Science Meets Art At Luxury Hotel

Metal wall panels provide a modern look in a compact space.

Metal wall panels from Dri-Design add to the modern look on the exterior of a science-themed hotel in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood.

As the name implies, Hotel EMC2—as in Albert Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence or E = mc²—is a science-themed hotel. Located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, it was designed to be a one-of-a-kind space inspired by science, art, and cuisine. The exterior of the 21-story facility has a sleek aesthetic, using metal wall panels from Dri-Design, Holland, MI (, to achieve its modern look.

“We were asked to develop a tower facade that fit a hotel-room module, introduce a diagonal geometry to the façade, and use a subtle but identifiable color range to make a pattern,” explained Kevin Parzych, architectural designer for KOO and Associates, Chicago ( The architects considered brick veneer, but the metal wall panels were a lighter, more dynamic option. The Dri-Design product also offers rainscreen capabilities, meets NFPA 285, and has a wide variety of color and finish options with customization available.

The hotel sits on a narrow 60 x 110-ft. site, so the architectural team had to work with some constraints. They designed a geometric pattern with the metal panels to overcome the space limitations and still meet the design theme. Specifically, the metal panels form a tesseract, a four-dimensional analog of a cube.

Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, IL (, installed 17,985 sq. ft. of 0.080-in.-thick post-painted aluminum wall panels in Anchor Gray, Black Ink, and Gravel Gray. The panels were installed over insulation with thermally insulated subgirts and Z furrings.

“The building is on a zero lot line, so all the wall panels had to be staged within the building every third floor,” said Jim Tuschall, president of the company. “The general contractor left out windows so we could feed the panels out to the crew on a swing stage.”

Tuschall recommended using Dri-Design products to Koo and Associates early in the design phase because the panel system fit the design requirements. The engineering firm has been partnering with Dri-Design for years, installing its metal wall panels on everything from a small retail space to a 50-story residential tower.

Hotel EMC2 features 0.080-in.-thick post-painted aluminum wall panels in Anchor Gray, Black Ink, and Gravel Gray. The metal panels form a tesseract, a four-dimensional analog of a cube.

“Dri-Design provides ease of installation, quality of panel design, and simplicity of the overall system. There are no sealants or gaskets to maintain,” Tuschall noted.

The panels can be installed over commercial-grade Tyvek onto plywood, or they can be used as an outboard insulation pressure-equalized rainscreen. The 100% recyclable panels can be manufactured from a variety of materials, including zinc, copper, stainless steel, and painted and anodized aluminum. Panels are available in any fluoropolymer paint color and are sized and detailed to meet the specific requirements of each project.

The 195-room Hotel EMC2 is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. “Hotel EMC2 is the perfect addition to Autograph Collection Hotels with its complex, yet enriching concept and complementary design elements,” said Brian Povinelli, senior vice president and global brand leader of the Autograph Collection Hotels. “Our hotels and resorts are known for providing standout guest experiences that are exactly like nothing else, and we believe that Hotel EMC2 will exceed this promise.”

Brad Zeeff, president of Dri-Design, added, “This hotel sits in a medical and technological center of Chicago, so the science theme fits the neighborhood well without being cliché. Metal wall panels make a stunning and playful cladding that invite people inside to explore the influential art and science displays.”

View information on Dri-Design panels.

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