David Rockwell’s empire of the senses

Mysterious, fascinating, esoteric: the Tao restaurant in Chicago accompanies guests into a dimension enhanced by paintings and sculptures. Opened in 2018, in a building dating back to the late 1800s

Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, ©Warren Jagger

Sacred and profane: this is the Tao in Chicago, designed by David Rockwell, an emotional restaurant and a voyage through spaces full of symbolism.
The venue opened in September 2018 is in a building dating back to 1892, in one of the most interesting districts of the center of Chicago.

Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, ©Warren Jagger

Originally designed by Henry Ives Cobb, the granite building in Romanesque style was the home of the Chicago Historical Society. David Rockwell has decided to keep the characteristics of the structure intact (with an area of over 3000 square meters): very high brick walls, arch windows, carved wooden doors, geometric lines. All tempered by the influence of Chinese philosophy, which also supplies the name: Tao, meaning path. Not just literally, of course.

Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, ©Warren Jagger

Guests, in fact, follow a path once they’ve entered the restaurant, reaching the large dining room featuring a breathtaking staircase of over 12 meters, offering visitors a fine view of the entire complex.

Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, ©Warren Jagger

The ground floor space, like the bar and nightclubs on the upper levels, is enhanced by paintings and sculptures, like the gigantic statue of Quan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion “who hears the cries of the people”.
There are also private zones: for Tao Chicago David Rockwell has created two semi-privé dining rooms for up to 10 guests each.

Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, ©Warren Jagger

Lanterns mark an external path that leads to two connected discos. These two clubs also take their cue from the Orient, especially from Japan.
A true metal cage adorned by black mirrors, bronze dragonflies and Asian filigree contains the DJ desk and the more intimate tables. The VIP zone is in the turrets and the balcony, with walls covered in fabric and benches on multiple levels.

Tao Restaurant Chicao, bar
Tao Restaurant Chicago, bar
Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, ©Warren Jagger

The Tao is part of the Tour program of NeoCon, which allows participants to visit some of the most interesting structures in the city.
This is the 15th collaboration between the architecture firm and Tao Group: other outstanding projects include the Vandal in New York and the nightlife spaces of Dream Hollywood.

Tao Restaurant Chicao, ©Warren Jagger
Tao Restaurant Chicago, bar