With only two current hotels in the U.S., the July opening of The Langham, Chicago, in what’s known locally as the IBM Building should be enough to elicit oohs and aahs. That it will be the first hotel to reside in a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed building is taking it to a whole new level.
This is because Mies is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture, joining the likes of Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright. His works go from residential (the glass-walled Farnsworth House) to commercial (New York City’s Seagram Building).
Now a 316-room hotel will go into the first 12 floors of what was his original 52-story skyscraper, which overlooks the Chicago River. As important as Mies was to the advancement of architecture, David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group is doing the same for interior design.
His stamp on the new Langham, Chicago, will come by way of food and beverage, responsible for the hotel’s restaurant and bar, Travelle. Located on the hotel’s second floor, the restaurant is careful to incorporate the original lines of Mies. The wood and metal finishes pay tribute to the architect’s industrial-age aesthetic, while a central digital art installation and floor-to-ceiling windows convey a more contemporary elegance.
While Travelle is certainly The Langham, Chicago’s, signature restaurant, The Rockwell Group’s charge was to create a restaurant that could easily stand alone from the hotel. “Our program brief was to create a hotel restaurant that has enough presence to seem like an independent dining destination,” Rockwell said.
“Since the restaurant is located in the former IBM Building, which was one of Mies’ last executed designs, we wanted to re-envision mid-century modern. We were also inspired by the romance and optimism of the early Digital Age.”
The L-shaped space is contained within 5,000 square feet and retains the sense of a free plan using floating design features.
Where Rockwell really put his touch on the space is the bar area, which absolutely doesn’t follow any pre-conceived notion of what a bar should look and feel like. “The bar area allowed us to experiment with the concept of transformation,” Rockwell said. “Rather than placing a bar against a wall, we created a deconstructed square by splitting the bar into four separate, sculpted volumes arranged in a pinwheel plan. This configuration eliminates the back liquor wall, so that the restaurant can use the bar as a breakfast or coffee area during the day.”
|Infinity Suite salon|
In addition, Rockwell designed two bar carts to be used to serve drinks to guests in the lounge at night and serve as storage for the liquor bottles during the day. The carts are reminiscent of what you might expect in an old-time lounge.
Lighting plays a large role due to the hotel’s open-floor plan and is used to create several distinct moods for the space. Large custom swing arm fixtures and soft reflected light in the main dining create a sense of intimacy and evoke a clean mid-century modern feel. Cast bronze, overhead pendants in the bar create a warm glow in this area as well as a strong visual presence on the street below. In the lounge area, spot lighting and reflective surfaces of the large sculptural feature wall creates a sense of theater and visual richness.
|Travelle dining room|
The most focal point of the restaurant is the entry. “We felt that the restaurant’s entrance should be the first strong visual experience to clearly distinguish it from the lobby,” Rockwell said. “We designed a pair of statuary bronze sliding screens that are 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide and weigh a total of 1,100 pounds. They form a layered, changeable pattern as they slide. Using the history of IBM and Mies’ language of elemental materials and geometry as a launching point, we created a pattern that is an elegant, abstracted interpretation of digital chip design.”
Since the space is prominent for its large expanses of glass, Rockwell was sensitive to acoustics. “Our extensive use of bronze and stone was countered by white oak floors and wall paneling, large areas of custom carpet and a mix of leather and fabric upholstery to achieve an intimate yet lively atmosphere,” he said.
By far, the most captivating design element is the 30-foot long feature wall in the lounge that is inspired by digital art from the 1960s and aided by script-based computer modeling programs. The feature wall is a composition of 874 bent, V-shaped plates made from Macassar ebony and chrome-dipped metal. “Each element is positioned at a slightly different angle to create a subtle, transformative pattern that captures the reflective complexity of the city—and riverscape,” Rockwell said.
Name of Project: Travelle at The Langham, Chicago Interior Designer: The Rockwell Group Architect: Goettsch Partners Owner: Pacific Chicago LLC/Great Eagle Holdings Purchasing Company: Champion Global Services General Contractor: Lend Lease Lighting Consultant: Brian Orter Kitchen Consultant: Ken Schimpf’s KDS Consulting & Design, Inc. Carpet: Sacco Carpets, Dolma Rugs Hardwood: Siberian Wood Floors Wallcoverings: Studio E Tile/Mosaic: Heath Ceramics, Daltile Millwork/Casegoods: Parenti & Raffaelli, Themeing Solutions Upholstery: Quality and Co. Drapery: Opuzen