A Fresh, French Breeze Blows Through the Windy City
its no-nonsense Midwest roots, Chicago is a surprisingly
cosmopolitan city. It offers superlative dining, museums,
jazz, theater and architecture. In the latter category,
it is a metropolis of landmarks, and its skyline just
keeps on growing, most notably in recent years with the
arrival of Jean-Paul Viguier’s visionary Sofitel
Chicago Water Tower.
in 2002, this striking building will make you rethink
French aesthetic stereotypes. This is no Versailles. Sleek
and contemporary are the only words to describe this prismatic,
angular, 32-story structure. Set just off the Miracle
Mile, it enjoys a corner location, which informs its triangular
shape. The opaque white glass façades angle out
as they go up—those subject to vertigo should beware
of the upper floors. This also means lots of natural light,
and a kind of Alice in Wonderland drama to the interiors,
which are sculpted by the exterior shape.
inside, you’ll be happy to discover how harmoniously
form and function can coexist. The two-story atrium lobby
is anchored by a triangular glass staircase, lit with
over 3,000 small bulbs. Paris-based interior designer,
Pierre-Yves Rochon, conceived the minimalist interiors
and almost ninety percent of the hotel’s furniture.
You’ll love what he’s done, beginning with
the beautiful lounging areas, with their camel-colored
sofas, jeweled tones and dusky lighting. A translucent
second staircase, illuminated by a skylight, leads from
the second to third level, which houses the 4,500-square-foot
Scandinavian Feel in the Rooms
there are 415 accommodations, including thirty executive
rooms, 32 suites and a presidential suite. Although this
property is distinctly French, down to the bonjour that greets you upon arrival, the rooms have a Scandinavian
feel to them. This is due to the light beechwood walls,
chrome accents and simplicity of the furnishings. East
facing rooms look over John Hancock Center skyscraper,
and if you’re on the twentieth floor or above, you
can gaze out on Lake Michigan. Among the standard amenities
are deep soaking tubs, high-speed wireless Internet access,
telephones with voicemail and Web TV.
France's unparalleled culinary reputation, it’s
no surprise that the property has a great French restaurant.
Frédéric Castan, executive chef at Café
des Architectes, infuses the flavors of France and
the Mediterranean with subtle Asian and Latin American
influences. The restaurant opens onto Chestnut Avenue
and offers a seasonal terrace. Design-wise, it keeps up
with the hotel, decorated with a bold red, black and white
color scheme; black and white architectural sketches;
and framed renderings by famous architects. (No wonder
it has been acclaimed by the American Institute of Architects).
In addition, there is Le Bar, with its fiber-optic ceiling,
attractive zinc and bubinga wood bar, cozy library area
and fun drinks, such as the C’est la Vie and Moulin
With its cutting-edge architecture, French panache and
imaginative cuisine, the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower is
an excellent base … and a breath of fresh air.