Film — Lake Point Tower: Story of the Building of a Building

Lake Point Tower construction

Lake Point Tower under construction

Below, you will find a link to a rare 1968-9 film on the construction of Lake Point Tower, narrated by its architect, George Schipporeit. The initial screen is black as you hear Schipporeit say that early on he wondered if Lake Point Tower would it ever get built.  An amazing comment when you think of the result of everyone’s labor.

The film, paid for by the architects themselves, is a bit dark, grainy and distorted in its original footage.  Compression for YouTube has made this slightly worse, but that shouldn’t dampen your enjoyment.

Oh, and the video had to be cut into segments (two 9-minute and one 7-minute) to meet YouTube’s length requirements.  The last two videos are brighter, after the filmers stop shooting dirt and start shooting the building itself.  Nevertheless, the construction detail and visuals are fascinating.



Listen as Shipporeit explains how the building’s unusual shape created engineering and architectural challenges and as he narrates the actual construction process.

One fascinating fact is that initial soil borings reveal that the first 20 feet of “earth” is all debris from the Chicago Fire of 1871.  But finally they drill through lake sand and clay and reach hardpan at 90 feet.  Engineers decide that running the caissons to the hardpan will be sufficient to support the building.

Another fascinating fact:  the holes for caissons are dug by miners from Ireland, and they create a bell-shaped hole for each at the bottom.  Then 25 hundred tons of concrete is poured into the holes to bring the building up to grade.

Next, the garage deck is formed and the hoist towers for the structure are erected.  Then laborers build wooden forms into which they pour concrete to create the floors.  (Behind the workmen, watch for ships and barges docked at Navy Pier.)

Schipporeit points out that both ancient and modern technology is being used here, because the Romans also used wooden frames to construct buildings, just as he does.

Because of the unusual y shape of the building, chief engineer Bill Schmidt uses four bomb sights through holes in the concrete to maintain alignment between the floors.

When the aluminum curtain-wall is installed, tolerances are so small that meticulous work is required to hang it.  Mullions are anchored, heating units and window boxes are fitted, and double-paned Belgian glass is installed.  Finally, the building is finished without the loss of a single life.

Schipporeit says he and everyone else had a collective “sense of satisfaction” when the building was finished.  It is certainly an understatement when he concludes that this building “was a little bit different than the normal building to build.”

Hope you enjoy watching and learning about the building of Lake Point Tower.  Let us hear what you think.

And stay tuned for next week’s surprise.


  1. […] Lake Point Tower: The Story of the Building of a Building Click here to learn about and view rare 1968 video of the building’s step-by-step construction, narrated by its architect, George Schipporeit. […]

  2. […] Post:  Film — Lake Point Tower: Story of the Building of a Building. Rare construction footage, narrated by George […]

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