September 1, 2011

Curtain’s Up: Yotel Comes to NYC’s Theater District

Known for pod hotels at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Yotel just landed in its first city location-offering affordability with five-star polish. “We had to make efficiency look like luxury, not cheapness,” Interior Design Hall of Fame member David Rockwell says. He saw Yotel New York, an airport-inspired project in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district, as an opportunity to combine experience that the Rockwell Group gained working on the JetBlue Airways terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the sets for Broadway musicals, most recently Catch Me If You Can. Softroom Architects, which is also working to expand the three airport Yotels, came aboard as a collaborator.

Yotel New York greets the street with an appropriately theatrical façade, clad in a geometric relief of white precast concrete modules. Guests then pass through a futuristic reception area, where LCD screens and an LED banner recall airline check-in, before taking the elevator to the sky lobby on the fourth floor, also home to a restaurant, four bars, an exercise room, and a boardroom. “We designed the fourth floor to be lively and fun,” Rockwell says. “There aren’t a lot of walls.” Just out the double doors is an amazing 6,800-square-foot terrace, said to be the largest in New York.

Of the 669 guest rooms and suites, it was the small ones—170 square feet—that presented the biggest challenge. Rockwell and Softroom director Oliver Salway viewed it as an industrial-design project: fitting the pieces together to make the space work. At just the touch of a button, for instance, the queen-size bed transforms into lounge seating. That inspired idea might just take this team from airline-inspired hotels to actual airliners.


Ismael Leyva Architects: Architect of Record. Focus Lighting: Lighting Consultant. Sound Investment: Audiovisual Consultant. HM White SA: Landscaping Consultant. Rosenwasser/Grossman Consulting Engineers: Structural Engineer. Cerami & Associates: Acoustical Engineer. Jaros, Baum & Bolles: MEP. Tishman Construction: General Contractor.  

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