Local firm Johnson Nathan Strohe’s thoughtful concepts are shaping the Mile High City’s newest wave of hotels as public spaces.
It would take this entire page to list the notable happenings at New York’s Plaza Hotel, from venerated performances by such icons as Miles Davis and Ethel Merman, to film and book appearances (Sleepless in Seattle, The Great Gatsby), to notable events hosted there (Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball; the 1985 Plaza Accord; and even President Donald Trump’s 1993 wedding). The list’s length alone reveals just how significant a role a hotel can play as a public place. “There’s no lock on the front door of a hotel. They’re open 24/7, 365 days a year,” says James G. Johnson, founding partner at Denver’s Johnson Nathan Strohe (JNS) architecture firm. “They are, in effect, our public buildings.”
That significance as social meeting places is one reason Johnson has been intrigued by hotels over the course of his 41-year architecture career. In fact, he’s designed more than 75 of them around the country—while also running a Denver firm that’s created, or helped re-create, some of Colorado’s most iconic modern buildings. The Crawford Hotel? Yep. Aspen’s St. Regis? Uh-huh. Hotel Monaco, the first Denver hotel to establish a separate identity and entrance for its restaurant (Panzano)? That, too. And JNS is just getting started. As a spate of new hotels, many of them boutique, crop up in the city over the next few years, you’ll find JNS’ fingerprints all over them: The firm, which recently completed the Halcyon in Cherry Creek North (in partnership with architecture firm GKKworks and design firm Avroko), currently has more than a dozen hospitality projects in the works, including the 50-room Ramble in Curtis Park and 233-room Hilton Garden Inn in RiNo; the Moxy in Cherry Creek North; and LoDo’s Maven at Dairy Block, a redevelopment of the historic Windsor Dairy building at the corner of 19th and Wazee streets.
Photographs by David Lauer and Jeff Nelson