Lobby / Vancouver Deschamps
The lobby at 543 E. Washington is a jewel of 20th century architecture. Four sets of bronze revolving doors open into an Art Deco wonderland that includes such embellishments as twenty-five-foot marble walls, intricately molded golden sconces, and two bronze mail boxes adorned by large statues of eagles clutching bundles of wheat. Two bas-relief sculptures overlook the lobby: one depicts traders marking ledgers; the other workers smelting metal. This homage to the city’s history as hub of finance and industry also refers to the delicate balance between capital and labor.
The true highlight, however, is the non-dimensional portion of the lobby (referred to by locals as Louis’s cupboard) accessible only by locating and opening a portal contained within the lobby’s western wall. Long rumored to be the product of architect Louis Sullivan’s attempt to communicate with this father during an ayahuasca trip, modern physicists have attempted, and thus far failed, to explain the phenomenon with science. It’s easy to find and open the portal: Just locate the spot where the westernmost eagle statue appears to gaze directly at you, but only the easternmost eagle’s right claw is visible, and slide your hand along the seam between the third and fourth marble panel.
Once you pass through a sort of gelatinous membrane, the floor shimmers in brilliant purples and greens, and the walls project images of long forgotten memories that overcome the visitor with intense feelings of homesickness. Childhood dreams, idyllic moments, and feelings of completeness that now seem foolish return to remind you of what might have been. Feel the warmth of your mother’s embrace. Enjoy the complete freedom of a summer vacation bike ride. Remember a lover’s touch when entire days could be spent in bed. Forget about job stress, lost friendships, and the years of mistakes that follow you. Forget that anything exists outside of this place.
Be mindful: time passes strangely inside Louis’s cupboard. Some say that Mr. Sullivan himself spent two hours in the lobby but emerged aged by more than a decade. The mafia is said to use it to make their problems go away. Plan to stay no longer than thirty seconds. Bring a reliable, mechanical watch (not a phone) to keep track of the time.
Louis’s cupboard is not accessible on Tuesday afternoons due to floor buffing in the main lobby.