The following is written by Jim Johnson, AIA, Founding Partner of JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE.
Late last century, we began a creative journey to transcend ordinary hospitality design in Downtown Denver. Well before widespread recognition of the “Experience Economy,” we introduced “Denver’s Hippest Hotel,” The Hotel Monaco at 1717 Champa in 1999, with the Kimpton Group. On the national scene, hoteliers were beginning to surpass the limits of franchised hotel design by creating independent offerings beyond the prototype of yesteryear.
So, we set out to surpass, surprise, and supersede the standard, working with visionary clients like Sage Hospitality. Every hotel has an opportunity to reflect its context, community and culture in a way that most urban places cannot. “There is no second chance to make a good first impression” could not be more prophetic than for hotels. Upon arrival, the guest has an opportunity to feel the sense of an urban oasis. From sidewalk to slumber, hospitality design rewards the eye, mind and soul, allowing you to transcend everyday life, at least for a moment.
Denver Hotel Monaco
The Denver Hotel Monaco design celebrates the value of adapting unique historic buildings with new purpose by preserving old and adding new charm with selective vigor. Most inspiring is the revelation of The Monaco’s grand lobby design, just beyond the subtle clue of the entry canopy.
The separate identity of the 5-star Panzano restaurant has demonstrated for 20 years that hotel restaurants need not be isolated, mediocre nor ignored when associated with their host hotels.
The Oxford Hotel
There is a nuanced but distinct difference between the historical adaptive reuse and the historically restored. The Oxford Hotel is pure history without deviation. When asked to recreate its original entry canopy (lost to WWII scrap metal), the directive was clear from Walter Isenberg: maintain history. From pre-war photographs and derelict lighted letters discovered in a basement, we designed the re-creation. Guestroom enhancements and selective refinement of the grand dame have been careful and light-handed during our watch.
Springhill Suites Downtown Denver
Created from scratch, Springhill Suites Downtown Denver is intentionally deviant from its prescriptive prototype without losing its Marriott fraternal network. As both hospitality architects and interior designers, we crafted this teaching hotel on the Auraria campus to have a literal and figurative link to the Central Business District and help inspire future hoteliers with the magic of playful design. Internal connections to Metro State University hospitality classrooms and teaching labs help complement real-world hotel management experience and maximize educational value.
The Crawford Hotel
The Crawford Hotel is already five years old and is well established as “Denver’s Living Room,” exactly as Dana Crawford envisioned. As one client said before opening, “Prepare to be blown away.” To this day, visitors are thrilled when they arrive. The hotel often leads the downtown market in Revenue per Occupied Room (REVPAR) and Occupancy. The mixed-use, historic revitalization reaches for the bygone days of relaxed but purposeful social space with benefits.
The Maven Hotel
The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block is one of our finest hours in contextual architecture. The design compliments the warehouse and industrial history of the LoDo neighborhood with distinguished expression. Flow and interaction with the adjacent animated alley, meeting spaces, retail kiosks, office lobby and Milk Market provide unexpected experiences for guests, neighbors and nearby baseball fans.
The Ramble Hotel
The Ramble Hotel offers unique hospitality at the most requested Uber stop in Denver, 25th and Larimer Streets. Deceptively historic, the new building is inspired by 17th century French salons that fostered community and exchange of ideas. As the eye wanders to the intricate masonry and steel detailing, one is reminded of old-world charm influenced by local Denver factory buildings.
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel
At the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, we are transforming the public realm that embraces the largest hotel in downtown Denver. Renowned architect I.M. Pei originally designed this “Courthouse Square” super block with his love of humanity and of simple geometry. In the 1980s, after the loss of Zeckendorf Plaza, Pei’s retail hyperbolic paraboloid and Denver’s treasured sunken ice rink (ala Rockefeller Plaza), the newer hotel stripped the urban soul from this important block on Pei’s 16th Street Mall.
We see our Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel transformation as a new community hub for Upper Downtown. We are transforming the hotel experience once again. We think the results will blow you away.