Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH Trump Tower Tour

29 May 2009, Chicago



Click here to see photos of the Trump Tower Tour..

CTBUH staff had a most informative tour of Chicago skyline’s newest feature, the Trump International Hotel & Tower on Friday, 29 May 2009. The tour began from across the street at the base of the former IBM building. Lucas Tryggestad of Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) led the tour, assisted by Iana Gueorquieva of SOM and Lucas Osmon of Bovis Lend Lease, Inc.

The Trump Tower program features 486 luxury condominium residences, 339 five-star hotel rooms in the Trump International Hotel, a world class signature restaurant with outdoor terrace, banquet and conference center facilities, a health club and spa, a thousand parking spaces, and 80,000 square feet of retail space along the Chicago Riverwalk. The project completes its enhancement of the downtown community with a 1.2 acre terraced park to the east of the tower and 500 feet of Riverwalk connecting directly to Michigan Ave.

At 92 stories and a height of 1,362 feet to the top of the spire, the Trump Tower is now the 2nd Tallest Building in North America after the Sears Tower.

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the innovative reinforced concrete structure designed by SOM, stands out in the downtown skyline next to its immediate neighbors, the Wrigley Building and 330 N Wabash. On the former site of the Chicago Sun Times, this shining building replaces the low box of the Sun Times with a towering stainless steel and glass, multi-tiered, curvilinear form sitting on the bend of the Chicago River at 401 N Wabash Avenue.

According to Tryggestad, building construction, which began in March 2005, replaced all previous foundational supports from the Sun Times building with new caissons reaching deep into the bedrock. As the city was looking to improve the upper deck of Wabash Avenue around Trump Tower, the developer struck a deal with the city stating it would take care of the renovation of the roads, in exchange for an increase in the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The choice of designing this tall building with a reinforced concrete frame for structural support reduces sway in the residential-hotel tower (an advantage for residents!); with sway limited to within 3-4 inches at the top on the windiest of Chicago days.

Tower entry on Wabash Street   Building tiered setbacks Viewed from tower base

Tryggestad pointed out that SOM’s design presents the building’s tiered setbacks in response to the heights of neighboring Chicago icons. Additionally, tiered construction allowed the building to be completed in phases, with official opening of the hotel in April 2008, a topping out ceremony in September 2008, and the final spire section placed in May 2009 for exterior completion.

Tryggestad also explained that the Trump Tower was originally designed to be the tallest building in the world at 2,000 feet, and to predominantly accommodate office function. The original meeting between Donald Trump and SOM to discuss the design took place on the 10th September 2001, the day before the attack on the World Trade Center New York. The world changed after this event, and so too did the intentions for this project. The intended height was lowered somewhat and, in changing economic conditions, residential space was increasingly introduced into the mix until the tower eventually became a hotel-residential mixed use building, with no office function at all. This presented challenges during the design development phases of the project since the basic premise of the building (including the caissons and other construction elements already started on site) had been conceived for an office building.

Breathtaking views northeast from penthouse apartment

After an overview of the building design, the CTBUH tour group progressed to the highest residential space in Chicago, the 89th floor, featuring the 14,000 square foot penthouse apartment owned by the Trump Organization. With five bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, the penthouse features 12-18 foot ceiling heights and spacious areas for dwelling and entertaining. Observing the 360-degree Chicago views from the penthouse on this beautiful afternoon, it became clear that the Trump Tower sits directly at the heart of downtown Chicago and provides prime views of not just Lake Michigan, but of the entire city.
Unfinished penthouse offers 360-degree perimeter spaces   Floor to ceiling windows provide miles of city views

The tour next moved on to the back of house facilities and mechanical floors. Mr. Tryggestad pointed out the concrete sheer wall and thick concrete frame of the high level outriggers, contained within the mechanical floors. More usually seen in steel-framed construction, it was interesting to see these massive outrigger beams executed in concrete. Due to the phased nature of the construction and occupation of the building, the massive air-handling units only service the typically 40 floors of residential space below each mechanical floor, rather than a number of floors both above and below the mechanical floor which is typical.

