“My kind of Town, Chicago is”. Frank Sinatra knew all about it. He made the song – composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Kahn – world famous. With its traditional skyscrapers, the centre of the city beside Lake Michigan in the United States still has an ultra-American aura. During the Prohibition era, famous – or infamous – gangsters like Al Capone operated in Chicago. Yet time has not stood still in the ‘Windy City’, with culture keeping abreast with the times – as evidenced by Anish Kapoor’s shimmering silver Cloud Gate, erected in 2006 at the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park. Moreover, Chicago is the city that is home to the imposing Merchandise Mart: a veritable crucible of high-end interior design and the venue of the annual NeoCon interior trade fair. OBJEKT©International was there!

The Merchandise Mart building containing the showrooms of leading interior firms also hosts the annual NeoCon trade fair. It is an imposing landmark, seeming to rise up out of the river. The premises, commissioned by the Field family, were designed by Chicago-based architects Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, to be a ‘city within a city’. Construction began in 1928 and was completed in 1931.

Designer Alfred Shaw gave the building its characteristic Art Deco styling elements. Seventeen murals by Jules Guerin are eye-catchers in the lobby, which itself is defined by marble piers. Originally the central tower contained statues depicting 56 Indian chiefs – a work that was demolished during later renovations.

The vastness of the building requires visitors to maintain a sense of direction as they make their way across the various storeys. The number of interior products on display is legion. Only connoisseurs, architects and designers could possibly assess the merits of the vast array of goods. Most showrooms are permanent fixtures, but once a year several storeys are cleared for the NeoCon show, which attracts huge crowds of professionals.

OBJEKT©International was there, with a presentation created by Tom Marquardt and his team from marquardt+gridwork studio of Chicago in which trend-setting companies collaborated.
During the event a tentative agreement was reached between OBJEKT©International and the International Interior Design Association, IIDA, for global collaboration in the IIDA’s Design Excellence programme. This reportage gives an impression of the activities during NeoCon and the showrooms in the Merchandise Mart.