HYATT REGENCY CHICAGO, CHICAGO, IL - Located next to the intersection of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue - the crossroads of Chicago - and on the southern shore of the Chicago River, Hyatt Regency Chicago is both an urban landmark and a flag bearer of an international hotel brand. Not only is the hotel the site of countless important local and national conventions and events, but its amenities such as the Big Bar, Stetson’s Restaurant and the iconic glass enclosed atrium are recognized city institutions.
The current renovation seeks to polish these distinguished parts, bringing a building which was designed over thirty years ago into alignment with the most recent additions to Chicago’s architectural skyline including the nearby Millennium Park, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Chicago Historical Society and other internationally acclaimed works. The central vision behind the renovation is that of the atrium and lobby as a grand urban space, a place where the excitement of the milling crowd is amplified by the presence of extraordinary program elements whether it be the functions of the hotel such as registration and concierge or the new lobby restaurant, the Market, Big Bar or a reinvented Stetson’s Restaurant. Each of these has been given a stronger identity within the lobby making the lobby the “heart and soul” of the hotel and a place which is easier to navigate and more energetic than ever.
In developing the design, we have turned to the Chicago itself, drawing inspiration from three elements which are synonymous with its historical and physical development.
First, the Chicago River, whose outlet onto the Lake Michigan made this location ideal for the “City of the Big Shoulders,” is symbolically represented in a new water feature resembling the flow of a prairie stream as it falls over flatland topography. Art work resembling a river flotilla will adorn this piece. The water element both organizes the initial guest experience by giving clear direction about where to go and provides the new lobby restaurant with its own internal “riverfront.” Interior pergolas will bring down the scale of the restaurant, creating intimate dining areas and a new lobby bar on the main level of the atrium. Above the lobby restaurant, a new art piece will cover the entire southern wall of the lobby – over seventy feet in length – whose subject is the River. The theme of the river is carried forward in the design of elements such as the new registration desks which have the tear drop shape of canoes or watershaped driftwood. A white and blue palette of stone recalls surface of a roiling stream with both calm and frothy water. This palette will also contribute to the way finding within the lobby by accentuating the central path to registration area and other amenities and circulation parts such as the elevator lobbies.
Second, Chicago as the historical “marketplace” of the nation (what Sandburg called the “Hog Butcher to the World”) is present in the re-imagining of the atrium lobby as an urban market place in which each venue possesses the choreographed image of a store front. This is most evident in the new Market, an enlarged and greatly enhanced “grab and go” style eatery. With its projecting awning and bronze tinted surfaces, Market presents itself as the modern day equivalent of the urban market stall, a recollection of the famous market street, South Water, whose footprint lies almost directly below the hotel. Similarly, the lobby restaurant is introduced by its pergola-framed bar and dining perches over the water feature. Big Bar, which remains in its traditional location overlooking the hotel entrance and the river beyond, features a dramatic audio-visual component – a 100 foot-long video display and internally illuminated “liquor tower.” The Registration and Concierge areas are both newly framed by special ceiling and wall finishes which give them a distinct presence in the larger space. Stetson’s presents itself with a new wine display and fire element, both of which are visible throughout the lobby. It is both these amenities individually and acting together which give new life and meaning to the lobby and the hotel.
Finally, the design features the Skyline of Chicago. Every effort has been made to control lighting and the reflectivity of glass to enhance the view to the exterior skyline, the river and adjacent buildings in the immediate vicinity. As the guest enters the lobby, the louver ceiling will regulate both daylight and artificial light in the evening to soften that first dramatic step into the vast atrium from the exterior. The new lobby seating area is located immediately adjacent to the north facing glass, making it possible to experience the view to the north. Likewise, at the Registration Area, existing windows have been opened to reveal a dynamic view toward the buildings to the West of the hotel. Market and Stetson’s have both been given new windows out onto Stetson Street, making it possible both to appreciate the street view from the interior and for potential patrons to see these venues from outside as never before. For the first time, Hyatt Regency Chicago will be a building which is as exciting to look out from as it is to look in to. Most significantly, the new louver treatment at the glass atrium forms a visual backdrop to the lobby which focuses all visual attention – in the manner of a vast theater proscenium – on the view to the north through the glass wall at the Big Bar. It is this experience – of entering the lobby, proceeding into its depths and then turning to have the south-facing city skyline bathed in sunlight by day or glimmering under artificial light by night brilliantly displayed – that makes the lobby of Hyatt Regency Chicago a great urban venue and new centerpiece of a visitors experience.
The program areas and features included in this project are:
the renovation of the lobby including color changing LED lighting, light controlling louvers, new finishes on all surfaces and an art program which, as noted above, recalls the themes of River, Market Place and City Skyline;
all new Registration and Concierge Areas with windows to the exterior and guest-friendly desks making the exchange with the hotel staff more personal and intimate;
a new 24 hour Market;
new lobby seating area; new three –meal lobby restaurant with its own private dining areas and buffet;
completely renovated Stetson’s Restaurant with open kitchen, Sushi Bar and fireplace;
a re-invented Big Bar – still located at its iconic perch above the River but now greatly enlarged to facilitate views to the exterior, more digital content, new lighting and sound systems, a dramatic reinvention of its well-known bottle display in the form of a monumental, internally illuminated liquor tower and new food preparation areas to enhance its menu;
all new elevator lobbies which carry the material elements of the new design to the East and West tower areas;
renovated and repurposed Skybridge including new “digital community tables” which will increase the area available to guests for their use of their digital devices.
New signage and digital information kiosks will be located throughout.
The design utilizes locally sourced materials where possible, new mechanical systems to improve comfort and energy efficiency and – perhaps most importantly – new low-energy consuming LED lighting fixtures with lighting control systems permitting dramatic effects.