Construction Update
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Hilton Garden Inn under construction

Hilton Garden Inn under construction

The Hilton Garden Inn at 66 East Wacker Place has reached its maximum height, and right now the facade is being buttoned up.  In the minds of vocal readers, it’s gone from bad to worse.

We received a few messages from you disapproving of the building’s yellow exterior.  “Don’t worry, Fair Reader, that’s just insulation and such.  It’ll soon be covered in gray metal panels,” we told you.  Now the gray panels are going up and you don’t like that either. Loop Spy Daniel sent over this picture of the offending building that he took yesterday:

Hilton Garden Inn under construction

It’s hip to be square

There’s been an unusual number of pings from the readers about the HGI in the last week.  They’re wailing that the western wall of the building ranges from “ugly” to “confusing.”  One person compared it to the old Atari game Breakout.  That’s understandable, so here’s a handy visual aid:

Hilton Garden Inn Atari visual aid

Left to right: The Hilton Garden Inn, Breakout video game box, Breakout video game play. There will be a quiz.


If you’ve been reading this blog for the last several years, you might remember the reason the new hotel is this way.  It has to do with the Chicago River and, not surprisingly, Chicago city ordinances.

It makes complete sense to have a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows on the west-facing side of this building.  They would provide amazing views, catching the sunsets, as well as providing unique vistas looking straight down the main channel of the Chicago River.  Forget the continental breakfast, this is the stuff people happily pay extra for.

But it’s not meant to be.  Back in November of 2013 we explained why:

“Because the western wall of the hotel is up against the church’s property line, the interior hallway would have to be pulled back a minimum of 12 feet from the window. With a 48-foot-wide building, that leaves just 36 feet of space on the floor for elevators, stairwells, and other hotel rooms. It simply doesn’t work.”

When asked if they considered buying air rights from the Seventeenth Church and cantilevering the hotel over the church, Klawiter remarked, “We did dream about it a little bit.” But the idea was rejected as being too complicated.[/quote]

Rendering of the Hilton Garden Inn, courtesy of GREC Architects

Hilton Garden Inn western facade, as presented to the public in 2013

And so the opaque slab of a wall was born.  But what about those gray metal panels?  Again from a November, 2013 article:

“The western side, which faces down Wacker Drive and the Chicago River, will not have any windows at all. Instead, it will be covered in a grid of large metal panels in five shades of grey. The panels will be arranged in a dithered pattern that from a distance is intended to mimic light reflecting off of the river.”

Do you see the river in the building?  Maybe not.  But at least what’s being built actually looks like the renderings presented to the public two years ago.

With its highly visible location, and vast expanse of nothingness, this just seems like an opportunity waiting to happen.  Since the Hilton Garden Inn won’t have much of a fitness center, perhaps it and the 17th Church can team up to offer hotel guests an outdoor rock climbing experience.

Or maybe the opposite — Pay $20 for the opportunity to rappel down the facade of the building, with the city at your feet and the wind and pigeons in your hair.

Or maybe this is a chance to revive one of those old, 50-foot-tall elaborate neon beer and cigarette advertising signs that used to be all over this corner of Chicago a half century ago.

Or maybe something a little more classy.  Giant backlit Times New Roman letters spelling out “NOT TRUMP.”

Location: 66 East Wacker Place, The Loop



Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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