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Project: Hotel 21 East* (now the Sutton Place Hotel)
Client: Bellevue Place Associates
Location: Chicago

The developers of Hotel 21 East (now the Sutton Place Hotel) wanted an intimate and elegant hotel with the maximum number of rooms allowed by the Chicago zoning ordinance governing the site, a small corner lot (less than 10,000 square feet) in the city’s Near North Side neighborhood.

Zoning regulations dictated 20-foot ground-floor setbacks from the two street fronts. Mandatory at-grade loading docks and the need for two limousine-size car lifts consumed additional space, leaving room on the ground floor only for modestly sized lobby and reception spaces.

The architects created a 23-story, 247-room hotel that boasts an intimate 80-seat restaurant, a café, a bar, eight private dining rooms, and six two-level penthouse apartments. Each floor has no more than 14 guest rooms.

In response to the ground-floor space constraints, the architects carved out a tiny four-story atrium with mirrored faces that magnify the interior. This inner “hollow,” with its glass elevator and piano, affords visual, acoustic, and physical connections between the entry level and the café, bar, and private dining rooms on the three levels above—spaces that one might otherwise expect to find just off the lobby.

The architects’ design resulted in an intimate hotel with an airy, skylit interior and the character of a richly appointed private club or a small, elegant residential hotel from the 1920s or ’30s—the antithesis of the large convention hotels so common in Chicago. In addition, the hotel’s signature restaurant is on the second level, tucked under a two-story colonnade facing Rush Street and Bellevue Place. This location, with its full-height glass walls, gives diners a feeling of privacy while allowing them to take in the active street life below.

*Under the direction of Ian Mackinlay (principal in charge) and Richard Flood (project architect). Architect of record: MWM Architects Inc. of Oakland, California.