Chicago, new atmospheres combining history and architecture
525 West Van Buren is an upscale office tower located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighbourhood, one of the city’s most famous districts which still displays the vestiges of its fascinating history.
Nineteenth-century Chicago was an important hub of agricultural production, processing and distribution and the West Loop in particular served as a meat-packing centre (here too, as in New York, the characteristic low buildings have been beautifully restored over the last twenty years). The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 devastated a large area of this neighbourhood, which in the years of the industrial revolution became a destination for immigrants and the focal point of the struggle for better working conditions.
The district saw a decline during the Great Depression and the whole area gradually became a haven for the homeless and a magnet for drug dealing and crime. It was Oprah Winfrey who initiated the neighbourhood’s resurgence in 1988 when she chose it as the headquarters of her production company Harpo Studio, effectively placing it at the centre of her entire television empire.
Many big names have arrived since then and the West Loop is now home to the headquarters of Google, McDonald’s and many more large corporations.
The urban renewal programme recently saw the redevelopment of the historic Union Station and the splendid Post Office, in turn leading to the regeneration of numerous nearby spaces. One of these is the office building at 525 West Van Buren, whose owners commissioned a refurbishment project from the renowned New York-based office and retail design firm TPG Architecture.
The renovation concentrated primarily on the large lobby which in spite of its huge windows remained dark and gloomy, mainly due to a large wooden screen that stifled the architectural elements. Today, those very same elements, particularly the columns and the diagonal beam, form a unique, sculptural focal point. The bright, airy ambience of the lobby is further enhanced by the use of marble-effect porcelain stoneware tiles from Florim’s Stones&More 2.0 collection, chosen in the Calacatta version. It is an elegant, understated material that provides the sense of luminosity that was lacking in the original design while at the same time bringing a contemporary and elegant look to the grandeur of the space. The 360° reception desk is further enhanced by the distinctive suspended lighting fixture and the golden-grey hues of the large-format Marble Calacatta Gold porcelain stoneware surfaces from FLORIM Stone.
The lighting fixture above the reception desk are echoed in the staircase at the end of the lobby leading to the mezzanine bar. At the centre of the lobby is a service and lounge area with seating for visitors. The choice of clean, essential furnishings contributes to the sense of theatrical sobriety of the entire space.