Mather Tower

Completed in 1928, the landmark Mather Tower is Chicago’s most slender skyscraper, clad in terra cotta and crowned by a gold cupola. Unfortunately, the original cupola had to be removed after pieces began to break off. An effort to restore this landmark building and cupola began. In 2002, a replica of the original cupola was airlifted into place via helicopter. The new cupola is painted aluminum and has no occupiable space inside. The vertical surfaces are painted to match the building façade, and the roof is painted gold to match the original roof.

The lighting design scope was limited to the upper portion of the tower and the cupola. Cool white ceramic metal halide sources uplight each terracotta column. To accentuate the warmness of the gold cupola roof we used a warm high-pressure sodium source.

Only two fixtures types were used on the project. Fixtures and ballasts are painted white to match the building. Conduit cannot be viewed from below.

Focusing took place in two stages. Fixtures at the cupola level were aimed while construction scaffolding was still in place. Fixtures on the 39th floor ledge were not aimed until two years later when scaffolding and construction net were removed.

The new lighting met the budget and significantly enhances the Chicago skyline at night.

Location

Chicago, IL

Architect

Koenen Associates

Recognition

  • IES Illumination Design Award of Merit, 2006
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award, 2006