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Innovation Through Architecture

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The AIA Conference on Architecture 2022 is about driving forward new thinking in one of the most forward-thinking cities in both design and sustainability – Chicago. Unilock is proud to have been Paving it Forward in Chicago for decades from revitalizing historic sites with modern sensibilities to new commercial and public spaces. While you are in Chicago, be sure to stop by these 5 Unilock Projects that are must-see destinations in the windy city. The first three are all within walking distance, and the last two are worth the drive.

Paving our Way Through Chicago

1. Navy Pier – 600 E. Grand Ave.

Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most important landmarks and a great example of what makes Chicago such an incredible city. Originally built in 1916 as part of the Master Plan of Chicago, Navy Pier has been used as a shipping and recreational facility, a home to Navy Personnel during WW1, a historical landmark, and an entertainment and gathering space for tourists and residents alike.

For the Centennial Anniversary of the Pier, Architecture firm James Corner Field Operations won the competition to redesign the Pier as “The People’s Pier”- a social place to interact with each other, the city, and the lake, while keeping the area vibrant and sustainable for future generations. Spanning 50 acres of urban lakefront, the remarkable area is now a model of sustainability and a world-renowned destination.

Due to the size and length of the area, the sustainability goals, and the variation of uses, paving was an integral piece of the project and Unilock worked closely with JCFO from beginning to end to fulfill their vision. An entirely custom group of products was created, involving the construction of special molds for custom pavers, using a recycled copper slag aggregate for the first time, and producing unique finishes and colors to embrace the lake, culture, and spectacle of the pier. Attention to small details such as using 30% recycled content, Eco-Promenade® permeable pavers to filter out pollutants and mitigate stormwater runoff, and manufacturing the pavers within the region paid off with Navy Pier receiving GOLD certification with the Sustainable SITES initiative.

While you are there enjoying the architecture, you can also enjoy activities, live entertainment, food, a Ferris Wheel ride, boat tours, and more.


2. Loews Hotel and Roof Deck – 455 N Park Dr.


Loews Hotel is a high-class luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Chicago that features a 569 ft glass tower which made it the tallest building in Chicago in 2015. Though no longer the tallest, it is still an impressive addition to Chicago’s famous skyline.

The entrance to the formidable hotel is paved with Hollandstone™ in Charcoal, creating a modern pattern that compliments the architecture of the concrete and glass building.

Stop for a refreshment break at Streeterville Social Bistro atop Loews hotel to experience Chicago’s largest Rooftop Terrace. The terrace expands past the dining area into 18,000 feet of amenity space available for private event rentals. This go-to outdoor destination is created with Umbriano® slabs in Winter Marvel and Midnight Sky installed on a pedestal system. The ColorFusion™ technology used in the Umbriano® pavers disperses granite particles and color to create the ideal surface for this luxury roof deck which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also has a non-slip texture for safety. Factory sealed with EasyClean™ surface protection, which will ensure ease of maintenance, Umbriano® is the ideal choice for this popular amenity space.

3. Buckingham Fountain – 301 S Columbus Dr.

Buckingham Fountain is an unmissable Chicago destination for its historical importance, impressive size and artistic beauty, and seasonally, an incredible music, light, and water show. The monumental fountain uses 3 pumps to push 14,100 gallons of water per minute through 133 jets and is the largest fountain of its kind in the world.

Officially called the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, Kate Buckingham had it designed and built for her brother Clarence when he passed away in 1924 to continue his philanthropic contributions to the art and culture of Chicago. The fountain also came with an endowment fund to sustain maintenance and usage throughout the years. Constructed out of Georgia pink marble, and featuring 4 bronze seahorses, the artistic beauty of the fountain is undeniable.

The fountain has undergone a few renovations throughout the years and between 2008 and 2010 these included installing 235,000 square feet of Unilock Eco-Priora™ pavers, making it the largest area with decorative pavers in the US. Eco-Priora™ permeable pavers with Series™ finish helped satisfy the requirements of the project including, ADA accessibility, durability, the ability to take up and reinstall the hardscape without patching, and maintaining historical and aesthetic character. The original ground surface used crushed Georgia pink marble which was matched with the Crystal Rose color of Series finish on the Eco-Priora™ pavers to provide a permeable, stable, ADA compliant surface without sacrificing the original aesthetic intent. The main benefit of permeable pavers being used at Buckingham fountain is that they satisfy the stormwater management requirements of the project without the need for additional water storage in surface basins or underground chambers. Permeable pavers have an advantage over traditional paving surfaces in that they make rainwater valuable, storable, and usable, and improve water quality with filtration through the open-graded joints and base material. Additionally, the Eco-Priora™ pavers can handle heavier loads from large vehicles to accommodate events such as the Taste of Chicago.

Experience both pavers and fountain for yourself, and be sure to be there on the hour to see the central high fountain active.

4. Riverside Plaza – 222 S Riverside Dr.

If you are an avid walker, you can continue walking from Buckingham Fountain to 222 South Riverside Plaza in about 30 minutes. Once there, you can access the transit system just steps away at Union Station to see the Pullman National Monument. Alternately, grab a taxi or hop in your car to get to the last two sites on the Chicago Unilock tour. Regardless of how you travel, once you arrive at 222 S Riverside, you will see a towering office building, the river, and an outdoor plaza created using Unilock Umbriano® slabs in Winter Marvel and Summer Wheat. The outdoor plaza was part of a larger renovation project with the goal of enticing new tenants to the office building. The sleek, modern look of the pavers and the speckled granite-like appearance create a welcoming plaza in front of the building. The non-slip texture, durability, and EasyClean™ stain-resistance technology make Umbriano® the perfect choice for this well-used pedestrian area. The addition of benches and raised garden beds gives visitors a place to rest and look out at the river.

The plaza continues along the riverfront connecting the building to Union Station. Even if you decide not to take transit, find your way to Union station by following the Unilock pavers of the plaza. Union Station is an iconic Chicago Landmark that more than 130,000 people pass through every day! Originally built for and named after the union of four railroads, it is now the terminal for the Loop Link System that allows people to connect with buses to travel through the city. The head house took ten years to build and was completed in 1925. It takes up an entire block and was designed in the Beaux-Arts style with a 219-foot skylight 115 feet above the ground.

5. Pullman National Monument – 610 E 111th St.


Pullman National Monument is an important piece of Chicago’s history, telling the story of the first American company town built for Pullman Palace Company workers and managers who would pay rent to their employer George Pullman. It recounts the history of the first African American Labor Union led by A. Philip Randolph.

The epicenter of both the factory and the town was the clock tower administrative building which now holds the visitors center. The addition of the visitors center was part of a larger revitalization project approved by the Nation al Parks Service in 2017. Part of this revitalization included a redesign of the outside space by Site Design Group Ltd. Using Unilock Promenade™ Pavers in the unique brushed Il Campo finish, they created a grand entranceway and space to gather and view the outside of the building.

On the side of the station, there is a restoration of the transfer pit, using train tracks with garden beds planted between them. Promenade™ Plank permeable pavers with Series™ finish, in a color created specifically for this project, mimic the look of the railway ties that were once there, resulting in a functional and interactive expression of history.

If you have time, the Historic Pullman Foundation offers tours and information to learn more about the monument and the area.

Products used in the Paving Our Way Through Chicago Tour