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CHICAGO — Developer ECD Company and architecture firm Koo and Associates have completed theWit, a Doubletree Hotel, on the corner of State and Lake streets in downtown Chicago. The hotel, which opened May 27th, features 298 guestrooms in a new 27-story, 250,000-square-foot building. Its location positions theWit at the gateway to the city’s Theater District, which led to its unique “lightning bolt” design, an element that has garnered the building much-needed buzz leading to its opening.

“We really wanted a design that highlighted the corner of State and Lake and had an exciting, almost theatrical, quality to it,” says Jackie Koo, founder of Koo and Associates. “The now well-known zig-zagging chartreuse glass on the building came about more from a programmatic sense and from the constraints of the site, but it has been a great thing for the identity and branding of the building.”

The lightning bolt is a sliver of angled, laminated yellow glass, mimicking a bolt of energy that extends the full length of the building. At least one guestroom on each floor will offer this unique design element from which guests can enjoy views of the city.

The hotel is situated on a small 9,500-square-foot (68’ by 140’) site, so it was a challenge to pack all of the guestrooms and hotel amenities into the building. Koo achieved the desired floor area ratio by pushing the core elements to one side, as opposed to the center of what is only a 68-foot wide building. That design choice allowed for the inclusion of the hotel’s high-end amenties, including Screen, a 40-seat multimedia theater; The Library, a lounge; 7,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space; the Spa@theWit; the Roof, an indoor/outdoor lounge located on the 27th floor; and two high-end restaurants located on the first and second floors. The L runs on its elevated track directly adjacent to the hotel, which features treated glass that acts as a barrier to block out the sound of the Metra line as it rumbles past. Instead of viewing this as an obstacle, Koo sought to bring the train line into the modern, urban aesthetic of the glass façade.

“Because we are just south of the river, we didn’t have the opportunity to feature those views,” she says. “Because of the proximity, we have essentially featured the L as a backdrop.”

The restaurants, cibo matto and State & Lake, received their own entrance from the street. According to Koo, hotel restaurants often suffer if they lack visibility and draw all of their visitors from the hotel. In order to create an identity for the high-end eateries, the architect created a façade that essentially looks like two separate buildings.

“We created that second entrance, and really a whole separate building façade, so that the restaurants could stand on their own and really be a marketable commodity,” Koo explains. “In this market, I imagine every hotel has to rely on more than just room rates to get their numbers to work.”

At the corner of State and Lake, a 38-foot high lobby serves as the hotel entrance beneath the “lightning bolt,” in an attempt to create a grand, inviting entrance for hotel guests.

— Kevin Jeselnik

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