Inspiration, incentive, and information for the chosen design direction–art deco, as typified by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann–came from perusal of the Field Building’s decry studded street-floor lobby and from research at the Art Institute of Chicago. Speaking in tandem with design co-director Carol Penfold Patterson, Luzietti cites furniture styling, patterns, colors, and textures as being prime carriers of the chosen theme.
Its initial impact strikes visitors as they step from the 43rd-floor elevator landing and turn to face the circular vestibule.
This is where first and most formative impressions are made, the spokesmen note; hence their resolve to celebrate the act of entry. Among prominent art deco designs attracting attention are the carpeting a la Ruhlmann, whose “simple and sumptuous art” wowed the crowds at the Paris Exposition of 1925. (He died eight years later.) The rug’s large central circle echoes the rotunda’s ceiling; smaller swirls relate to the six portholes in macassar ebony doors. And the double-drum chandelier takes after its prototype in the building vestibule.
Both ceiling light and door windows are made of nickel and glass. Since the VOA contingent prefers that architectural scaling be larger than interior norms, the ceiling diameter is 20 ft. whereas the rug’s midpoint medallion measures 16 ft. across. Cornices and overhead detailing are among other replays of decorative embellishments seen in the public lobby. Seating could be at home in any well-appointed 1920s/’30s drawing room. A leafy fabric covers the wall in front of a small (fourth) meeting room.
Convertible Conference Hub for Other Purposes
The convertibility of large conference hubs into entertainment areas, reduced or enlarged via sliding doors, in itself might have surprised Ruhlmann and his confreres. But to find that those comfortable, residential-looking, and velvet-upholstered dining chairs are stackable, that surely would have defied comprehension. For this orderly piling up of seating indeed is, as it were, the ultimate in blending the poetry of art deco with the pragmatics of the present millennium. The feat was a joint effort between Dakota Jackson and VOA. Guided by the designers, the furniture producer, having made model pieces, broadened the seats‘ fronts, thus creating a sort of lip that accepts the chair placed atop. Also unusual are the four-ft.-six-in.-sq. tables and two credenzas of macassar ebony with ivory-lacquer inlay, edged with ebonized sapele–a concatenation of exotic materials considered a trademark of the French ebeniste. Half-round shapes come full circle when the tabletops are aligned or, when differently configured, create sigmoid curves tracing sunbursts. But here again the present meets the past: at midpoint of all that woodworked refinery there is a little lift-out lid for access to computer cabling.
The job was completed in eight months with the help of principal in charge Scott Davis, senior designers Sally Harrington and Daniel J. McCloskey, project manager Alfred Fiesel, project architect Peter Thomas, designer Michelle Liebling, and job captain John Burger.