As Navy Pier, the iconic Chicago landmark gets revamped with a hotel of its own, Newcity sits down with Jackie Koo, founding principal of architecture, interior design and urban planning firm, KOO, for a glimpse at the design process. “Creating a design that could be stitched into the historic profile created the right balance between old and new,” Koo says about Sable at Navy Pier, the hundredth property in the Curio Collection by Hilton, that takes its name from the USS Sable, a vessel that called the pier home during World War II. The nod to the location’s historic past doesn’t stop there. It informs the design process at-large—from using a color palette grounded by mixed neutrals and highlighted by a spectrum of blues and blue- greens like the colors of Lake Michigan, to incorporating subtle nautical cues like weathered brass, shipbuilding materials and the use of smooth curves similar to those of a ship’s interior cabin. Sable at Navy Pier was launched as part of the 2016 Navy Pier centennial celebration and renovation so it’s safe to say that “The People’s Pier”—a civic and cultural destination for Chicago locals and visitors alike—started the second hundred years with a bang.
This is a historic moment for Navy Pier and the city at large. What has been your most rewarding moment bringing Sable to life?
While not a specific moment, the project has been satisfying personally because it creates a new way to experience an iconic Chicago site. The design respects both Navy Pier’s historic linear profile, so familiar to generations of Chicagoans, while participating in the rebirth of the Pier. For those who haven’t been there lately, the Pier has been transforming as part of its centennial vision, into a modern attraction and cultural space, with new local food and beverage offerings, performance spaces and arts programming. The hotel has been fully booked under pandemic limits since opening and I’m excited that people will have a place to stay right on the Pier and that we have been a part of that.
Creating a hotel on a century-old pier is quite an undertaking. What were the biggest challenges you had to face bringing together the old and the new?
One of the main challenges was how to connect the hotel to the Pier so that it was a part of it and could be accessed from parking, the drop-offs, and the South dock, while building a new building. We ended up building on top of underutilized existing pre-function space, removing the roof and creating a structural platform on top of which we constructed five stories in light gauge construction. We attached to existing columns on one side and added new columns outside to support the platform. There were many existing conditions that we needed to accommodate such as the one-mile path that goes all the way through the Pier and existing utilities and systems that serve other parts of the Pier. Creating a design that could be stitched into the historic profile created the right balance between old and new.
What are you most excited about moving forward?
It will be exciting to see the impact of having hotel guests on Navy Pier. I expect that, as in any neighborhood, having more pedestrians strolling the sidewalks will create new opportunities to build a sense of community. A new project, SURGE Esports Stadium on the Near South Side linking Bronzeville and McCormick Place, is Chicago’s first purpose-built space for Esports whose global audiences already surpass many traditional sports events. It has been fascinating to be designing a new typology of building.
Greek-born Vasia Rigou is a Chicago-based art critic and pop culture journalist, largely on the subjects of contemporary art, design, and fashion. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Arts Journalism at the School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC,) where she was awarded the New Artist Society Merit Scholarship. She grew up to appreciate art after years of carefully planned, culture-filled travel itineraries and museum-hopping around Europe with her family. During this time, she received a bachelor’s in English Literature, in her native Athens; a master’s in Media, in Nottingham, UK; and studied foreign languages—English, German, and Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her writing—reviewing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, fashion shows, and music festivals among others—has been published nationally and internationally both in print and online. In 2017, she founded and now serves as editor-in-chief of Rainbowed.—an independently published website focused on the visual and performing arts, digital media, and popular culture. When she’s not writing about art or looking at art—wine in hand, she keeps up with Chicago’s creative entrepreneurial and startup community, makes lists for pretty much everything, drinks immense amounts of coffee and takes cross-country road trips every chance she gets.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com