Chicago Event Venues-Union Station

Designing events in a city as architecturally significant and tremendously stylish as Chicago is always inspiring. Our blog series Taking Up Spaces invites you to venture inside stunning Chicago venues, each inviting in its own unique way.

When we consider our events as fleeting murals, painted and washed away all in the course of a day, then the spaces that we temporarily inhabit make for truly wonderful canvasses, although surely not blank ones.

Union Station Chicago, photo courtesy of metromagazine.com
Union Station Chicago, photo courtesy of metromagazine.com

This week we spoke to Erika Rodriguez, Senior Marketing and Events Manager at Chicago Union Station, to get an insider’s view of what of this truly fetching Beaux Arts style space has to offer.

Grandiose, gilded, and rich with detail and history, it’s no surprise that this ninety year old railway station is as sought after for special events and weddings as it is for train travel.

Elegant black and white fabric and ceiling decor for a candlelit ball.
Elegant black and white fabric and ceiling decor for a candlelit ball.

According to Erika, what is perhaps as impressive as the size of the venue –20,000 square feet to be exact– is the fact that it’s uninterrupted, truly versatile space.  Uninterrupted, but certainly not blank:

From the pink Tennessee marble floors and grand stairway…

3-Marble-floors-at-union-station-chicago-special-event
Innovative illumination welcomes guests to a corporate event and highlights the stunning marble floors.
The marble stairway makes any entrance feel like a grand one.
The marble stairway makes any entrance feel like a grand one.

…to the barrel-vaulted atrium ceiling,

It's impossible not to be captivated by the depth and detail of the space.
It’s impossible not to be captivated by the depth and detail of the space.

...the room, though rich with ornamentation, maintains a stately elegance. 

The vast Corinthian columns, majestic statues, extraordinarily detailed masonry and brass work, (including the imperial lamp posts, which Erika highly recommends guests give a closer look), each boasts a subtle, yet commanding presence.

The HMR team creates warm, inviting spaces even in the most vast, stately places. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
The HMR team creates warm, inviting spaces even in vast open spaces. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
Brass statues, representing day and night, adorn the tops of the columns. Photo courtesy of Steve Wilson.
Brass statues, representing day and night, adorn the tops of the columns. Photo courtesy of Steve Wilson.
Upon a closer look, details abound. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
Upon a closer look, details abound. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
Rich in detail, the lamp posts at Union Station Chicago.
Rich in detail, the lamp posts command a closer look. Photo courtesy of theeffstop.com

The striking span and height of the venue allow for truly impressive uses of fabric and large structures, as well as infinite layouts and floorplans.

Giant fabric panels accentuate the space for a gala.
Giant fabric panels accentuate the space for a gala.
A lounge grouping topped with a bursting delphinium focal invites guests to relax. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
A lounge grouping topped with a bursting delphinium focal invites guests to relax. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.

Floor to ceiling drape as well as carpet were added for this magnificent corporate celebration, creating a truly unforgettable atmosphere (a favorite of Erika’s):
Click the arrows below to see all of the photos.

  • 'A lounge like no other. Photo by Kent Drake Photography. '
  • 'Cocktails and carpeting. Photo by Kent Drake Photography. '
  • 'Custom signage and a gold and grey color palette perfectly complement the space. Photo by Kent Drake Photography. '
  • 'Custom signage and furniture paired beautifully with the existing details of the space. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.'

According to Erika, when it comes to the Great Hall, lighting is everything.

We couldn’t agree more. The right combinations of lighting components and rich washes allow the brilliant details of Union Station to effortlessly complement decor and intensify the atmosphere.

The great hall, bathed in rich crimson light by Frost Chicago. Photo by Fandl Photography.
The great hall, bathed in rich crimson light by Frost Chicago. Photo by Fandl Photography.
Stunning lighting by Frost Chicago. Photo by Fandl Photography.
Stunning lighting by Frost Chicago. Photo by Fandl Photography.
Truly captivating lighting from Frost Chicago for a corporate event. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
Truly captivating lighting from Frost Chicago for a corporate event. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.

Perhaps one of the most inviting features of the space, though, is how unassuming it is. Guests often comment on the fact that walking through the station on a normal day, you’d never fathom the transformation it undergoes at the hands of event professionals.

All 15 of the 90 year old wooden benches, for example, are removed for events and temporarily replaced by bars, tables, lounges and even aisles, only to be immediately replaced and ready for passengers the following morning.

Union Station by day...
Union Station by day…
holiday-decor-for-a-corporate-event-at-union-station
…and by night. A warm holiday celebration welcomes guests. Photo by Kent Drake.
Guests dine among illuminated plumes and rich light. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
Guests dine among illuminated plumes and rich light. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.

It’s clear why this element is so appealing: having a space all to yourself that’s normally open to the public almost feels like you’ve temporarily stopped time, and shouldn’t the best celebrations feel like that, too?

Choosing a venue–one of the earliest decisions made in event design, production and planning–is not one to be taken lightly. Luckily, Chicago is brimming with beautiful locales like Union Station that offer so much more than just a backdrop.

 

For more information about special events at Union Station, click here.

Special thanks to Erika for her contributions to this post.