With its rich architectural heritage, Chicago takes skyscrapers seriously. So when a glassy, forty-story Helmut Jahn-designed tower built in 1980 underwent rebranding to attract new tenants, the end-result had to be worthy of distinction.
A revitalization of the building’s lobby and street-level exterior called for enhancing the artistic nature of the structure. In keeping with that intent, Plexineon White 2X Series fixtures were chosen to highlight two new entrance canopies, each situated along a different downtown street. Striped and streamlined, Plexineon provides an accent that’s consistent with the clean, contemporary lines of 55 W. Monroe Street.
The Design Challenge
The project lighting scheme was created by Gwen Grossman, principal of Gwen Grossman Lighting Design, who was brought in by Wright Heerema Architects to illuminate new elements and relight existing ones on the exterior and in the interior lobby.
When Grossman saw that plans for the entrance canopies included curved bows of light setting off “55” in the center, she suggested using Plexineon for the application. “Because of the curved nature of the canopies, I knew Plexineon was the way to go,” she says. “I’d worked with the product many times before and seen that it holds up over time, even against Chicago’s extreme weather. And the color quality is excellent. It gives the exact softness we were looking for.”
Plexineon’s mounting capabilities also were an advantage. Grossman took a hands-on approach to how the sign was detailed, with each of the five fins indirectly illuminated by Plexineon mounted on the fin below. “We needed four inches between the top of each fixture to the bottom of the fin above,” she says. “iLight [sic] was very good at creating shop drawings and a mock-up for the contractor, to assure the spacing was done just right at installation.”
A third element is a freestanding monument sign listing the building’s tenants as well as Hearn Co., the Chicago-based owner. Plexineon is integrated into the nineteen-foot-tall sign structure to glow and accentuate its oval shape.
The Plexineon Advantage
Since being installed in 2012, the effect of Plexineon outside 55 W. Monroe St. strikes just the right tone for a world-class structure—creating a sleek first impression of what soars above.
“It’s very subtle—it gives a really nice glow to the signage,” Grossman says. “The color never seems to fade; it’s always a vibrant color.”
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