With its grand opening months away, an upcoming South Side boutique hotel known as Sophy Hyde Park has released a new batch of renderings previewing the project’s unique, narrative-driven approach to design.
Located at the corner of 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue, the development hopes to deliver site-specific boutique lodging to an underserved market while simultaneously embracing the area’s diverse mix of architecture and its rich intellectual legacy. No easy task.
“We didn’t want to mimic historic Hyde Park buildings by copying a specific style like Prairie School or Collegiate Gothic,” Greg Randall, principal at Chicago-based GREC Architects, told Curbed Chicago. “But we also didn’t want to land a spaceship on the corner. We tried to find a blend.”
Sophy’s exterior treatment is subtle when it comes to contextualism. The masonry facade uses Norman brick, reminiscent of the elongated blocks used by Frank Lloyd Wright on the nearby Frederick C. Robie House. The design also embraces more contemporary elements such as metal beams and casement windows, mirroring the “industrial chic” aesthetic common in Chicago’s West Loop.
The Sophy project derives its name from sophia—the Greek word for wisdom and knowledge which forms the root of philosophy. The choice is not only a reference to the South Side neighborhood’s major institutions such as the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry, but also a nod to some of the area’s most influential minds.
This ethos is seen in Sophy’s interior design that embodies the lives and work of three notable South Side residents. Though aspects of the decorative storytelling may not necessarily be evident to casual observers, the result is well thought-out and anything but cookie-cutter in appearance.
Designed by New York-based hospitality specialists Stonehill Taylor, the hotel’s lobby and lounge draws its inspiration from famed singer and “Queen of Gospel” Mahalia Jackson. The ground-floor space features a soft color palette, a 15-foot-long double sided fireplace, and a 1,000-pound freeform chandelier.
The hotel’s corner bar reflects the story of Nobel Prize physicist and atomic pioneer Enrico Fermi. The room’s geometric motifs are a nod to mathematics, while its cocktail menu draws a loose parallel to chemistry.
A yet-to-be-named literary-focused restaurant finds its muse in distinguished 20th century novelist Saul Bellow. Decorated with oversized book covers, the space features built-in bookshelves between its booths and a private dining area partitioned by a movable wall.
The dining room will be joined by a less formal outdoor space to the west. “We think of this area as a sanctuary,” explained Randall. “It’s a callback to an older time when people would leave the bustle of Chicago and actually vacation in Hyde Park.”
The localized approach also extends to Sophy’s 98 guest rooms which are furnished with hardwood floors, abstract art by Chicago painter Joey Korom, and record players with music by neighborhood musicians.
All of this adds up to an experience that hopes to be both comfortable as well as intellectually challenging and stimulating for its guests. “We think Sophy will appeal to curious travelers seeking a culture and a richness that they may not find at a downtown hotel,” added Randall.
With demand for lodging only expected to grow as the Obama Presidential Center heads to Jackson Park, the area could see more projects like Sophy. The University of Chicago is already planning its own neighborhood-influenced boutique hotel at the corner of 60th Street and Dorchester Avenue.
Under construction since early 2017, Sophy Hyde Park is on track to open this summer. The seven-story building is a joint venture between the Olympia Companies and SMART Hotels.