The multi-functional urban rooftop escape adorns the top of the iconic Macy's Building offering tenants views of Chicago’s loop and Lake Michigan.

As Brookfield Partners and LJC are renovating the iconic Marshall Field’s department store and current Macy’s flagship downtown Chicago, the addition of a usable rooftop space was a necessary new amenity to design for future office tenants. The team envisioned a multi-functional, flexible space for tenant use with café seating for outdoor lunches, sectionals for relaxing, large tables for work meetings, high-top tables for happy hour, and intimate nooks with firepits to accommodate evening gatherings.

As a historic Chicago Landmark, the now Macy’s Building poised unique challenges throughout the design process. With respect to the building’s original design and Landmark approval, all rooftop elements could not be visible from the street. To ensure this, the team drew sections to understand pedestrians’ field of view from various points at street level to determine the placement of edge railings, shade structures, and landscape. Points were roughly marked on the roof with temporary flagpoles representing the height of the shade structure and trees to confirm they remained hidden.

The historic building was not designed for substantial mass or groups of people, creating a structural challenge to support the weight of deep soil profiles for trees, shrubs, pavers, and the steel shade structure. Integrating with the construction firm, Clayco, the team used digital scanning and physical exploration of walls and floors to understand how it was originally built and helped define the structural capacity. Working with Clayco and with structural engineers was integral to properly design and redesign the rooftop plan while staying aligned with the design intent and project budget.

Obstacles aside, the history of the building played a fundamental role in the design of the space with notable elements woven throughout the project: furniture selection offers a nod to Marshall Field’s signature dark green color, copper ornamentation was inspired by the original water features, and the shade structure design draws heavily from the adjacent elevated CTA tracks that have served the building’s customers for decades.

The 10,000 SF amenity deck, 3,500 SF of which includes planting, features a garage door that opens during the warmer months to allow seamless movement between indoor and outdoor areas. Planting design takes cues from the historic nature of the building with a modern twist on formal garden planting design using a variety of color from early spring through late fall. A large shade structure defines zones and is on axis with a synthetic turf lawn with large water features terminating the axis.

Now situated atop the 13-story building, the showstopper is undoubtedly the never-seen-before view. Few buildings in the heart of the loop have rooftop space of this scale, making the rare 360° views even more desirable. One of the best seats in the house is the firepit lounge nook with views down Washington Street to the Pritzker Pavilion Bandshell with Lake Michigan in the distance.

The collaborative design-build project is a successful example of how Clayco and LJC work together to uphold the integrity of a historic structure while redesigning 650,000-square-feet of space for a new purpose. Macy’s Flagship office space and its rooftop terrace maintain its iconic status and will be sought-after by tenants for years to come.

Click here to learn more about our Macy’s Flagship building renovation project.