Chicago, IL

Chromium is a full-service signature restaurant at the new Midtown Athletic Club and Hotel in Chicago. The 220-seat restaurant includes a private dining room, bar, lounge and outdoor poolside cafe. It offers not only healthy, sustainable upscale dining but functions as the nucleus of the Midtown community.

The 250,000 sf Midtown Athletic Club & Hotel transformed what was the largest indoor tennis club in the country to the largest lifestyle center in the country. Towering above, the hotel provides active travelers an unparalleled fitness experience combined with boutique hospitality.

It was key to locate Chromium where diverse spaces would naturally converge, creating a central meeting point for guests. It was also important to appeal to the sophisticated public as a destination while recognizing the Club’s history and future through a contemporary architectural vocabulary.

Chromium is located at the heart of the club on the main fitness floor. It is visually and functionally an extension of both the spacious lounge we call the “landing pit” and a large outside pool deck. Ascending a grand staircase, guests arrive at the landing pit over which soars a 40-foot custom metal trellis that folds down on one side, defining an edge of the dining space. Bare-bulb pendant lights delicately thread through the trellis and sparkle over the staircase like stars. The architectural trellis visually bridges the large communal space where people eat, lounge, work, connect and enjoy live entertainment.

From the landing pit, Chromium welcomes guests through an entryway created by a partial green wall with a subtle sign that reads “Chromium” in vintage lettering. Custom leather seating mixes traditional dining with lounge seating and is paired with solid wood tables for chic comfort. Natural light floods the dining room through a wall of glass with a views of the outdoor pool and cafe. At one end is the full-service bar with the kitchen behind it. At the other end is an elegant private dining room with custom wood finishes and cabinetry.

 Human interaction was the measure to design both the interiors and exteriors of the project. From gradual height increases in section to clear intuitive wayfinding, every detail is considered part of the human experience. At Chromium doors open onto the poolside cafe allowing both guests and servers to effortlessly move back and forth. In addition, a dedicated pathway is created for easy movement in and out of the seating area. Staying true to the project concept and requirements of multiple typologies, relentless attention was paid to the overall unification from master planning to the smallest detail.

Of the many challenges, sustainability was one the design team addressed in imaginative ways. Nodding to the Club’s history, the trellis is designed with copper and wood materials salvaged from the historic tennis club prior to demolition and repurposed as infill jewel pieces. Nearly all of the wood boards used for concrete construction that normally end in a landfill were repurposed as finish material. The team also recognized a natural beauty in granite end blocks, normally discarded due to deep ruts from the extraction process, and created Midtown’s lobby desk and backdrop from the stone.

In 1968, the Tennis Corporation of America (TCA) was founded by the father-son duo, Kevie and Alan Schwartz who had a mutual passion for tennis and wanted to build the world’s largest indoor tennis club in Chicago. Kevie, the father, was a chemical engineer who, in 1923 while in graduate school, developed and patented a process for chromium electroplating. Two years later the patent was bought by General Motors in exchange Kevie was made president of a new GM company that would license his patent. The technology was extremely successful in commercial and military applications. In 1974 Kevie passed away but the next generation father-son partnership would form in 1987 when Steven joined his father Alan. The two have led the conversion of TCA facilities to upscale fitness clubs. Chromium was named for Kevie Schwartz whose entrepreneurship was only surpassed by his love of tennis.