How a Poem Inspired the Design of Chicago’s Newest Hotel

Loews Hotel in Streeterville

Loews Hotel in Streeterville

“Hog butcher to the World, Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler”

Inspiration for design comes from any number of sources: music, a solitary walk, perhaps even a dream. You can add poetry to the list. In fact, Chicago’s newest hotel—the Loews Chicago Hotel at 455 North Park Drive in Streeterville—owes much of its design to Carl Sandburg’s Chicago. You’ll even see text from the poem in large script type on guest elevators.

Carl Sandberg's poem as hotel inspiration

Carl Sandburg’s poem as inspiration

The hotel officially opens on March 2. The 52-story tower contains both a residential component and, on floors 1 through 14, the hotel itself. It has 400 rooms, including 25 suites.

Although the Loews organization managed the House of Blues, the hotel is the first Loews hotel in the city (the company recently took over a hotel in Rosemont near O’Hare). The new hotel has been planned for nearly a decade. A Loews executive read Sandburg’s poem and decreed that the hotel would reflect it.

The guest rooms are spacious and well-appointed, but it’s the lobby and banquet rooms that really stand out. The lobby has a fireplace, lots of granite, and slender light fixtures. The Solomon Cordwell Buenz team borrowed style from Mies van der Rohe and Louis Sullivan. As a result, you’ll see clean, simple lines inspired by van der Rohe and intricate floral details as a nod to Sullivan.

Metallic sculputure

Metallic sculpture against the lobby’s east wall

Again, owing to the Sandburg poem, even the materials used for the lobby interior reflect on the city’s past. Against the east wall of the lobby there’s a large metallic sculpture. It’s actually the same material used for railways, twisted and turned into a unique pattern. Even the meeting rooms just north of the lobby have decorative treatment with metal curlicues above the doors.

Some hotels are so homogenous that you could be in Manhattan or Des Moines and not know the difference. The Loews Hotel Chicago shouts out what city you’re in. The lobby floor has a design that looks very familiar—the Chicago skyline.

Look up and you’ll see a most creative wall sculpture that depicts a critical historical transformation for Chicago. Pieces of wood stretch across the wall and, like the floor design, they mirror the city skyline. But the bottom half of the artwork is black (the wood was actually charred to represent the great fire) and top half is light to represent how the city rebuilt itself and rose from the ashes.

A city rises from the ashes

A city rises from the ashes

Of course, you can also look out the windows of the lobby along North Park Avenue and see the actual skyline, looking west from this Streeterville vantage point. Guest suites also have great views, some of the Chicago River. The rooms facing east have a straight view to Navy Pier. The hotel’s position just west of Ogden Slip means there won’t be any structures impinging on the view toward Lake Michigan.

The hotel offers a 75-foot lap pool, yoga deck, bocce court, and fitness center. It will also have the city’s largest rooftop terrace where a full kitchen and bar will cater to guests. On the ground floor, iron chef Jose Garces’ Argentinian steakhouse Rural Society has a clubby design, with wood-panels, vintage photographs, and details you won’t find at Outback Steakhouse. There’s even a monogrammed white coat Argentinian cattle judges wear when they evaluate prize livestock.

Interesting design elements on the ceiling

Interesting design elements on the ceiling

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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