The Old Chicago Post Office has been an iconic building for 100 years. Originally expanded in 1932 to meet the Windy City’s postal needs, the behemoth riverside building was known for distributing an outstanding 19 million pieces of mail per day—but has sat vacant since closing in 1996. Today, the 2.5 million-square-foot superstructure still keeps its history in mind, but now has a completely different purpose as multiuse office and event space for both tenants and the public thanks to an $800 million project. Interior design firm Gensler was behind the aesthetic of the final product. Here, we take a peek inside with one of the firm’s designers, Jeff Lawrence. post433.com
Named after the numerous bank vaults found throughout the building, The Vault is perfect for smaller events hosted by tenants.
The Old Post Office consists of three interconnected buildings and boasts details such as 18-foot ceilings and bank vaults. The original East building was constructed in 1921, while the North and South edifices weren’t completed until 1934. “The building is not a typical scale,” says Lawrence. “Approaching the style of this space was an interesting challenge that required taking a variety of variables into account, like ceiling heights and amount of shelving.”
The goal was to make the space evoke a luxurious atmosphere with twists of contemporary elements. “Elegance with a twist of technology,” Lawrence describes, “because you do have modern-age technology that had to take place.” With this said, he opted for a 1920s to ’30s feel, adding in textures like Indian and wool rugs and a variety of found goods.
The lobby, which is the epicenter of The Old Post Office
“The entire lobby space of the building had gold mosaic tiles, Tennessee marble flooring, original pendants and medallions that relate to transportation. … We took these and restored them completely to bring this elegance back to the main lobby,” says Lawrence on the epicenter of the structure.
Bocce ball courts add playfulness to the space.
The Telegram Lounge, one of Lawrence’s favorite rooms, is located on the second floor and attracts visitors with a full-size bocce court, pool tables and a 35-person bar. A new fireplace with art deco flair provides an intimate space to relax, while old law books and brass-plated telescopes bring you into the past. Eight 40-inch-by-40-inch columns add grandeur to the space, which the designer chose to plate in brass. “The Telegram Lounge is a little more members-only club sort of thing,” Lawrence notes.
The concierge area is the first room guests see when walking in
The concierge area has original 30-foot shelving that Lawrence decorated himself. Now, the shelves brim with various antiques like typewriters from the 1920s, photos and timeless finishes. Fun fact: Lawrence had to use a hydraulic lift to place them all. This is another favorite room of the designer’s, and the first thing you see upon entering the building.
Shelving in the Telegram Lounge includes vintage sporting equipment, children’s toys and books
Bunsen burners (along with other relics) that were found on the 12th floor of the building can now be spotted in various spaces throughout. Lawrence used them for various purposes, like as bookends. Other antiquities—original and repurposed—can be found throughout the multiuse building, including painted mail chutes, conveyer belts and old books.
Photography by: ERIC LAIGNEL