The dual branding of this downtown Philadelphia project allows two unique styles and experiences to be developed and offered to guests through design. W Philadelphia is a luxury bespoke brand that disrupts the status quo, while Elements, a long-stay brand, raises guests’ awareness of sustainability. Marriott commissioned award-winning architecture, design and strategy firm NELSON Worldwide to lead the architectural design of the new dual-brand W/Element hotel to meet the needs of today’s travelers.
Early on in the project, interior design firm designstudio ltd established a ‘loopless’ design narrative for W Philadelphia. The concept focuses on gathering the rich history of the city, including the birthplace of democracy, the first planned grid city, and the horticultural origins of North America with its abundance of public gardens and parks. Throughout the hotel, this narrative is incorporated into the architecture and interior design.
Now the tallest hotel building in Philadelphia, W/Element has had a stunning impact on the existing city skyline. Cascading vertical LED lights and stepped private terraces atop the glass tower pay homage to the local Wissahickon Valley Falls and Schuylkill River cliffs. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows fold in and out of the façade, mimicking the rocky outcroppings of Wessahiken, while offering sweeping views of downtown Philadelphia from every guest room and suite.
At the base of the tower is a seven-story stone and prefab podium that houses public spaces and showcases the masonry and historical context of the adjacent limestone structure. The street is lined with a number of uniquely designed entrances, giving each brand a separate identity, as well as restaurant, retail and staff entrances. The façade is composed of textures and patterns of stone, metal and glass, paying homage to the diversity of the city. They represent the layers of history and culture woven into the fabric of Philadelphia’s society. In homage to the planned city of Pennsylvania, a patterned mezzanine grid is set in the glass canopy and vestibule at the W entrance. A vertical decorative metal screen divides the masonry base as a nod to its main entrance, while drawing your eye to the tower above. To reinforce the historic face of Philadelphia, a metal grid extends over the entrance and guides guests towards the lobby. Once inside, guests are reminded of the patterned grid throughout the interior, including wall and ceiling features used as decorative screens.
Inside the W, there are many prominent elements that enhance the materiality and color of the story by drawing inspiration from Philadelphia’s parks, gardens, music and nightlife. Inspired by sunken gardens and tree-lined city parks, the living room features benches that act as hedge walls, serpentine sofas and an assortment of brightly colored pillows that complement the outdoor aesthetic. In keeping with the brand, the design team incorporated rich bronze tones throughout the space.
In connection with nature, an outdoor deck on the seventh floor includes a heated outdoor swimming pool with intricate tile work inspired by French parterre patterns that influence Philadelphia’s formal gardens. This part of the hotel is covered with mosaic tiles imported from Italy, giving the hotel an enlarged, luxurious feel. Floral prints are scattered across the outdoor WET deck, connecting guests to the WET bar inside. In addition to the bar, guests can enjoy a drink in one of several outdoor cabanas near the pool, gather around the fire pit, or relax in front of the outdoor fireplace. The social event included a night out in a secret garden defined by a trimmed hedge, featuring busts of Maria Antionette and Ben Franklin, who were at Versailles during their tenure as US ambassadors Spend time as a turning point in a formal landscaped garden. This level also includes an AWAY Spa and two fitness centers, one with an outdoor deck for yoga and stretching.
In addition to the W brand’s engaging design experience, Element 460 Rooms is an extended stay hotel designed for active travelers looking for clean, bright, airy rooms with a focus on sustainability, in-room kitchens and spas -Inspiration bathroom. Guestrooms feature Westin Heavenly Beds that meet guests’ expectations for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Pets can also use their own beds, treats, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and more. The second floor of the podium includes the fitness center, public lobby, business center, and dining area for healthy breakfasts and dinners. A bike loan program is also available.
As W/Element Hotels is seeking USGBC LEED certification, balancing sustainability and luxury is a top consideration for both hotel brands. The building includes a number of sustainable design features, most notably the use of infrared sensors in each guest room to reduce energy consumption when rooms are vacant. Other factors include LED lighting throughout, low flow faucets, toilets and showers, and green housekeeping policies. Over 12% of building materials contain recycled content, over 20% are sourced locally, and all interior building materials are low in VOCs.
Main image credit: Marriott International