                Mr. Tryggestad leading tour group   Mechanical facilities servicing top 40 floors

Finally, the tour leaders took the CTBUH staff to the two lower levels of the tower under construction. Boutique shopping and dining sit along the Chicago Riverwalk and the downtown street levels. The fully glazed storefront edge and undulating interior corridor will allow guests to experience the Chicago River while moving along this riverfront space even during the cold winter season. The corridor allows street connections and movement from either side of the Trump Tower. When completed the Trump Riverfront will be a significant part of the refurbished Chicago Riverwalk.

     Neighboring Marina City towers along Chicago River   Boutique storefronts will enhance Chicago Riverwalk

This lowest riverwalk level poses a challenge to the CTBUH and its existing height criteria. Currently the height of a building is measured from ‘the sidewalk outside the main entrance’, which in this case is Wabash Avenue. However, the general public is able to enter and exit the building from this lower riverwalk entrance which, technically, could add a dimension of 27 feet to the building if considered a major entrance – a point of debate for the CTBUH Height Committee in the coming weeks / months.


The staff of the CTBUH wishes to extend its thanks to Lucas Tryggestad, Iana Gueorquieva, and Lucas Osmon for their highly informative introduction to one of Chicago’s most significant tall buildings.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat will acknowledge one or more of the considerable achievements of the Trump Tower (as listed below) at the CTBUH 2009 Conference to be held 22-23 October, 2009. The conference will feature a presentation from the developer of the Trump Tower regarding this and other projects within the Trump portfolio. The Trump Tower will also be one of the featured towers on the Pre-Conference Technical Tours and open to conference attendees.

For more information, go to:
CTBUH 2009 Chicago conference
Other CTBUH Summer Tall Building Tours 2009

Left to right: Steve Henry, Nathan Hollister, Lucas Tryggestad (SOM), Antony Wood, Patti Thurmond, Jan Klerks (kneeling), Katharina Holzapfel, Matthew Lacey (back), Phillip Oldfield, Jessica Atkinson-Evans, Marshall Gerometta

For more information on the Trump Tower, visit

Picture Gallery
Click a title below to enlarge. Photos courtesy of Marshall Gerometta, Katharina Holzapfel, and Jan Klerks.

Trump Tower seen from E Wacker Dr.
   Main entryway at  401 N Wabash Ave.
     Parking entry for 1000 indoor spaces
     State of the art elevators move guests quickly


Penthouse apartment with 12-18 foot ceilings 360-degree views at the heart of downtown Chicago Living spaces flow around complete  building perimeter View northeast to John Hancock Center
View east to site of Chicago Spire
View southeast to Aqua Tower View southeast to Chicago's New East Side neighborhood View south to Legacy Tower overlooking Millennium Park Neighboring Marina City towers along the north bank of the Chicago River Lucas Tryggestad speaking with CTBUH staff
Explaning mechanical facilities
Staff tour of roof mechanics Spire structural support
227 foot spire enables Trump tallest achievements CTBUH's Jan Klerks documents tour
View of Sears Tower from roof deck. Window wash crane track on roof deck perimeter Mechanical shield at base of spire Lucas Tryggestad with CTBUH staff Boutique and dining spaces along Chicago Riverwalk

Trump Tower Achievements on Completion:

  • Tallest building in the world with an all-concrete structure
  • Tallest mixed-use building in North America
  • Tallest mixed-use building in the USA
  • Tallest mixed-use building in Chicago
  • 2nd Tallest building in North America
  • 2nd Tallest building in USA
  • 2nd Tallest building in Chicago
  • 8th Tallest building in the world
  • 4th Tallest mixed-use building in the world
  • Highest residential floor in North America, USA and Chicago
  • 2nd Highest residential floor in the world
  • Tallest Building Constructed in the US in 35 years, since Sears Tower in 1974