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Residential Architecture

Solomon Cordwell Buenz converts neo-Gothic Tribune Tower into apartments


Architecture studio Solomon Cordwell Buenz has converted Chicago’s iconic Tribune Tower skyscraper into residential apartments.

Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) transformed the 34-story office tower, which was home to the Chicago Tribune newspaper from 1925 to 2018, into 162 apartments.

SCB has converted the iconic Tribunetoren into apartments

Designed by architects John Howell and Raymond Hood, the 141-meter skyscraper was the result of an international competition that attracted 260 entries from leading architects, including Walter Gropius, Bruno Taut, Adolf Loos and Eliel Saarinen.

With the renovation, the studio wanted to preserve the identity of the historic building that is one of the most recognizable in the city.

View from the Chicago Tribune sign
Many existing elements, including the Chicago Tribune sign, were retained

“As residents of Chicago, we felt it was important to respect this history while revitalizing both the buildings and the surrounding neighborhood,” said SCB Chief Designer Steve Hubbard.

“In addition to preserving the protected parts of the building, preserving and enhancing the architectural character of the unmarked buildings and artifacts that are part of the urban composition has been a major priority,” he told Dezeen.

“The historic facade of the tower has been preserved and restored, including repairing the limestone fence and replacing all the windows.”

Courtyard in Tribute Tower complex
The studio opened a courtyard with the complex

SCB converted the 1920s listed tower along with four additional neo-gothic buildings on the site, including the original printing house, the 1930s radio building and the 1950s television building, into a range of one to four bedroom apartments.

The studio created a total of 55 unique apartment floor plans as they were arranged within the historic structure,

In addition to updating the existing structures, the studio added a four-story roof extension to the TV building and demolished part of the low-rise complex to create a courtyard.

This move brought light into the apartments and created a private outdoor garden for the residents.

Historic lobby in Tribute Tower
The lobby of the building has been restored and remains open to the public

“As is the case with many office-to-home adaptive reuse projects, the overall dimensions of the office floor slab of the Tribune complex were far too large to operate as condominiums,” explains Hubbard.


“Interestingly, the main addition was actually a subtraction: hollowing out the unusable office space to create the large private courtyard,” he continued.

“The exterior walls of the courtyard were clad in limestone, detailed to match the historic tower facades, with the units facing the courtyard having balconies or private landscaped areas that blend into the landscape,” he added.

“We’ve really created a quiet and hidden haven in the city.”

Swimming pool in Chicago apartment complex
A swimming pool was placed behind the Chicago Tribune sign

Within the tower itself, SCB redesigned the original core and reduced the number of elevators from nine to four. The apartments are accessed through a lobby adjacent to the original Chicago Tribune lobby, which has been preserved and is open to the public.

“We’ve retained and refreshed the entry foyer and elevator lobbies designated as Chicago’s signature spaces, while a new private lobby connects to the historic one to provide access to all elevator lobbies and residential services,” said Hubbard.

Sitting area in the crown of the Tribunetoren
A terrace has been created within the crown of the building

In addition to the apartments, SCB created an array of amenities during development, most notably a swimming pool behind the Chicago Tribune rooftop sign. The building also includes a spa on the second floor and meeting rooms and a bar on the third floor.

At the top of the tower, a wraparound terrace for residents was created within the crown of the building beneath the Gothic buttresses.

Apartment in Tribune Tower
A total of 162 apartments have been realized in the complex

The Tribune Tower is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Chicago – a city known for its numerous skyscrapers designed by architects such as SOM, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Jeanne Gang.

It was the focus of one of the main exhibits at Chicago’s first architecture biennale, where 15 alternate visions of the tower were presented as giant models.

Project credits:

Developer: CIM Group, Golub & Company
Architect of Record: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
Interior designer: The Gettys group
Historic Preservation: Vinic-Hamp
Structural engineer: TGRWA
MEP: Elara
Vertical transport: Jenkins & Huntington, Inc
Exterior housing: WJE
Facade restoration engineer: Klein & Hoffman
Outdoor lighting design: Schuler shook
Landscape Design: Site design group / Olin
General contractor: Walsh group