The original Langham hotel opened in London in 1865. Considered the first ‘grand’ hotel, it capitalized on traditional English customs to create a reputation that has spread across the world. Nearly 150 years later, The Langham has 17 hotels worldwide and The Langham Chicago emulates its sister hotel’s old world vibe, coupling it with modern décor and amenities.
Opening this month at 330 Wabash Avenue, The Langham occupies floors 2-13 of the iconic 52-story IBM Building. And while guests will surely enjoy all Chicago has to offer, the hotel is considered a destination itself with two restaurants, an extensive spa and more. “It’s about the whole portrait,” explains the hotel’s Managing Director Bob Schofield. “Like a painting, everything has to come together.”
A native of London, Mr. Schofield is a 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry who has either traveled to or worked in 65 countries. He joined The Langham family in fall 2012 to oversee the company’s entry into Chicago, a gateway city between The Langham’s other U.S. locations in New York, Boston and Pasadena, California. “Chicago has a wonderful pace of life,” he says. “It’s not quite as hectic as New York, but a little bit faster than Washington, DC.”
Mies van der Rohe, a pioneer of modern architecture, designed the IBM Building in 1966; his ‘skin and bones’ style influenced the hotel’s architects and designers when designing and decorating the space. Alterations to the landmarked structure needed to be in keeping with the building’s original character, so architect Dirk Lohan – grandson of Mies van der Rohe – was tapped to design the lobby. Mr. Lohan worked on the building with his grandfather early in his career, and his “sincere hope is that the lobby is embraced as a refined solution for transforming an office building lobby into a hotel lobby without disrupting the essence of a Mies van der Rohe building.” For example, you’ll find two sofas modeled after one Mies Van der Rohe originally designed for his daughter, which had never been in production nor available to the public before.
London-based hospitality design firm Richmond International designed the remaining hotel interiors, keeping in character with The Langham’s traditional design sensibility yet creating a compatibility with the iconic modern building. The result? “The whole theme is modernistic,” says Mr. Schofield. “In terms of design it’s very open and light.” The hotel’s airy feel is evident from the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout and the clean, neutral décor.
The artwork procured by Katherine Lo Bo Lun, daughter of The Langham Executive Chairman Lo Ka Shui, features artists worldwide. There’s a Chicago influence as well. Anish Kapoor, designer of Cloud Gate or ‘The Bean,’ designed a sculpture for the spa, and Jaume Plensa, designer of Crown Fountain (the interactive art/video sculpture on the corner of Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue), created a sculpture for the lobby. “It’s very modern, contemporary art that is in line with the design of the building,” remarks Mr. Schofield.
Signature to The Langham is a trademarked shade of pink found in all its hotels, from flowers to business cards. Here in Chicago, a pink custom London taxi imported from England and complying with U.S. regulations will be available to transport guests. “People love it, all the tourists,” shares Mr. Schofield. “They all want their photograph taken with a pink taxi.”
A tradition at Langham hotels is Tiffin tea. Tiffin is British slang for ‘second breakfast’ and best describes the hotel’s afternoon tea. And according to Mr. Schofield, The Langham London started the afternoon tea tradition. At The Langham Chicago, afternoon tea will be served in the Pavilion lounge with no other menu items served during that time. “It’s a light, airy, beautiful lounge that’s very much in line with guests sitting down having a great afternoon tea,” says Mr. Schofield.
Guests may relax at the Chuan Spa, another staple of The Langham. ‘Chuan’ is Chinese for flowing water and the spa is meant to restore mind, body and soul through traditional Chinese treatments that originate from The Langham Hong Kong. One unique feature of the spa is The Dream Lounge, a cocoon-like pod space where four senses are stimulated with music, aromatherapy, chromo therapy and vibrations targeting body meridian points. “It’s a journey of the senses,” adds Mr. Schofield.
In the competitive business of hospitality, Mr. Schofield comments, “We’re about service levels. It’s not just about the fantastic stage that we’ve built, but about the performance of our colleagues all day, every day. It’s an emotional experience when [guests] come into the hotel. It’s our goal to make every individual as happy as they possibly could be.”
Welcome to Chicago, Langham.
By Kirsten Keller