New York's dramatic W Union Square, designed by Rockwell Group, makes itself a part of the neighborhood green.
Abby Bussel -- Interior Design, 3/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
THE LATEST CONTRIBUTION to Union Square's longtime transformation from shabby to scene is the W Union Square, located on the northeast corner of the square in a 1911 Second Empire confection formerly known as the Guardian Life Building. Designed by the Rockwell Group in collaboration with architect of record Brennan Beer Gorman/Architects, the W is conceived as an extension of Union Square Park.
"Our concept involved having the lobby be a living room onto the park," explains Alice Yiu, director of interiors at Rockwell. The design team was inspired, adds Yiu, by the neighborhood's turn-of-the-century role as a center of art and social activities, when "it was the Fifth Avenue of New York City." The living room, with its scenic views of the park, also adheres to W Design Group's playbook, which calls for a casual elegance and specific elements like candles, books, and board games in all W lobbies.
The colorful produce displayed several days a week at Union Square's famed Green Market as well as seasonal changes in the park's landscape influenced the design palette. A small lawn of green grass sits atop the reception desk, and boxes of the same well-groomed grass line the grand limestone staircase that connects the lobby reception with a restored ballroom, prefunction rooms, and well-wired meeting rooms above. Giant wall panels made of richly grained makore pomele anchor the lobby and living room like a stand of trees. Mother nature gets another nod with mother-of-pearl buttons that decorate the wall panels and mother-of-pearl tiles that give an edge to the reception desk. The living room walls are festooned with real ivy. And spotlights in the living room throw a yellow flower-petal design on the ceiling.
The furniture, fixtures, and finishes in the hotel's 270 guest rooms, like those found in the public spaces downstairs, employ a natural palette (aubergine, taupes, and browns) and classic modern lines. Other amenities at the W Union Square, which is owned by Related Lodging Group and managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., are Olives restaurant, a Todd English creation, and Underbar, a basement-level lounge run by Rande Gerber's Midnight Oil Company.