Lucas Samaras’ walk-in glass house at the Albright-Knox museum in Buffalo NY had nothing on the eight elevators that soar up and down The Langham Chicago. But this entire luxury hotel is one great artwork, says the gal. Take its shell, the 52-floor IBM Building at Wabash and the river, designed in 1971 by Mies van der Rohe (well, he had gone to design buildings in heaven two years earlier but it opened in 1971). Now the floors from 14 up are the headquarters of the American Medical Association. Floors one (ground) to 13 (called 12-C) are the 316-room hotel.
The two-floor lobby soars up from the second floor. It is one enormous space, with marble floors and, hanging from the ceiling, hundreds of glass bubbles, like oversize champagne bubbles, all made at Lasvit in the Czech Republic – the brilliant company that does the awe-inspiring chandeliers at Shangri-La Tokyo, and the interactive light-changing artworks at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi. Part of the lobby is the Pavillion tea lounge. Today 12 young ladies, at a baby shower, all wear bunny ears in their shining tresses. The hotel’s $40 Wedgwood Tea, on that china of course, includes éclairs and finger sandwiches.
I mentioned that the hotel is right on the river. Looking down, the river today is a hive of kayaks and pleasure boats. The cruisers giving guided architectural tours are especially busy. Chicago is undergoing a $100 million enhancement of its river walk so that tourists can stroll, run or jog for miles. I am actually working out in the hotel’s enormous gym (next to the 65-ft pool, and Chuan Spa). Instead of merely asking you to sign in, the gym receptionist asks your name, and uses it, subsequently. The headphones are new, and disposable. You have fruit, and hot or cold water, and serious newspapers.
In my Club floor room (a definite plus, not only for its soft Richmond-design taupe colours and big bathroom but for entrance to the butler-run Club Lounge) I have a view across Wabash to the shiny Trump. I head down for a walk, and the doorman says ‘welcome back’ with a smile. It is the people who make this luxury hotel Travel &Leisure’s top hotel in the USA, yes, the whole USA – and the hotel is only just one year old (it officially opened August 5th, 2013). This young lady, one of the ground-floor hostesses in her Langham-pink Chanel-tweed suit, moved from another hotel a few blocks away. This one is heaven, she says.