Updating public spaces in one of New York’s busiest hotels is no small task, but is one that Bentel & Bentel Architects/Planners handled with finesse—in both delivery and design—to deliver a striking and sophisticated space. The Grand Hyatt New York, next door to the city’s historic Grand Central Terminal, needed a new design for its tri-level lobby incorporating registration and concierge areas, a 24-hour market, a three-meal restaurant, and a suite of meeting rooms. A two-year plan was carried out to transform the hotel into a functional and inviting urban public space, while allowing the hotel to keep its doors open during the renovation.
In order to maintain hotel operations, the architects largely worked with the existing materials in the lobby. “Our mantra became ‘transformation rather than replacement,’” says Paul Bentel, lead designer on the project. The design team spent time researching patination methods to produce a cooler, darker finish on the existing large bronze columns, and new finishes were chosen to either blend in with the dark metal finish or act as a counterpoint. “Blues, browns, and grays of the carpet and furniture reinforce the dark tones,” he explains. “The lighter tans, off-whites, and white metals—such as polished stainless steel—provide contrast and give focus to areas such as the registration desk.”
The designers rethought the hotel lobby as a great, urban space on par with the waiting room of Grand Central or the Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art. Their instinct was spot-on: The courtyard of the original Vanderbilt Hotel once stood on the site of the current lobby, affirming Bentel & Bentel’s goal of crafting a grand, connected public space. This was achieved in large part by prominently displayed works of art because, according to Bentel, “around the world, and certainly in New York, memorable urban spaces have powerful artwork.” On the main lobby level, two 10-foot-tall sculptures of female heads by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa cannot be missed, with one conspicuously balancing on a three-tiered water feature. A glass installation inspired by the ocean horizon was also commissioned of Norwegian artist Per Fronth for the hotel’s Wine Gallery.
The massive 20,000-square-foot lobby was opened up with soaring ceilings and unimpeded sightlines, and finished in a palette of dark wood and stone, softened by gray-striped carpet. Low-backed, black leather lounge seating provides ample touchdowns for visitors while preserving sightlines across the grand room. White quartz check-in and concierge desks are identified under brighter lighting. Uplighting, meanwhile, floods the ceiling and subtly changes color over the course of 24 hours to follow the phases of daylight.
Tucked into a space at the back of the lobby, a proscenium-like blackened steel frame outlines the open-front Market. Illuminated columns highlight fresh, white wall tile, polished concrete service counters, and glass display cases. End-grain wood floors warm the space and invite visitors in to nosh in the café or grab something to go.
The level above the main lobby has its own attraction: a glass-roofed box cantilevered over the 42nd Street sidewalk, housing the hotel’s new restaurant. To maximize the space within the long, 6,000-square-foot footprint, the architects utilized stepped levels that cascade down toward the lobby, mimicking the tiered water feature. Above, a ceiling sculpture of the firm’s design resembling a surging flock of birds introduces movement and decorative lighting while visually connecting the dining spaces to the restaurant bar and semi-private Wine Gallery. The latter features speckled gray marble, white quartz counters, and Per Fronth’s 30-foot-long glass art panel.
Centrally located for business travelers, the hotel is outfitted with a variety of meeting and event spaces, from the lobby and mezzanine levels’ rooms to dedicated conference and ballroom levels and 14th-floor executive boardrooms. As with the other public areas, meeting suites boast a major piece of commissioned art to transform the ordinary business meeting into something extraordinary. “We were fortunate that Hyatt was on board with this mission to transform the hotel space with art and was willing to commit to the expense,” Bentel says.
Architect and interior designer
: Bentel & Bentel Architects/Planners.
: Structure Tone.
: Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting.
: Koutsoubis, Alonso Associates, PE PC.
: AMA Consulting Engineers.
: Clevenger Frable LaVal- lee.
: AV/Com Integrators.
: Benjamin Moore; Wolf- Gordon.
ters of America.
: Academic Stone Setters; AP Designs; Jantile; Protect-All.
: Armstrong; Hunter Douglas; Lamcel.
: Cooper Lighting; Emerge; Focal Point; Halo; Lightwild; Lumascape; Lumiere; Lukas Lighting; LSI; Philips; Tokistar.
: Goldray Industries; Melto Metal.
: Architectural Woodwork Industries; JC; Lily Jack.
: Moore and Giles; Spinneybeck; Ultrafabrics.
: Architectural Woodwork Industries; Lily Jack; Workspace 11.
: Glenn Rieder; Tobin Woodworking.
: Berghard Muller-Dannhausen; Jaume Plensa; Michel Tabori, Dillon Gallery; Per Fronth.