Dancing in the street

X/O Condominiums

Lagrange’s cutting-edge X/O towers ready to tango in the South Loop 

Architect Lucien Lagrange is best known for his ultra-luxury buildings in and around the Gold Coast, elegant structures that, observers often remark, look like they’ve always been here. But with projects such as Erie on the Park and Kingsbury on the Park, favorites among local architects (see architecture feature on pg. 34), Lagrange proved he was just as capable of making bold statements and creating buildings that both stand out in and enhance Chicago’s famous skyline.

His latest design for Kargil Development PartnersX/O Condominiums will reaffirm this point beautifully.

The development, at 18th Street and Prairie Avenue, in the South Loop’s historic Prairie Avenue District, consists of a 44-story north tower containing about 275 units and a 34-story south tower with 202 units, on a two-acre site. The project also will include 10 townhomes, a 10,000-square-foot public park and a long list of amenities.

The buildings’ floor plates expand and contract as the eye travels up the towers, so that the high-rises slope gently, with curves too subtle and willowy to be called voluptuous.

Lagrange has compared the buildings to figures dancing and in this case, the metaphor isn’t architectural pretension. The towers work not as a single unit, but as a beautifully matched pair, straining toward each other and away in a compelling frozen dance.

Their lower halves pull together sensually (yes, that sounds odd, but take a look at the rendering), while on the upper stories, the high-rises move out to a more seemly arm’s length. They are complementary and bend in tandem, but like dancers, they are not symmetrical or perfectly matched. The shapes and heights of the buildings vary, as do the skillfully designed balconies, whose patterns echo each other without simply mirroring.

“I never focused on the design of each tower separately,” says Lagrange. “And I’ve said a lot of things about how the design came about … some things maybe I shouldn’t have said. It didn’t come to me right away. My concern was to design two towers rising together into the sky, and suddenly the dancing image came to me impulsively, because that form of two dancers immediately ties the buildings together as one.”

Kargil Development saw a sameness to many of the South Loop’s high-rises and wanted something original, according to Keith Giles, of Frankel & Giles, the exclusive marketing agent.

“X/O is the product of an evolutionary creative process,” Giles says. “We felt that the South Loop was becoming static in the types of new development taking place. We wanted to take it a new and higher level, and with Lucien Lagrange leading the way, that’s what we’ve done.”

The most dramatic view of the towers will be from the street, no doubt, but there’s plenty inside too. Lagrange created more than 200 floor plans, resulting in units with very little replication, according to Giles. The unit mix ranges from one-bedroom condos to penthouses, and prices in the first phase, the 44-story north tower, range from the $200s to more than $1 million. About 600 indoor parking spaces also will be available.

“We haven’t even firmed up our unit mix or pricing yet,” Giles says. “And we are already getting a huge response to X/O, not just from this area but nationally and internationally as well.”

The project calls for a 13,000-square-foot “lifestyle” center with a running track, swimming pool, and a fitness center with spa amenities such as yoga classes and massages, as well as some unusual perks, including an iPod center, a “misting park” outside, and an “aqua grotto” with waterfalls and hot tubs in a lounge environment. The lifestyle building also will be used for personal fitness training and social events.

The units will feature high-tech amenities, such as wiring for digital cable and high-speed intranet and a computerized concierge service where homeowners can access the Internet for services like ordering cabs or concert tickets and multimedia outlets.

Finishes include European-style cabinetry, granite and marble countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors in living areas and porcelain bathroom floors. The project will have LEED-certified green roofs and a 10,000-square-foot botanical park designed by landscape architect Ernie Wong.

“LEED certification is difficult and costly,” says Giles. “But we think it is important for everyone to take this step, and we intend to do it not only with X/O but with all of our projects going forward.”

The developer also plans to donate $700,000 for the rehabilitation of the nearby Glessner House Museum, a landmark building located across from X/O Condominiums in the historic Prairie Avenue District.

A sales center for X/O containing a two-bedroom model designed by Riha Design Group is scheduled to open in November in a building that’s presently on site but will be demolished when construction begins.

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