Passing the Torch Onward

David EisenDesign is always changing. That’s a given. But a constant is good—no great—design. Take the new Langham, Chicago, featured as one of our case notes beginning on page 6. We delve into what The Rockwell Group did with the hotel’s Travelle restaurant, bar and lounge area.

David Rockwell and his team did a remarkable job of putting their own unique spin on the space, but they had inspiration. Formidable inspiration, at that. The Langham, Chicago was built out and designed within the city’s IBM Building, a landmark property that was originally constructed by one of history’s true architectural masters, Mies van der Rohe, who has helped shape cityscapes in some of the world’s most important cities.

Situated on the hotel’s second floor, the restaurant is careful to incorporate the original lines of Mies. “Since it is located in the former IBM Building, which was one of Mies’ last executed designs, we wanted to re-envision mid-century modern,” David Rockwell said. And that is the beauty of design: it is most always unique, but draws also from the past. Where else do we take our cues?

The same can be said for the Prince de Galles in Paris. After the hotel closed for a two-year, massive renovation (part of a more than $200-million investment by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and its owners to restore some of its most iconic European hotels under the Luxury Collection label), the hotel reopened this month.

Pierre-Yves Rochon and Bruno Borrione put their imprint on the hotel, which originally opened in 1929, with the renovation—this after it was first conceived by André Arfvidson. Its style was inspired by the Decorative Arts exhibition of 1925 with a classical yet modern frontage and a mosaic patio. Arfvidson, who worked on one of the Champs-Elysées’ galleries, belonged to the movement of “intermediary architects” who announced the period known as the Modern Movement.

Rochon told us that the concept was, “The reinterpretation of the art deco style.” What goes around certainly comes back around.

Then there is The Jade Hotel, one of Manhattan’s newest boutique hotels. Located in Greenwich Village, this hotel is all about feeling old, said its principal designer, Andres Escobar. “We didn’t want to make it feel like it was brand new,” Escobar said. “Rather, like it had been there all along.” Feeling a theme here?

Today’s hotel design—and you see it in restaurants and bars, too—is looking back at bygone eras for clues, suggestions—a blueprint for which to riff off. And it’s working. Developers aren’t just looking for glitz and wow anymore; they want to deliver something almost nameless, something intangible, but something every guest feels once they walk through the door. And the feeling is not fleeting. Guests or those just passing through for a quick spin, leave knowing they’ve encountered something they haven’t necessarily encountered before. And that’s what great design means. Whether it’s old or new.  

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