The installation Vacancies explores the barriers between hotels’ public and private spaces. By placing a reception desk with its embedded registration book in conversation with a floor-to-ceiling composite image of a hotel’s demolition, we examine the psychology of the hotel through the permeability of its physical structures.
For guests, hotels are both chameleon and avatar, approximating the home without being the home. They are spaces where the drama of the city unfolds in dynamics of class, gender and race.
Our particular interest in hotels telescopes out from the Edgewater Beach Hotel (EBH), a former resort hotel in the Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater, where we have lived since 2013. For us, the EBH serves as a case study for the hotel writ large—an environment that oscillates between domestic and commercial, leisure and labor, exotic and familiar.
The EBH complex—which began construction in 1916 and was demolished 55 years later—had 1,000 rooms, a 1,200-foot private beach, a marble-
tiled beach walk, 24-hour bakery, and one of Chicago’s first commercial radio stations. As a grand hotel, the EBH functioned as a city within a city—requiring a complex web of back-of-house staff and structure to support the luxury it offered its guests.
The early 1950s extension of Lake Shore Drive (which we explored in Settlement) separated the EBH from its greatest asset—direct lakefront access. The hotel took a series of measures to try to stay in business—including building a pool, luring off-off-Broadway summer stock theater, hiring show girls—to no avail. In 1970-71, the EBH was slowly demolished, taking longer to tear down than to build, leaving the neighborhood in dust for nearly two years.
in the hotel you are more likely to dream and to remember your dreams…
A roughly 20’x20’ composite drawing depicts the scene of the Edgewater Beach Hotel mid-demolition. In the image, the building’s façade has been shorn off to expose the grid of rooms inside. The composite is assembled from loosely affixed Xeroxed paper sheets. The unstable object becomes an unstable image, representing architecture’s perishability.
Reception and Registration
Reception, a wooden sculpture—transports visitors into an encounter with one of the hotel’s key boundaries, where permission is granted to cross from public to private space. Inspired by both single-room-occupancy and contemporary luxury hotel lobby reception desks, the sculpture can be approached from the vantage points of guest or employee.
Reception’s embedded book, Registration, incorporates original writing and the language of hotels—from promotional materials and advertisements to rules and regulations for guests and proprietors—to imagine a day at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Readers are invited to assume the perspectives of guests, hotel workers, and the buildings themselves.
Vacancies is part of an ongoing series of projects in which we are exploring the generative capacity of one hotel—the Edgewater Beach—and what its lost presence can yield.