When the established elder statesman of Chicago’s luxury hotel scene reopened late last summer after an 18-month USD100 million refurbishment, general manager Peter Simoncelli said of the Ritz-Carlton property that takes up a decent chunk of North Michigan Avenue’s marble-clad Water Tower Place, “What this hotel looks like today is nothing like it was before.” Simoncelli wasn’t wrong. Whilst the 434-room hotel had gone through a series of refreshes since opening in 1975, the most recent major renovation marked the first true overhaul of the property’s high-profile public areas, the guiding principle being to give the Ritz-Carlton Chicago a better sense of place, at the same time weaving in nods to the city’s status as a pioneer of modern architecture and creating more harmony between the building’s grand interior and historic exterior.
Designing beautiful and functional spaces where people live or stay is what BAMO does best, and the San Francisco design firm excelled at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. As the elevator doors open onto the 12th floor of Water Tower Place – the hotel’s reception level – it is obvious that the property has been reborn. Guiding the eyes upwards are two rows of soaring 19-foot American walnut-clad fins that reference the vertical forms of Chicago’s skyscrapers. There, a splendid, floating wave-like sculpture by Czech company Lasvit, crafted from 616 orbs of hand-blown glass in four shades of blue, evokes nearby Lake Michigan. The biggest piece of art in the property, “Flying Wave” is one on a long list of the hotel’s new art collection, which plays a major role throughout Chicago’s revitalised Ritz-Carlton. A massive piece called “Wallpaper with Blue Floor Interior” by Roy Lichtenstein is fittingly located in the ground-floor lobby, not far from the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Upstairs, on accommodation floors 15 through 30, in addition to creating new modern yet minimalistic earth-toned guest rooms – each of which comes equipped with a decent desk, sitting area, well-stocked mini-fridge and a Nespresso machine – the renovation included upgrading the bathrooms in all ninety suites to give them a tranquil, spa-like feel, with rain showers and deep soaking tubs. Refashioning the fitness center to make the gym bigger and create a new large, window-lined space that looks out on the lake, has created a fantastic space for guests to work out whilst enjoying views of the Navy Pier. This is assuming, of course, that one has time for gym in the windy city: Chicago is renowned for being a friendly city, hails visitors with a very Midwest welcome, and has repeatedly been voted the number one place in the world for having fun and enjoying metropolitan life.