Contemporaine / Perkins + Will

© Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography

Contemporaine is a 28-unit condominium building located on a corner lot in the River North area of urban . The building consists of an eleven-story residential tower and a four-story retail and parking base. The sculptural quality of the tower and the articulation of its functional parts work to mediate the building to the varying scales of the surrounding context.

Photographs and drawings of Contemporaine following the break.

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

© Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography

The mass of the tower is broken down by a series of slots scored down the façade with small cantilevered balconies. The east façade undulates to further break the mass as well as to provide more opportunities for views of the city skyline. Two concrete shear walls and the plane of the roof frame the design and provide a distinctive profile from Wells Street.

To bring the base to a pedestrian scale the structure of the parking garage is exposed with floor-to-ceiling glass between the floor slabs, similar to the tower above. On the north side of the building the dynamic expression of the sloped ramps leading to the upper parking levels adds relief and movement to the otherwise rectilinear structure.

east elevation

At the entry corner the erosion of the mass, the projection of the cantilevered balconies above, and a 45-foot column, all reinforce the urban energy of the Contemporaine’s surroundings.

A narrow slot separates the base and tower, allowing necessary transfers of the building systems as the floor programs change from residential to parking. This detail also provides an aesthetic dialogue between the two elements and allows for a reading of the building as a series of combined parts of varying scales.


The top of the tower is sculpted to offer large terraces for the penthouse units and a gesture to the surrounding skyscrapers.

© Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography
© Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography

Typical floors at Contemporaine provide up to four condominiums with two and three bedrooms plans that can be combined to allow for larger units. Each unit has at least one private outdoor balcony. Unit sizes range from approximately 950 square feet to 2700 square feet.

© Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography

The condos offer open floor plans with large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass allowing natural light and dynamic views of the downtown skyline. Four penthouses on the top floors feature living spaces with 20 to 32-foot glass walls to further capture the daylight and the views.

typical floor plan

The building stands out from most of its contemporaries in the city. Through simple manipulations of modern materials—the sculpted mass, dynamic resident entry, and the texture of the window mullions—the building makes a strong statement on the cityscape.

© Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Contemporaine / Perkins + Will" 15 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • patrick

    this is one of those rare buildings which, i think, doesnt look nearly as good in photographs as it does in real life…

    • Kevin Perera

      Well then it must truly be a stunning looking building in real life, because I think it looks fantastic in the photographs.

    • Rizky

      I think so too, something about this building…

  • JJ

    It’s a really beautiful building but exposed concrete floor plates in Chicago = thermal bridge.

  • Holcim Awards

    It would be nice to hear about the sustainable features they integrated into the design, if any. For a luxury condo tower it would be nice to see if the developer and architects thought about social and environmental issues.

  • Jakov

    Modernism on coke.
    But very impressive, aesthetically.
    And so luxurious too!

  • Jason

    I too would like to see someone finally address the concrete/thermal bridge question. I keep seeing all these beautiful concrete and glass buildings. I love them… I’d like to know that they also work and are responsible works. Tell us about how they’ve thought about sustainability! How about including some details, sections, etc too…

    It’s a beautiful building, but its not that hard to make a beautiful building if you don’t give a crap about sustainability.

    • rh

      there are many systems for it. just google for isokorf. its just one of the systems but there are many more.

      just break up the concrete with some hard isolation material and put in some extra steel. thats all, pretty basic stuff in europe so i guess in the states u can find a lot of those systems too.

  • Andreas

    Constructivism is back baby!

  • up_today_arch

    Nice composition… It’s belongs not to constructivism, but to good architecture…

  • jdcarling

    This is when I get super archi geek.

    I love this building sooooooo much.