Our Innovations

Building on Art and History in Chicago

By Tricia Mirchandani

Creative inspiration can come from anywhere. Just ask the team behind the new Marriott Marquis Chicago.

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When it comes to creativity, sometimes inspiration is right in front of you.

Just ask Laurie Miller, interior designer of the recently opened Marriott Marquis Chicago, the newest property in the Marriott Hotels portfolio to sport the brand’s reinvented design language. Miller found her inspiration in the Windy City’s rich culture and heritage and in the sleek lines that define the 40-story skyscraper inside and out.

“The project was really architecturally driven on the interior design side,” says Miller, who co-owns hospitality design firm Anderson/Miller, Ltd. “We took a lot of cues from the architects themselves.”

The challenge was to fuse architecture and design into one cohesive experience under Marriott Hotels’ new, modern aesthetic, characterized by clean lines, chic accents and light-filled spaces. Fortunately for the team behind the Chicago Marriott Marquis, that new design philosophy was baked into the building itself.

“The art concept for our new design approach was no art,” says Jason Millhouse, the director of design for the project. “The idea is that the architecture is the art. And there are lots of spaces in the property that support that.”

For example, some guest rooms have custom sectionals with cutouts and lifted legs that allow light to pour through the structure’s window-lined facade. As for interior walls — they are rarely just walls.

“We used a lot of decorative metal screening,” Miller says, describing, among other elements, the screens between seating areas in the hotel’s restaurant that allow diners to peek into the open kitchen. “These pieces echo the steelwork on Chicago’s bridges and the building’s strong exterior angles.”

The city’s influence carries on deeper inside. Custom carpets lining the property’s 90,000 square feet of meeting space were conceived as layered motifs of interconnected lines that mimic a map of the L, the city’s elevated transit system. Other carpets bring to mind roadways and even tire tracks — a nod to Motor Row, the historic auto district at the hotel’s doorstep.

Another design feature animating conference spaces (and ballrooms, for that matter) is light. Both meeting and event spaces are lined with floor-to-ceiling windows.

“Natural light used to be impossible in meeting spaces,” Millhouse explains, because the glow threatened to dull presentation screens. “But now, thanks to modern technology, we can bring [light] in and not worry about glare. That freed us up to add architectural design touches to the ceilings.”

To that end, the Marquis trades flat ceilings for rich overhead designs that play off of intersecting planes of light streaming inside.

While the art of the newest Marriott Marquis may be the building itself, that isn’t to say there is no traditional artwork inside. The design team made a point of bringing Chicago’s vibrant art scene into the fold, showcasing dozens of Chicago artists throughout the building’s public spaces. And with the art comes something you won’t find in many, if any, hotels: video-enabled QR codes embedded in the artwork’s signage.

“Guests can conduct their own art walks with mobile devices, an idea that came from the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago,” says Miller. “We believe we’re the first hotel with this type of video exhibition.”

In breaking down the walls between art and architecture, and where and how art can be experienced, the Marriott Marquis Chicago stands as the definition of creativity, redefining the Chicago skyline at the same time.


Marriott Marquis Chicago

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