SOM's 400 Lake Shore

Confusing the Wind

John Hill
19. June 2024
Photo: Screenshot from “Chicago’s Newest Towers Are Invisible to Wind” on YouTube

Even if readers don't know the 400 Lake Shore name, they probably know the site: it was the location of the Chicago Spire that Santiago Calatrava first proposed in 2005. If built, Calatrava's proposed tower would have reached a height of 2,000 feet (610 meters), its twisting form “reducing the impact of wind turbulence,” per the architect's website, and the irregularity of its exterior surface “[ensuring] that wind forces are reflected from the facade in multiple directions, rather than building up as a single force.”

SOM's 400 Lake Shore scheme for Related Midwest was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in May 2020. (Image © Related Midwest)

Although each tower at 400 Lake Shore is less than 900 feet — or less than half the height of the Spire — the towers still need to take into account the same wind forces, and the architects at SOM addressed them similarly to Calatrava: with tapered forms and irregular terracing that confuses and makes the towers nearly invisible to the wind. Hicks visited SOM's office and spoke with Scott Duncan, Ryan Shultz, and Brad Young in this insightful video:

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