The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago opened in November unveiling the first look at the design vision for the upper-upscale Radisson Blu brand in the United States. The flagship hotel is located on the first 18 floors of the 81-storey Aqua Tower, recently named "Skyscraper of the Year" by Emporis.
MacArthur Genius design award honouree Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects designed the architecturally acclaimed Chicago icon. For the hotel interiors, internationally renowned design studio Graven Images presents a thought provoking, contemporary style synonymous with the Radisson Blu brand vision that is unique to Chicago, to North America and to Radisson.
Inheriting a Design Legacy
Throughout the world, Radisson Blu hotels stand as individual design statements reflecting individual markets. Since Arne Jacobsen's game-changing Royal Hotel Copenhagen rose as the world's first designer hotel in 1960, Radisson Blu hotels have been recognised for their sense of adventure and innovation. Witness the floor-to-ceiling wine tower complete with "wine angels" at the Radission Blu Zurich; the giant, cylindrical aquarium at the Radisson Blu Berlin; and the Euro-coin architecture of the Radisson Blu Frankfurt.
For Radisson Blu Aqua, Chicago, Graven Images created subtle and overt design references to the city of Chicago.
A Nod to Chicago
"I believe it's important to offer an indigenous relevance given the city's architectural importance worldwide," said Graven Images' Creative Director Jim Hamilton. "I spent a lot of time in Chicago to scratch below its surface and identify not the obvious architectural gestures, but the little snippets of everyday experience."
In doing so, Hamilton carefully selected features and materials reflective of the city of Chicago. Heavy Steel work abounds, paying homage to the Windy City's reputation as the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. The designer weathered steel over a period of months to gain the precise orange patina to contrast with the warm grey polished concrete and reclaimed brickwork found throughout the hotel. Other materials evocative of the city, such as Corten steel, Krion and weathered oak, have finishes that will naturally gain lustre and patina over time, growing into their own skins rather than looking dated.
Upon approaching the hotel, a transparent, blue glass box frames the main entrance, and attracts guests to catch a glimpse of a series of interlinked public spaces. Floor-to-ceiling street-level windows reveal monolithic brick piers that form a gateway to the lobby lounge just below the deep blue theatre curtains. The brick piers extend into the lobby where the use of negative space composes a series of building silhouettesan oblique reference to the Chicago skyline. The same brick walls are studded with backlit glass blocks, symbolic of city lights witnessed from a distance.
Across the lobby, a wall-to-wall screen of interconnected Egyptian brass medallions, produced by Randa Fahmy, hangs in front of a mirror that serves as a curtain for a dramatic, 50-foot-long fireplace. Delicate overhead teardrop light fixtures cast a glow on gold elevator doors as well as an oversized handmade rug that offers an abstract aerial depiction of Chicago, as imagined and drawn by Graven Images.
The hotel check-in area was deliberately moved to the left of the lobby in its own distinctive space to imbue the lounge area with its own sense of calm. For check-in, mirrored desks sit in front of a weathered steel wall accented by brightly colored light fixtures resembling blue shards of lightening.
Filini and Filini Bar
Lining the corridor, a series of steel-grate floor fixtures, which reflect the pattern found on protective city tree covers in Chicago, transitions the lobby into the Filini bar. The bar utilises the same tree cover pattern, but on a larger scale, for a massive black and white, hand-pieced mosaic floor. Here, banquette style booth seating is fitted with countertops embedded with flickering LED lights resembling small candles.
Upstairs, a glass wine wall greets guests. A delicatessen wall is outfitted with cabinetry shelves designed to showcase the premium products served at Filini. Three-dimensional, pyramid-shaped wall and exhibition kitchen tiles create a sense of movement. A variety of other seating, including banquettes and communal tables, are lined with silver leather cushions and complemented in many instances by oiled oak tables. The juxtaposition of materials in the space creates a modern yet cosy aura conducive to a contemporary Italian eatery.
Gallery and Meeting Spaces
Past Filini, and en route to more than 28,000 square feet of the city's most compelling meeting and event facilities, a gallery is dedicated to Chicago artists. Graven Images have lined the walls with carefully chosen visual and graphic works in all mediums, including sculpture, painting and photography. Hamilton hand-selected the pieces from Chicago's River Northneighbourhood, an area recognised as the largest arts district in the country outside of Manhattan.
A pre-function space, resembling a boat hull with off-centre pillars and cleverly slanted walls, covered by woven metal hangings, announces the hotel's grand ballroom. At more than 12,000 square feet, the space showcases 20-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of Lake Michigan and The Park at Lakeshore East. An undulating ceiling is accented by dramatic spheres of LED lights of various sizes and lengths.
Around the corner waits an additional 20,000 square feet of junior ballrooms, executive boardrooms and breakout rooms. Lining the hallways, a series of oversized, monochromatic photographs honours
Chicago's architectural history. Carpets have been carefully customised to reflect the tree-grate pattern,while sleek cabinetry of grey, oiled oak conceals state-of-the-art audio-visual abilities that can support any meeting or business function. A large conference room boasts a wall of windows overlooking sweepingviews of Chicago's Millennium Park. Expect vistas like Frank Gehry's renowned Millennium Park band shell. Walls are sketched with famous Chicago streets and iconic storefronts from various Chicagoneighbourhoods. These same sketches reappear throughout the hotel in guestroom hallways.
For the guestrooms, internationally-renowned designer Christian Lundwall offers fashion-inspired rooms in two different styles to suit every taste: "Mansion House" and "Naturally Cool." Both styles are unique in palette and inspiration, offering an equally impressive sense of design, quality and functionality.
A Commitment to Sustainability
The hotel will be pursuing LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in the coming months, reflecting its ongoing commitment to responsible business practices and environmental stewardship.