How Chicago's new Viceroy hotel combines past, present

Located at the intersection of Cedar and State streets in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, the former (and historic) Cedar Hotel became the first Viceroy property in the Midwest late last year. Chicago-based developer Convexity Properties, along with architect Goettsch Partners and hospitality design firm TAL Studio, paid homage to the history of Chicago with a unique combination of architecture, design and art at the new Viceroy Chicago.

Contrasting Exteriors

The four-story brick-and-terra-cotta façade of the original Cedar Hotel was preserved, fronting a new 18-story glass tower for the hotel, creating a unique contrasting look. The original 1920s-era framework creates a two-dimensional arrangement of building elements and ornamentation. By contrast, the glass curtain wall of the new hotel tower is a taut, three-dimensional envelope. The distinctive “folding” geometry was inspired by the argyle-like pattern found in the historic brick façade below. 

“The project has ... a bold contrast of new and old architecture that is distinctive,” Paul De Santis, partner and senior project designer at Goettsch Partners, said in a statement. “Additionally, the multiple outdoor areas spaced vertically throughout the project maximize the use of every square inch.”

Interior Design

TAL Studio oversaw the interior design of the property. The lobby space uses white marble, brass light fixtures and a custom 30-foot art wall tableau inscribed with quotes from French poet Marcel Proust. The tableau, filled with a collection of Proust’s works and words, is lit each night.

“The objective was to create a dynamic connection between two potentially disparate archetypes,” said principal designer Todd-Avery Lenahan, CEO and founder of TAL Studio. “As a juxtaposition to the historic façade, the arrival library’s remaining three walls establish a hierarchy of monumental scale with the over 30-foot-tall Proust tableau towering over the library with colorful graphic bravado, while simultaneously being quietly elegant in its precise, shimmering presentation of thousands of meaningful words to be contemplated by each view on his or her own terms.” 

Just beyond the library, large bronze reception desks are positioned in front of a painting depicting a Venetian carnival recital by South American Cubist artist Badi. The hues of this painting are seen throughout the hotel, appearing individually in the guestrooms and hallways to represent an artist’s palette before colors are incorporated into a larger painting.

Guestrooms have reproductions of pieces from Cubist artist Miette Brave. A distinct headboard wall is a digital reproduction of an original work produced by London artist Tim Modus. The display is inspired by the architectural elements and sculptural forms of the midcentury and serve as a nod to Chicago’s architectural history. The midcentury-inspired furnishings also evoke this architectural style. 

“The best urban hotels today seamlessly blend with their context and simultaneously create a new identity,” De Santis said. “Today’s guests want to see and feel originality while never compromising luxury or comfort.”

Effective hotel design, Lenahan said, “must exceed consumer expectations of what constitutes anticipatory and intuitive design, provoking positive emotional response, and is contextual and respectful of honoring the culture and location, while building loyalty with assurances of future patronage. As a designer, it’s essential to be a humble student of the cultural, social, geographic, economic, political and even spiritual history of a place to imbue the project with the sincerity and authenticity that create a true sense of place.”

Photo credits: Christian Horan Photography and James Steinkamp Photography