The architects for Lake Point Tower were John Heinrich and George Schipporeit, working under the firm name of Schipporeit and Heinrich; the two were students of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the best known architects of the Bauhausmovement and International Style school, who taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Lake Point Tower was completed in 1968, is approximately 645 feet (197 m) tall, and was the tallest apartment building in the world at that time. The project developer was William F. Hartnett, Jr., chairman and founder of Hartnett-Shaw Development Company, which was responsible for more than 260 residential and commercial real estate developments in the United States from 1961–1983.
Lake Point Tower was inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s 1922 design for a glass-curtained skyscraper in Berlin. Schipporeit and Heinrich took van der Rohe's unbuilt office building concept and converted it to a residential building. Despite differences — Lake Point Tower is much taller than van der Rohe’s original project, more regular in form, and its exterior glass curtain wall is tinted — many consider it a Mies van der Rohe building executed by two of his protégés.
Because of its height and lakeside site, the skyscraper had to be designed to withstand high winds. At the center of the building is a triangular core, 59 feet wide, that contains nine elevators and three stairwells. This core holds all of the vertical weight of the building, allowing the perimeter pillars on the facade to be much smaller.
Radiating from the core are three arms that form an asymmetrical Y-shaped floor plan. The original four-armed design was changed to a three-armed design (120° apart). The outer walls are curved to prevent residents from seeing into other condominiums. The façade of the building is a curtain of bronze-tinted glass framed by gold-anodized aluminum, which reflects the sunlight off of Lake Michigan and looks golden.
Well known for its graceful curves and enviable location, Lake Point Tower is one of the most widely recognized Chicago landmarks, following the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center, and the structure most closely associated with Lake Shore Drive. It is the only major private structure on the lakefront side of Lake Shore Drive and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future, given the city's prohibition on building on the lakefront.
Lake Point Tower was one of the first all-electric high-rise residential buildings in the world and pioneered the concept of the "Park in the City," being the first residential complex in a major city to have its own two-and-one-half acre park—including a playground, pool, duck pond, and waterfalls—three stories above ground. The building also features an assortment of shops and restaurants on the second and ground levels of the complex, under the third-floor park. Cite, a restaurant and bar on the top floor of the 70-floor residential tower, boasts spectacular views of the city and lake and serves gourmet French/American cuisine. The restaurant and lounge are open to the public.
Lake Point Tower's position between Lake Shore Drive and Navy Pier gives it unimpeded north, east, and south views that arePROTECTED, for the foreseeable future, by the ordinances controlling use of the city's lakefront. A wedge of the cityscape view to the southwest would have been lost to architect Santiago Calatrava's Chicago Spire, which was to be built diagonally across from Lake Point Tower on the other side of Lake Shore Drive. However, the spire project was a casualty of the nation's economic recession—construction was halted in October, 2008.