April 28, 2011

The Greening of SOM’s Inland Steel Building Chicago

Chicago’s Inland Steel Building, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), was built in 1958. It is a recognizable icon, representative of commercial high rises of the post World War II era of modern architecture. In 2008, SOM was asked to renovate the stainless-steel Chicago Landmark into an office hotel. This concept “offers tenants a sustainable and fully outfitted office space, while still allowing for flexibility in office layout, size and lease duration.”
The project has faced obstacles preventing its progress over the last few years due to a tough economy and strict historic preservation restrictions. Because of the buildings landmark status, the process of implementing sustainable building methods used in new buildings, has proven difficult. Elements such as a double glazed curtain wall for energy efficiency were not approved. The project has prompted important conversation on the issue of preservation, landmark status and sustainable design.
What SOM learned was that you can create a LEED-certified landmark with all the contemporary amenities and midcentury style-but to make it happen you need new agreements on sustainability from landmark commissions”. Alexandra Lange

An archival photograph shows an interior of the Inland Steel Building not long after it was completed in the 1950s.

Plans to convert Inland Steel into an office hotel replicate the mid-century aesthetic with updates such as a perforated metal ceiling and motorized shades to cut down on heat gain.

Each space can be customized to fit a client's needs, but all finishes maintain a mid-century sensibility to reflect the building's history.

The façade of the building has achieved landmark status, so it will remain unchanged during the renovation and restoration process.

This proposed project is the subject of a course offering at the upcoming International Contemporary Furniture Fair in May. The study of this process serves as an important benchmark for success of renovation of modernist buildings in the coming years.
Images and course description information found here.
Project detail researched here.

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