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Urban glow

By Vilma Barr
August 08, 2012

Photo Courtesy of Rien van Rijthoven
The W Hotel in San Francisco has been a landmark on the city’s skyline since it first opened in 1999. But, more than a decade later, the interior had begun to look dated.

So, when Keck Seng Investments purchased the hotel in 2009 for $90 million, it was well aware that the property was threatened with a loss of market share, as sleeker, more contemporary lodgings came onto the scene. A year later, Keck Seng retained the local firm Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects Inc. to create a lighting program, and redesign the interior public spaces, restaurant and bars on the first and second levels (totaling 10,400 sq. ft.). “The new owners wanted these interiors to be a visual narrative of the San Francisco environment,” says architect Stanley Saitowitz. “Our concept was to bring the outside to the inside.” He described his vision “as a fantasy city…built on a grid of hills and shrouded in glowing fog.” An illuminated interior environment that interprets San Francisco’s singular urban magnetism was key to the planned effect.

Saitowitz based his layout on San Francisco’s street grid plan and the cube and rectangular outlines of downtown commercial buildings as the primary unifying structural and visual furnishings theme. “The other theme is fog, rolling in and out of the city, enveloping it,” he explains.

James Curry of Oakland, Calif.-based Rudolph Commercial Interiors Inc. coordinated with the hotel’s management to carry out an integrated and energy-efficient lighting program, as developed by Natoma Architects.

Wood panels with linear vertical and 
horizontal slats covering the interior walls are backlit by LEDs. “We used 120-volt standard dimmable LED rope lighting, fed from a standard electrical outlet,” Curry says. “Each outlet controls up to 160 ft. of light. In our experience, having the lights plugged into an outlet is best for maintenance and for the carpenters while installing the panels.”

Existing 45-watt recessed incandescent downlights were already in place on both levels to emphasize the gauzy, fabric-covered, faux-fog ceiling. For additional overhead sparkle, Halo’s Gu10base, 110-volt, 4- to 7-watt dimmable MR16
halogen replacement fixture was selected. Uplights throughout the redesigned areas are Lithonia’s dimmable T-5, 28-watt fluorescent lamps.

The angular new exterior canopy with its “W” logo is identified with 3- to 7-watt LED strip lighting. Saitowitz also introduced LED technology to the new bar’s top surface, imagining it as if viewing the city’s grid of twinkling street lights from above.

Curry reports that the new design was calculated at 1.47 watts per sq. ft., below California’s Title 24 Code allowance of 1.57. The resulting refresh earned W San Francisco a LEED Silver certification.