLIN is the landscape architect for Vista Tower. Starting in 2014, we worked with the team of designers, owners, and city leaders to imagine and design the exterior spaces and urban experience around the tower and on the outdoor terraces of the building. The design prioritizes urban connectivity and open space, which is a great way to stitch together the north edge of the Lakeshore East Community.

What challenges did Olin face while working on the landscaping for Vista Tower? (Susan Weiler)

One of the challenges was working in one of the windiest spots in the city. We had to make sure that whatever we planted would stand against the climate of the area. It takes a while to make sure everyone understands the impact of the climate of where you’re planting.

What’s been the most exciting factor in creating the landscaping for Vista Tower (JH)

There were so many parties involved in the outcome of the project, and we spent a lot of time together balancing interests. Over the course of the project, we fostered so many great design conversations, and we have really enjoyed the team camaraderie and collaboration.

Olin Partner Susan Weiler

Olin Partner, Susan Weiler

How has this project differed from other projects in Chicago that Olin has been a part of? (SW)

When you work on something that tall, there’s a limit of what can grow, which has made this different from many other projects we’ve worked on. I really liked working with Studio Gang because of their awareness and ability to help create a meaningful interior/exterior relationship with such a large landscape in mind.

How does the neighborhood and park differ from others in Chicago? (JH)

Lakeshore East is unique in the City of Chicago — you have the proximity to the Loop and Michigan Avenue as well as the lake and river, but when you are inside Lakeshore East, you feel like you’ve stepped into a quiet Chicago neighborhood. To have access to all the wonderful amenities and open spaces of the lakefront and downtown while having that quiet feeling is unique in Chicago.

How do you hope Chicagoans will view Vista Tower? (SW)

I hope that they view it as a landmark and that it helps them orient themselves around where they are in the city. It’s a pretty astounding building, and people have already reacted so kindly to it.

Are there any specific details about the park you’d like to highlight? (JH)

The plazas at the entry level are paved in a gradient pattern that begins from under the tower and continues out to the river at the north and the park at the south. Much like the gradient of the glass on the building as it rises to the sky, this ground level gradient grounds the design in this place between the dark roadway under the tower to the open, light overlooks at the river and the park. The pavers at the hotel entry pick up on the architectural shape of the frustum used in the tower design.