Josh Laskowski is on the road more than 230 days a year. He has visited all but three US states, more than 30 countries and covered more than 6,800 miles last summer. When he’s not driving to the Grand Canyon, visiting the national parks of the west or flying to Europe, Laskowski is a tour guide for Wendella, the oldest family-owned tour company in Chicago architectural boat. 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 upwards to get a decent view of the city’s skyline, he says the skyscraper’s three interconnected towers remind him of a waterfall falling from the sky.
Why is the St. Regis Chicago your favorite building?
I’m still amazed by every new building that Jeanne Gang builds since Studio Gang. She did the Aqua Tower (at 225 North Columbus Drive). Its newest is the St. Regis, the third tallest in the city. It’s absolutely beautiful. Its 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 woman succeed in an industry that has been male-dominated for so long.
What do you think makes the St. Regis special? What are people’s reactions to the towers when you talk about them during the architectural boat tour?
Many agree with me that it looks like a waterfall falling from the sky. I feel like Gang makes the view east of Michigan Avenue as breathtaking as the view west. Westerly views have been iconic for decades with the Wrigley Building, LondonHouse, Merchandise Mart and Marina City. St. Regis and Aqua are two iconic buildings that create the modern view to the east. Our skyline will never be the same again, in a good way, with the addition of the St. Regis and thanks to Gang and his team of over 120 people.
Gang broke her own record for the tallest building designed by a woman when she built the St. Regis. What makes her so important as an architect?
She champions women in architecture and the communities in which she builds. From what I’ve read about her and interviews I’ve heard, it’s not just those tall buildings that have won her and her company so many awards, but it’s It’s about building something that connects people in communities.
Gang has done much more than the two remarkable towers in downtown Chicago, which I like to share with visitors. From the Writers Theater 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 on Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list for 2019. She was the only architect to make the list that year.
Is there an anecdote or fun fact about towers that no one really knows, or that you like to tell?
The towers of St. Regis are covered in six different shades of glass. Go ahead and count them the next time you see him. The 83rd floor of the tallest tower contains an unoccupied blowing floor to prevent excessive sway in the wind. The building features the tallest residential balconies in Chicago.
All of his buildings, though most don’t notice it, have a strong connection to nature while also thinking about people. How they connect with each other, communicate, meet, socialize and how these people connect to the city in which they are. With the St. Regis, people can move from place to place from below the building.
What do you like most about your job?
I do it because of people. With guided tours and guided tours, I can get in touch with these people individually. 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 would be there in their entire lives. To see them light up and actually experience them is one of the most magnificent things in the world.
I learned in my early thirties 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 am very lucky and fortunate to be able to do this.