860-880 Lake Shore Drive refurbishment
by Krueck & Sexton


Chicago office Krueck & Sexton have completed the restoration of two apartment towers in Chicago by German-American architect Mies van der Rohe.

Called 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, the 26-storey glass and steel towers were built between 1949 and 1951.

The refurbishment involved re-coating the steel frame facade and cleaning the aluminium windows, as well as adding sand-blasted glass to the lobby.

The surrounding plaza was also rebuilt.

Photos are by William Zbaren. Here's some more information from Krueck & Sexton:

Krueck & Sexton Restores Mies Classic

860-880 Lake Shore Drive redefined highrise living for post-war generation

Architects Krueck & Sexton recently completed restoring one of legendary Modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s most celebrated commissions: 860-880 Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago.

860-880, which was built between 1949 and 1951, consists of two 26-story, exposed steel and glass apartment towers set at right angles on an irregular travertine plaza. Based on ideas and theories Mies had been perfecting since his earliest days as an independent architect in 1920s Berlin, the buildings redefined highrise living for the post-war generation.

“They were the most radical buildings of their time,” said Ron Krueck. “They’re light and delicate and surprisingly sexy. They also prove that – contrary to what many people believe -- it’s not so easy to design a glass box.”

860-880, which is both a local and national landmark, is located just north of Chicago’s Loop central business district and steps away from Lake Michigan. Many architects and critics believe 860-880 is the closest Mies ever came to achieving his goal of less is more “skin and bones” architecture. According to the American Institute of Architects’ “Guide to Chicago,” “No other building(s) by Mies had as immediate or strong an impact on his American contemporaries, and the influence of these structures was to pervade much of modern architecture.”

“There’s not a lot to them,” said Mark Sexton. “They’re mainly just steel and glass used in the most efficient way possible. By contrast, buildings today often have layer upon layer of materials.”

In addition to more than half a century of normal wear and tear, the buildings had endured several restoration attempts over the years. The problems included corrosion of the buildings’ exposed steel frame, failure of the lobby glazing system and extensive cracking and discoloration of the travertine plaza.

There were also aesthetic issues. The original frosted glass in the lobby had been replaced in the early 1980s by a laminate system with a translucent interlayer that created an historically inaccurate aquamarine tint. The restoration included recoating the steel frame facade and cleaning the original aluminum windows. In addition, new sandblasted glass in the lobby recreated the soft, velvety glow of the original.

Finally, the plaza was rebuilt, a process that included replacing the original travertine slabs, designing a new drainage system and recreating the original plaza lighting scheme. Krueck & Sexton began work in the summer of 2007 and finished in December of 2009. The total cost of the project was $9 million.

860-880 is the third and largest Mies commission Krueck & Sexton, a firm more noted for its original work, has completed in recent years. The other two – all are in Chicago – are Crown Hall on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

“One of the things I’ve learned from restoring these buildings is that, for Mies, there was never a final answer,” said Krueck. “He was always interested in what else could happen, what the other design possibilities might be. What’s fascinating is to watch his thinking evolve over the course of a project. At 860-880, for example, the early sketches show a scalloped exterior with large bay windows. This eventually changes to what is there today. There’s also a continual process of refinement in terms of the massing, the enclosures at the bottom and the way the plazas are laid out.”

Krueck & Sexton Architects was founded by architects Ronald Krueck and Mark Sexton in 1991 and is a multi-disciplinary firm with a varied portfolio. In addition to its innovative Mid-Century restoration and renovation practice, it has completed numerous award-winning civic, commercial and residential projects. The firm’s Spertus Institute Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago received three AIA awards in 2008, including a Distinguished Building Award. The firm currently is working on a 25 acre expansion of Grant Park in downtown Chicago, the highlight of which will be a new home – also designed by Krueck & Sexton – for the Chicago Children’s Museum.

Posted on Tuesday March 2nd 2010 at 2:57 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • very cool building

  • Sheer delight and what a job well done. I visited Lake Shore years back during a suckupchicago trip and loved it. The real art of the trade is how well what we design and build today will stand up to the test of time. Mies had that art in buckets full. I am thrilled that Lake Shore has been so beautifully restored. My congratullations to Krueck and Sexton. Give them the next Pritzker!

  • modular

    You know what? I like this!

  • I Can Has Cheeseburger

    one of my favourite apartment block!! always!

  • robotlikerobot

    Master of the universe!

  • Max

    So awesome! Love it.

  • Kong

    Mies , still and always ,great, and he is from AACHEN, like me ! Ha ! Nic e job done renovating .

  • Kong

    It just came to my mind : actually Mies was born in Aachen and moved to Berlin to work as an architect , and build his first projects here , like me , HA !HA ! Then he started teaching at the Bauhaus University , also like me , HA ! HA! HA! call me Mies !!! Yeah , I know nobody cares, but i think it is cool.

  • MKP

    Haha… I just learned about Barcelona Pavilion and the court yard instantly remind of the BP. Funny….

  • midwest

    Great Renovation and if anyone is looking to buy it’s a great price for living in a Mies!


  • angry catalan

    midwest: What the hell!! $275,000 won’t buy you many 1000 sq feet flats anywhere, much less a Mies… I’m surprised.

    Anyway, I’m not sure why but I’ve always liked Lake Shore Drive far better than Commonwealth Promenade, the Seagram and actually any other Mies highrise, even though it’s not as “perfect”… as for the restoration, it’s hard to tell from the pictures whether it’s good or not – it’s all in the materials.

  • dcbcn

    Some 20 years after Lakeshore Drive, Mies completed Westmount Square in Montreal with more or less the same concept, but on a larger scale. The complex is still extremely well maintained and has the added feature of being linked into the city’s subway system. It’s not as famous as it should be; and for style alone it puts to shame the shameless office-residential-retail behemoths that present-day developers litter our cities with. Its strength: it does exactly what it sets out to do.

  • antepostnow

    @midwest – rest assured there is a one (1) missing … in front ;-) otherwise i would move there tomorrow – saw it and the guide from the architectural society who gave us the tour actually had visited mieses apartment and described it down to the last kandinsky … life altering opus!

  • gab xiao

    …timeless. good job for kruek & sexton.

  • howie roarke

    antepostnow – Start packing – the listing price is correct!

  • cityofparis

    If you prefer a larger unit, you can purchase 1/2 the top floor of 880 for just under $2,000,000:


  • Atal

    I packed, I’m moving today! $275000 incredible! 1000 sq feet!!!!

  • Olep

    Damn, I can sell my 650 sq ft apartment in Oslo, buy this, and still have money for new furniture and a car. Sweet.

  • Fred

    My mother lives in the building – I’ve always been a Mies fan – it’s a great place. But the 2 year project was torturous for the residents – especially in the winters, trying to get in and out when access to the towers was rerouted and limited.

  • High on 860-880 LSD

    These are truly grand buildings. They epitomize a totally new era in design and have retained their state-of-the-art modernity. As Mies said, “Less is More” and “Skin and Bones” with respect to the new architecture. Well done, Ludwig. Bravo Krueck & Sexton.

  • Jose Borges

    I have to write a critique about these buildings according to their orientation and how well do they respond to Chicago's climate and to where the are standing. Does anybody know how good or how bad are the winters/summers in this building? since its all glass, do you think some shading is missing?, are the windows operable? can they enjoy the lake's breezes?

  • Michael Swanson

    860-880 needs a Calder, to really finish it off.