GREC Architects


A river and a 10-lane expressway separate the Loop, Chicago’s highrise downtown, from the Fulton Market area, a gritty low-rise backwater to the west whose brick warehouses used to provide storage for wholesale-food businesses like meatpacking, in a city Carl Sandburg described in 1914 as “hog butcher for the world.”A century later, the hog butchers are long gone, replaced by hipsters living in condo lofts, techies working at Google, foodies flocking to upscale restaurants, and fashionistas navigating the cracked sidewalks in 6-inch heels. The streetscape is scruffy, but it’s only a 10-minute walk from the Loop, so developers have been descending into the area en masse, and today 52 projects are either under construction or on the drawing board. Many are for hotels, which the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood needs, including new outposts for Hyatt, Hoxton, Nobu, and Equinox. Last August, the Portland-based boutique hospitality chain Ace opened the $44 million, 159-room Ace Hotel Chicago, designed by Chicago based GREC Architects with interiors by Los Angeles COMMUNE Design, firms that had previously collaborated on the Ace in downtown L.A.Trying to fit into a historic cityscape can lead architects into pastiche, but GREC sidestepped this trap with a sensitive modernist intervention. “Our practice has long been rooted in the principles of early Modernism,” explains principal Don Copper. “A design language inspired by the legacy of the Bauhaus and Mies van der Rohe yet informed by the local warehouse vernacular seemed harmonious with the Ace brand, compatible with the area’s industrial aesthetic, and firmly rooted in Chicago’s architectural continuum.”The Ace is situated directly opposite Google—a company with enough clout to demand a clause in its lease that stipulated the construction of a hotel across the street. The property was controlled by the same developer that built the tech giant’s offices in a renovated 1920s cold-storage facility. Ace was selected in part because of its track record transforming emerging neighborhoods.

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