1611 W. Division - CODAworx

1611 W. Division

Submitted by Beth Garneata

Client: Henry Street Partners

Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $17,000

Project Team


Beth Garneata

Wheeler Kearns Architects


Jon Heinert

Wheeler Kearns Architects


Antonia Contro

Antonia Contro


Jamie McNally

Henry Street Partners


Intelligentsia Coffee


1611 W Division is designed to meet the needs of a progressive, active and mobile community. It reveals greater texture and changing perspectives as residents approach, engage and explore. The 125,000sf, 11 story building includes 99 mixed income apartments, second floor offices and ground floor retail. From a distance, the sleek, multi-faceted building creates a stunning, two-dimensional graphic navigating landmark. As pedestrians approach, the building's folded façade, comprised of staggered, non-repeating panels of metal and glass, captures light and reflects the energy that characterizes the community.


The project aimed at initiating a dialogue between the building, the art and its community. The 92' tall x 27' wide digital print is adapted from a watercolor of tree bark. Antonia Contro's "Scorza", meaning 'skin' in Italian, becomes a new skin on the building and uses its exposure as the building does, to reveal increasing texture and depth to viewers upon approach from a distance. The organic material represented in the artwork forms an interesting notable contrast with the technical aesthetic--the metal and glass exterior--of the building. The scale of the piece creates ambiguity, allowing the viewer to interpret for themselves what the forms and the negative space they create are. The location of the project establishes an anchor for this type of collaboration in the neighborhood and furthers the development of a vibrant cultural corridor along Division Street and Milwaukee Avenue, in Chicago.


Early in the design phase, the development team and architects identified the large concrete wall of the stair and elevator core as an opportunity for a significant installation that could connect the project to the community. A lengthy search began for a local artist who understood the design intent of the building and how their work could be re-interpreted with those same qualities and characteristics to create a dialogue between building and art. Collaborative meetings at the artist's studio with the architects and development team helped solidify a direction for the installation. Antonia Contro's original piece was a watercolor only 16" tall. Technical challenges included enlarging the piece over 68x its original size. The ultimate scale of the piece required full size mock-up sections to be printed and temporarily installed to confirm color and resolution at the enormous scale and distance of the viewer. Gamma Imaging directed the digital enlargement and printing process while KSA lighting provided photometry of the surface to confirm properly specified light fixtures and illumination. Installation required the use of a swing stage suspended 140' in the air to anchor the print's frame in place and stretch the print across it.