Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH Staff Given Tour of AMA Plaza
December 13, 2013
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CHICAGO - In keeping with its annual tradition, CTBUH staff enjoyed a tall-building tour as part of its holiday party. The surroundings were appropriately festive – the newly remodeled AMA Plaza (formerly IBM Building), which contains the luxurious Langham Hotel on its first 13 floors and the offices of the American Medical Association on the majority of the upper floors. The 52-story building was the last designed by Mies van der Rohe, and was completed in 1972.
A massive collaborative effort between designers --  Richmond International on upper-floor public spaces and guestrooms, van der Rohe’s grandson Dirk Lohan on the ground-floor lobby, The Rockwell Group on restaurant detail, and Goettsch Partners as architects of record – has produced a winning and consistent experience in tune with the spirit of our times, if not the letter of Mies’.

The building’s owners and caretakers were in a festive mood, too – the hotel business was booming and only one office floor remained unleased.

First led by Rebecca Werner, head of public relations for the Langham Hotel Chicago, the tour took the visitors through the ground-floor lobby, Travelle restaurant / lounge, Pavilion lounge, the pool and spa, a children’s play area, and three sizes of bedroom. The hotel portion of the building is filled with a dizzying array of art, and the choices are sometimes themed to the building’s history (computer-chip patterns abound in the restaurant), the hotel group’s Asian roots, or classic mid-century Pop-Art motifs.

If one finds the Easter-Island-like visage of Jaume Plensa’s seven-foot alabaster head a disconcerting seatmate in the lobby, familiarity beckons in the form of numerous William Wegman dog photos hung in the guestrooms. In total, there are more than 140 pieces of art in the 316-room Langham. Lauren Rottet has skillfully selected a variety that should appeal to a range of tastes.
CTBUH staff toured AMA Plaza
The lobby of the Langham Hotel CTBUH staff visit the pool and spa
The Pavilion Lounge is located on the Club Floor The guestrooms offer stunning views of the Chicago River
The second half of the tour, led by Susan Hammer, general manager and Courtney Farella, property manager, Riverview Realty Partners, traversed the unleased 25th floor, where the true depth of space afforded by van der Rohe’s famous column-free design was on full display. Next, the frigid Chicago skyline received a warm response from the tour group atop the building’s roof, where a sizable green roof patiently awaited spring. The underside of the building turned out to be equally interesting. The tour encountered the “secret” below-grade railroad tunnel that divides the site in two on a curving trajectory (now relegated to stealthy car parking and the sleep of transients), as well as the giant pumps that pull cold water from the Chicago river into the building’s chiller plant, a considerable energy-saving innovation in the early 1970s.
The lobby has a giant Christmas Tree for the holidays The unleased 25th floor showing the column-free design
The roof offered stunning views of the skyline The green roof
Old below-grade railroad tunnel The chiller plant
Before exiting into the chilly night, the team posed with its gracious tour guides in front of the building’s Christmas tree and the gold mesh hung along the eastern interior curtain wall, a sly reference to Philip Johnson’s silver-mesh décor for the Four Seasons restaurant in the IBM Building’s close cousin, the Seagram Building in New York.
Daniel Safarik presents the CTBUH Journal to Rebecca Werner, Langham Hotel Chicago Antony Wood presents the Natural Ventilation Guide to Susan Hammer, Riverview Realty Partners
CTBUH staff on the roof of AMA Plaza (left to right): Daniel Safarik, Aric Austermann, Steven Henry, Jessi Rinkel, Carissa Devereux, Caitlin Mehta, Payam Bahrami, Son Dang, Patti Thurmond, Christy Zvonar, Peng Du, Dario Trabucco, Meysam Tabibzadeh, Will Miranda, Antony Wood