Christopher Barrett, Tom Harris, Danielle Campbell
For more than a century, The Arts Club of Chicago has been committed to the advancement of contemporary art and arts education. Recently, the institution sought to activate its space and give members and visitors a new place for gatherings and conversation. Lead design architect Vinci Hamp Architects, in collaboration with SOM, met this need by shaping an intimate and flexible meeting room and bar space—known as the Drawing Room—to underscore the Club’s important role as a connector and meeting ground for the Chicago’s arts community.
Founded in 1916, The Arts Club was an early venue for the avant-garde of the 20th century, commissioning and acquiring works by Brancusi, Calder, and others, and hosting pioneering exhibitions of the works of Picasso, Miró, and their contemporaries. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an Arts Club member, designed the interiors of the Club’s previous home, including the revered “floating staircase.” These sensibilities were referenced in Vinci Hamp’s 1997 design for the institution's current, purpose-built venue, which hosts numerous exhibitions, lectures, and events, and contains the original Mies van der Rohe–designed staircase as well as the commissioned mobile Red Petals by Alexander Calder.
The Drawing Room opens out onto The Arts Club’s garden on the building’s southwest side. Members and visitors pass through 13-foot-tall doors to enter the airy, refined space. High ceilings create the sense of a vertical room, while rich, dark built-ins contribute to a cozy library feel. The interior features black terrazzo floors and carpets, frosted glass tables flanked by bespoke upholstered bench seating, and classic Hannes Wettstein Hola chairs. These elements work in concert to create an interplay between light and dark, adding drama and luminosity to the Drawing Room space. Large mirrors above the bar reflect the garden, which features an installation by the Chicago-based duo Luftwerk.