Launch Slideshow

Inland Steel Restoration

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill updates a landmark, keeping its midcentury aesthetic intact.

Inland Steel Restoration

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill updates a landmark, keeping its midcentury aesthetic intact.

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    EZRA STOLLER/ESTO

    An archival photograph shows an interior of the Inland Steel Building not long after it was completed in the 1950s.

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    BOB SHIMER

    The façade of the building has achieved landmark status, so it will remain unchanged during the renovation and restoration process.

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    Plans to convert Inland Steel into an office hotel replicate the mid-century aesthetic with updates such as a perforated metal ceiling and motorized shades to cut down on heat gain.

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    FLOOR PLAN OPTIONS The open floor plates allow tenants to customize their own floor plans with a mix of open plan, shared, and private office space; conference rooms; and communal areas.

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    WALL SECTION WITH AIR SUPPLY A system of demountable walls was devised so that each completely open floor can be divided as the client sees fit. The panel shown in section is faced in wood and contains a concealed air duct to aid airflow throughout the space and air return to the chilled beam system above the metal ceiling.

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    CEILING SYSTEMS The perforated metal ceiling tiles conceal a series of systems including the lighting fixtures, the bulk of the sprinkler system, and the chilled beams, which serve as a low-energy HVAC alternative.

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    CURTAIN WALL SECTION Originally, the architects planned to retrofit the curtain wall system to include double glazing for performance reasons, but concerns from the landmarks commission led to the development of a series of motorized shades (seen here in section) to increase the thermal performance of the single-glazed façade.

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    Each space can be customized to fit a client's needs, but all finishes maintain a mid-century sensibility to reflect the building's history.

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    Guests at the office hotel can outfit their space from a catalog of furniture designed to marry a sleek 1950s aesthetic with low-VOC and low-formaldehyde materials to answer modern concerns about sustainability.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is revisiting one of its seminal projects of the 1950s, the Inland Steel Building. The firm has been asked to renovate the Chicago landmark into an office hotel, a building type that offers potential tenants a sustainable and fully outfitted office space while still allowing for flexibility in office layout, size, and lease duration. That means a ground-up renovation to meet contemporary standards of sustainability, as well as the out fitting of spaces with flexible systems to allow for the reconfiguration of space for each “guest.”

Because of the building's landmark status, certain of SOM's proposed improvements—like a planned double-glazed curtain wall—cannot be implemented. But there are other, permissible strategies that will improve the building's performance, such as chilled beams, which use less energy for cooling than conventional HVAC systems. The architects have developed a system of modular partitions with spring-loaded connectors that take advantage of the existing column-free space. SOM also designed a catalog of furniture that guests can choose from; all pieces fit the building's 1950s aesthetic while conforming to modern sustainable standards for VOCs and formaldehyde.

The jury was taken with the commitment to finding new methods, and overcoming challenges, in an effort to make a mid-century building sustainable by today's standards. “The fact that this is land-marked actually created huge limitations on the retrofit,” said Blaine Brownell. “It couldn't be double-glazed, which probably would have been much better, so there's all kinds of attention being paid to these minor environmental upgrades— with, I'm sure, significant cost as a result. Ultimately, it shows that there's a [larger] problem: Are we being serious about upgrading these buildings?” Andres Lepik appreciated the attention to detail: “You take a land-marked tower and make a sustainable restoration, down to the desks and the chairs.”

PROJECT: Inland Steel Building Restoration

CLIENT: Capital Properties

ARCHITECT: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York—Stephen Apking (design partner); Peter Magill (managing partner); Carl Galioto (technical partner); Nazila Shabestari Duran (project manager); Claes-Henric Appelquist (senior designer); Jim Simmons (technical coordinator); Noboru Ota, John Darrow, Katherine Shen (designers); Ece Calguner Erzan, Fatmir Hodzic (technical architects); Jeong Hee Kim, Yoonsoo Oh, Joey Fonacier (rendering team); Madeline Chang (material research); Jennifer Rainey (LEED specialist)

M/E/P/STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York—Roger Frechette (HVAC/M/E/P director); John Pulley (manager of sustainable engineering); Jeffery Boyer (sustainable engineer); Bin Hu (sustainable specialist); Mike Scotter (mechanical associate); Kenneth Mocko (mechanical engineer); Noriel Nicholas (electrical associate); Mir Hameeduddin (electrical engineer); Ishac Koussa, Thomas Bailey (plumbing engineers); William Baker (structural partner); Chuck Besjak (associate structural director); Brian McElhatten (structural engineer)


  • Carl Galioto
    Carl Galioto
  • Peter Magill
    Peter Magill


  • Stephen Apking
    Stephen Apking
  • William Baker
    William Baker

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