Observation of Chicago Lobbies

Observation of Chicago Lobbies

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Walking the various spaces for this assignment led me to be struck by the various ways space is used to create an impression, even an emotional response. Of the locations visited, the Thompson Center and Palmer House-Hilton seemed to use this to the most effect. I also had a strong reaction to the interior of the Chicago Cultural Center and discuss that here as well.

The atrium of the Thompson Center is an impressive, imposing space. The skeletal framing of the building is visible throughout, creating awareness of the structure itself. The angled skylight at the apex contributes to the feeling of openness created by the large space. The elimination of walls between the open balconies and office space visually connects the offices to the atrium. This convention conveys a sense that the business conducted here is open as well. It is not clear whether this is intended to make a positive statement to citizens conducting business with the State of Illinois, or an ironic jab at government officials. Perhaps both.

Entering the lobby area of the Palmer House Hilton brings a feeling of nostalgia on two levels. The first of these is quite personal, as I used to stay at the Palmer House when I came to Chicago on business. The second hearkens to the early days of the hotel when visits to a luxurious hotel in the city were not as commonplace and we were, perhaps, not so jaded.

The lobby is opulent, designed, I believe, to provide an escape from the drabness of everyday life. A sense of grandeur and gentility is conveyed by the expansiveness of the space and the luxuriousness of the materials. Seating areas provide small oases for gathering or waiting, but are limited – seemingly to minimize interruptions of the space. Clearly the lobby is designed to be walked through, slowly, on the way to the sleeping rooms, restaurant or other hotel amenity.

The more mundane, yet necessary functional spaces of the typical lobby i.e. hotel registration, bell captain, concierge, are tucked out of sight beyond the large pillars that support the muraled ceiling. These services, though vital to a guest’s use of the establishment, are not perceived as vital to a guest’s more visceral experience of the hotel.

Admittedly, the library space of the Chicago Cultural Center is one of my favorite interiors in Chicago.

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