This was the first new hotel constructed by Oxford Properties which updated a number of existing hotels in downtown Chicago. We proposed a research effort that began with surveys of their existing data base of guests. This effort focused on what was successful, but also identified unmet needs by asking the question: what was missing that the guest found at other hotels around the country. We also completed stealthy user surveys of the most popular new hotels by chatting up the bartenders in these hotels. For the cost of a drink, we found out what the guests likes were about the hotel.
The data was synthesized into a guest profile. The intent to identify a small sample of the traveling population who would just “die” to stay at The Godfrey. The key was understanding the importance of human variability in this equation. Our market segment expressed significant differences in their “likes” of room size and how it was outfitted. Every room had to be exceptional, but for very different reasons. It also was clear, that The Godfrey had to offer all the amenities of a much larger hotel, but delivered in a more intimate way that could be customized for each guest.
How could the architecture deliver all these variations, when the economics of building forces the design to be reduced to stacking one identical box on top of another?
The answer was the staggered truss structural system invented by William LeMessurier in 1966. In this system, story high steel trusses span across the full width of the building and are staggered from floor to the next. Precast planks span from the top chord of one truss to the bottom chord of another truss on the floor above.
The depth of the trusses had significant residual strength to support a cantilever. The result, a hotel where the depth from the corridor to the exterior wall varies dramatically creating 26 different room types for the 216 rooms. In addition, the long span trusses produced large areas of column free space on the fourth level for the public rooms.
Visually, the hotel defies gravity. It is purposely ambiguous as it weaves its way into the sky. The trusses are expressed to reassure the guests that there is something there holding the building up. But most important The Godfrey is an expression of human variability – within weeks of opening, returning guests were already requesting specific rooms – each guest has a unique experience at The Godfrey; it is to die for.