Josh Laskowski is on the road more than 230 days out of the year. He’s visited all but three U.S. states, more than 30 countries, and traveled more than 6,800 miles last summer. When he’s not driving to the Grand Canyon, visiting National Parks out west, or flying to Europe, Laskowski is a tour guide for Wendella, Chicago’s oldest family-owned architectural boat tour company. No matter where he is on the Chicago River, Laskowski says the 101-story, turquoise-colored St. Regis Chicago, at 363 East Wacker Drive, is his favorite building. When he cranes his neck upward to get a proper view of the city’s skyline, he says the skyscraper’s three interconnected towers remind him of a waterfall pouring down from the sky.
Why is the St. Regis Chicago your favorite building?
I’m always amazed at every new building that Jeanne Gang puts up from Studio Gang. She did the Aqua Tower (at 225 North Columbus Drive). Her newest is the St. Regis, the third tallest in the city. It’s absolutely beautiful. Her architectural style is very modern and very unique. It’s very cool to see a Chicago architect who’s not only local but also a female succeeding in an industry that for so long was male-dominant.
What do you think makes the St. Regis special? What are some reactions that people have to the towers when you’re talking about them on the architectural boat tour?
Many agree with me that it looks like a waterfall falling from the sky. I feel like Gang is making the view to the east of Michigan Avenue as stunning as the view to the west. The views to the west have been iconic for decades with the Wrigley Building, LondonHouse, Merchandise Mart, and Marina City. St. Regis and Aqua are two iconic buildings that are creating the modern view to the east. Our skyline will never be the same, in a good way, with the addition of the St. Regis and thanks to Gang and her team of over 120 people.
Gang beat her own record for the tallest building designed by a woman when she built the St. Regis. What makes her so significant as an architect?
She’s an advocate for women in architecture and the communities she builds in. Based on what I’ve read about her and the interviews I’ve heard, it’s not just about these tall buildings that have won her and her company so many awards, but it’s about building something that connects people in communities.
Gang has done much more than the two notable towers in downtown Chicago, which I love to share with visitors. From the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, and Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo here at home, to Populus in Denver, Q Residences in Amsterdam, and Tour Montparnasse in Paris. She was listed on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people for 2019. She was the only architect to make the list that year.
Is there a piece of trivia or fun fact about the towers that no one really knows, or you love to tell?
The towers of St. Regis are covered in six different shades of glass. Go ahead and count them next time you see it. The 83rd floor of the tallest tower contains an unoccupied blow-through floor to prevent excess swaying in the wind. The building features the highest residential balconies in Chicago.
All her buildings, even though most don’t notice, have a close tie to nature while also having people in mind. How they connect with one another, communicate, meet, socialize, and how those people connect with the city they are in. With the St. Regis, people can move from place to place from underneath the building.
What do you love most about your job?
I do it because of the people. With tour guiding and tour directing, I get to connect with these people one on one. Some of these people have saved their whole lives to have these experiences. To see their reaction to these places, these landmarks, some would say mythical places, because these people never thought they’d be there their whole entire lives. Seeing them light up and getting to actually live it is one of the most magnificent things in the entire world.
I learned in my early 30s that it’s not necessarily about the money. It’s about what makes you happy. I don’t feel like I go to work every day. I’m very lucky and fortunate that I get to do that.