The Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House, built by the renowned architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), is a shining example of architectural brilliance. This case study dives into architectural marvels, breaking them down into design, materials/construction, and sustainability. We can obtain vital insights into the thought process behind this structure’s creation by investigating its planning, design solutions, philosophy, unique construction processes, and sustainable characteristics.

Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House by SOM - Sheet1
Functional Facade_© Hedrich Blessing

Historical and Cultural Significance: 

The Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House is an important historical artifact from a bygone era. It bears witness to the political and social developments that define the region and represents the community’s cultural legacy.

The Hostess House, built during political stability and prosperity, symbolized royal power and pride. It held gatherings and activities for notable people, promoting social cohesiveness and cultural exchange. The structure encapsulates the ruling class’s ideals and achievements, making it an important historical artifact.

The Hostess House is now a living museum, offering tourists an insight into the past. Its historical relevance instills pride and connectedness in the local community, establishing collective memory and reinforcing cultural identity.

Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House by SOM - Sheet2
Reception Area_© Hedrich Blessing

Design Philosophies and Planning Approach: 

The Hostess House has a specific architectural style appropriate for the era in which it was built. The structure exemplifies the grandeur and opulence of royal architecture, blending traditional and classical elements. Its design pays tribute to the architectural traditions of the time, resulting in a flawless integration with its historical surroundings.

The Great Lakes Naval Training Center’s Hostess House exemplifies SOM’s commitment to building functional and visually appealing rooms. The primary goal in designing this facility was to provide a comfortable and inviting environment for military personnel and their families. This was accomplished by introducing intelligent design ideas that improved the overall experience.

The Hostess House’s architecture has a modernist look, with clean lines, minimal adornment, and a harmonious balance of materials. The layout and spatial structure of the building were deliberately developed to maximize usefulness, circulation, and accessibility. Natural light entered the interior through large windows and open floor plans, generating a sense of openness and connection with the surrounding landscape.

Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House by SOM - Sheet3
Where Recruits Meet Visitors at Great Lake NTC_© Hedrich Blessing

The Hostess House adheres to biophilic design principles, which combine natural aspects into the constructed environment. Living green walls, indoor gardens, and natural materials improve the well-being, productivity, and connection to nature of the tenants.

The Hostess House’s design philosophy focused on boosting social interaction and establishing community. A central atrium, public lounges, and outdoor seating areas are among the meeting places provided by the structure. These areas promoted sociability, allowing sailors and their families to form ties and support networks.

The structure’s design is inextricably linked to the social and political fabric of the time, symbolizing the royal patrons’ ideas and aspirations. It represents the ruling class’s power, riches, and cultural significance, showing their desire to leave a lasting legacy.

Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House by SOM - Sheet4
Spacious Sitting Area_© Hedrich Blessing

Building Materials: 

The Great Lakes Naval Training Center Hostess House used novel building techniques and materials to meet its architectural goals. SOM used structural steel and concrete to ensure structural integrity while optimizing design flexibility. The curtain wall system of the structure, made up of big glass panels, contributed to the visual transparency and connectivity with the outside.

The Hostess House, in particular, demonstrated a unique method of prefabrication. Components such as walls, floors, and ceilings were manufactured off-site and assembled on-site to shorten construction and increase productivity. This strategy shortened construction, eliminated waste, and provided continuous quality control.

In addition, SOM used sustainable materials in the Hostess House’s construction. Materials recycled or purchased locally were emphasized, lowering the project’s carbon footprint. Energy-efficient technologies, such as HVAC and lighting, improved the building’s sustainability performance even further.

Sustainability Measures:

SOM’s dedication to sustainability is exemplified through the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House. To reduce its environmental impact, the design incorporates various ecologically sensitive aspects. The structure was designed to maximize natural airflow while minimizing dependency on mechanical cooling systems. Energy-efficient glazing and shading systems aided in the control of solar heat gain and the optimization of daylighting.

Rainwater collecting devices were integrated into the design to reduce water use, and low-flow fixtures were fitted to enhance water efficiency. Furthermore, the Hostess House used renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to create clean energy on-site, lowering its reliance on the grid even further.

The landscaping around the building was designed to be sustainable, with native plant species that require little watering and upkeep. In addition, permeable paving and rain gardens were included in the site design to manage stormwater runoff and reduce the heat island effect.

Visually Striking Architecture_© Hedrich Blessing


SOM’s Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Hostess House, exemplifies the firm’s dedication to architectural excellence, innovative construction techniques, and sustainable practices. SOM successfully developed a functional and visually striking facility that fosters community and decreases environmental impact through careful planning, intelligent design solutions, and sustainable features. This case study exemplifies the holistic approach required to achieve architectural brilliance in the modern day.


  1. SOM (2023) Great Lakes Naval Training Center, SOM. Available at: (Accessed: 15 July 2023). 
  2. Arch2O (2021) Great Lakes Naval Training Center – Hostess House: SOM, Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2023). 
  3. Docomomo (2006) Two S.O.M. buildings in the balance: The Hostess House and the gunner’s mates School at Great Lakes Naval Station, Docomomo. Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2023). 

Nitisha is a curious architecture student and a constantly learning artist. With keen interest in aesthetics, she finds immense happiness in exploring different perspectives of architectural expression.