The University Club occupies a 12 story collegiate Gothic building designed for them in 1910 by the Chicago architectural firm of Holabird and Roche. Throughout the proceeding years various remodelings had modified the character of the second floor anterooms to the Michigan Room, which serves as the Club’s primary assembly room. The turned spindles, walnut plywood paneling and the 60’s style bar added during one remodeling had rendered the Center Bar Room out of character with the Tudor image of the remainder of the Club.
The club’s purpose in renovating their second floor facilities was to relocate the bar function from the Center Room to the West Room thus allowing the Center Room to be developed into a pre-function assembly area for the Michigan Room which adjoins it to the east and at the same time to improve attendance in the new bar and lounge by creating a convivial interior in the West Room.
To re-establish the traditional detailing system and character extant throughout the club, the Center Room was demolished and redesigned. Opening this room directly onto the Main Stair Hall, the designers reinterpreted (in painted wood cladding for budgetary reasons) the form and detailing of the limestone clad columns and pilasters evident in the grid, which is repeated in the design of the carpeting below. These devices establish scale and interest in a room with intentionally minimal furnishings that is used primarily for large gatherings.
Linking both rooms, the Rear Stair Hall became the President’s Gallery and was also stripped and redecorated- it’s limestone coloration serving as a buffer between the two more saturated palettes.
To revitalize the West Room (the former ladies dining room), rich color was again employed throughout the finishes and furnishings. The existing limestone fireplace strongly influenced the design of the new English Oak wine bar. The plaster ceiling was repaired and painted a limestone color and the concrete and wood window trim was faux limestoned to relate to other fenestration in the Club. This transformation has turned an uninviting, under utilized reading room into a room much in demand for breakfasts and teas as well as evening cocktails and has increased club revenues considerably.
Furnishings, lighting and materials were selected both to reinforce the traditional ambience desired by the club and to fit within the budget constraints and performance standards.