The building located on 55 E. Pearson St nestles into the cityscape as its overall building mass was designed to be as slim as possible with an entire floor plate just under 12,000 square feet to fit in with the least amount of site disturbance and provide residents with a community fostered environment. Though the building is practically self-sufficient, many outside amenities are within walking distance.
The Clare has been designed differently from most new senior mid to highrise communities as the attempt was to create "stacked suburban homes" with environments as similar to suburban communities the residents just left. Hence they don't feel like they are in a "senior home" but more like they are just simply at "home." The design also combines individual apartments and common spaces such as workout rooms and dining areas. While most of its 334 apartments are for independent, able-bodied seniors, the rest offer assisted living and skilled nursing similar to hospital care.
The design of the interior seeks to take advantage of the views and allows residents to have unique views from almost each unit. One of the most impressive features occurs at the building’s northeast corner, where you discover that the vertical slot cut into the curving exterior is not just for looks. It opens the corridors of the independent living units to natural light and lake views, helping residents orient themselves.
Equally impressive are "high-ceilinged," light-filled communal spaces, notably a hotel-like, three-story atrium that extends from the 17th to the 19th floors, and a 53rd floor gathering space with spectacular lake views. Anything that cuts down on the sameness of endlessly repeating floors is welcome and both Johnson and the Franciscan Sisters are very pleased with the outcome though there aren't enough residents in the building just yet to be able to accurately judge the its success.For the city that brought us the highrise, this is indeed a welcome addition and I am always in support of new senior living designs that make for places to "enjoy life and grow old" rather than places to "go be depressed and finally die!"
Still, I think that Ralph Johnson could have managed the orientation of the building a little better as the western facade practically blocks views to the John Hancock for those who live in River North and has drawn criticism from many neighbors and Chicago residents in general. Other than this, I think that the building was designed well and for those that feel that it is too monolithic, I would say that it does at least try to not be a site intervention, and be too different from its surroundings. Also, until we are sure just how well seniors interact within highrise dwellings, we shouldn't try to create any overly flamboyant forms for senior living.
Images obtained from featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com and graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/03/29