The magical relationship between art and architecture lives at an intersection of discipline, craft and the individual. As we begin to imagine interactive spaces, experiences and brands, the dynamic dialogue between the two is what makes our environments unlike any others.
Conceptualization begins with plotting and planning how art can help us craft our narrative, make connections, and, most importantly, elevate our aesthetics beyond good design to deliver experiences that inspire. Moving beyond ideation means engaging with the artist and the artist community. Artists bring an energy that is both tangible and intangible. Through their spirit and connectivity to what feels like another realm, they bring forth what the space calls for when they are given the freedom and inspiration to do so.
In the same way that it is nearly impossible to verbalize how the creative process unfolds in our designer minds, the artist’s mind works in another dimension. This means it is my job, or our job as designers, to clearly explain the concept and the possibilities that support the brand story. And, then, step back and allow each artist to bring their full-on creativity to the conceptualization. Everyone is richer for it. It is this thoughtful incorporation and emphasis on the artist’s storytelling that sets our process and our spaces apart.
Collaborating with us is typical but clients don’t typically engage with the artist. Often, we see the relationship deepen and the client becomes the integral piece in an ongoing relationship with their local art community. As the build lives on, after KTGY has moved on, the story lives on. The art installation becomes a unique piece of the property, a secret voice that belongs solely to its environment.
The careful balance, as the object, sculpture, painting, light fixture or installation interfaces with the interiors, is an art unto itself. Here are a few examples from projects where the ‘aha’ moment was exhilarating.
LEFT | Sculpturer, Jamie Bates Slone interpretation of Tom Pendergast one of the original founders of the Kansas city club. Photography: The Wade Brothers
RIGHT | The hotel lobby picture contains three installation pieces, a series of six busts by local artist depicting original Kansas City Club members, the carpet, a functional piece of installation art was designed by the interiors team and the light installation all working together to breath a feminine force into the masculine space. Photography: Michael Robinson
One of my favorite marriages of history coming to life through art was at the Hotel Kansas City. Hailing as the oldest gentleman’s club in Missouri, we wanted to bring historical references to light with a bit of humor and irreverence. We selected six key members of the original club, notably including Teddy Roosevelt, and commissioned a series of modern busts worthy of our new gathering spaces. With a revered architectural presence of a Gothic Revival building on the National Register of Historic Places, these clever moments, in the form of mixed-media busts, ignite the imagination and bring the past into the present by bringing historical figures as conduits of history. It’s the unexpected and curated moments of surprise and delight that add whimsy and wonder to the interior.
From a men’s club to a celebrated female sculptor, we take pride in bringing art history to life in exquisite ways. Chicago, the “City of Big Shoulders,” made just enough room in the male-dominated architectural landscape for Gwen Lux, a sculptress and contemporary figure of the time. We did our homework to uncover her significant contributions to the building’s exterior friezes and pay homage to her unheralded ground-breaking art. Artist Deborah Moss was commissioned to create her modern take on an age-old tradition. Her ‘unfinished’ carved sculpture is majestic, undulating and bemusing, while harkening to historic relief sculptures on the façade. Her use of hydrostone with a solid bronze metal inlay is nothing short of masterful. Here, the intersection of art and architecture fully embodies the persona of luxury. The lavish interior finishes and materials naturally weave in this layer of lux art to personify the new era.
LEFT | Floating up the Detroit foundations original fire hose shaft are hundreds of glass blown balloons, the interiors team collaborated with Kim Harty of College of Creative Studies, to honor the fire fighters’ souls who lost their lives in the line of duty. Photography: Nathan Kirkman
RIGHT | A central 20’ x 30’ Light installation over the Detroit foundation bar a collaboration between Alex Porbe, Incite Design and Gina Deary, comprising of 357 custom Eddison bulbs with 5o hand blown glass globes to symbolize the burnt out streetlights of Detroit’s harder past. Photography: Nathan Kirkman
From Chicago to Detroit, one of my strongest and earliest impressions of Detroit decades ago was the abundance of broken, bulbed streetlamps throughout the dying and decaying city. Years later, we had the chance to create a destination in a reborn neighborhood at the Detriot Foundation Hotel, whose design theme was aptly named ‘Coming Home to Detroit.’ The girl in me reached for those memories and was thrilled to be part of a build contributing to the rebirth of a city I loved. We sought to build on the momentum of the enlivened city and engaged with several artists. Nearly 360 Edison-style vintage bulbs later, the artists brought my recollection to life and elevated it to create a stunning installation. This piece is where magic, memory and fantasy meet to elevate the ordinary into the sublime. Kim Harty of College of Creative Studies was commissioned to create a piece inspired by the idea of shedding light on all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Carefully crafted, 105 hand-blown orbs pay homage to these firefighters and nod to the building’s history. Art, grounded and honoring the significant, is the plot the visitor wants to engage with. It makes bricks and mortar come alive with new dimension and thoughtfulness to the past. It keeps them talking and brings them back.
LEFT & RIGHT | The Denver Le Meridien opens its doors to a mountain scape of 500 miniature Marie Antoinette paintings. Fusing together the crisp feel of the Rocky mountains with a classic French flair. Photography: Nathan Kirkman
The collision and collaboration of French and Spanish hotel brands at the Le Meridien and AC Hotel in downtown Denver posed a creative challenge we met with whimsy and ingenuity. Marrying the attributes of each brand into a balanced and nuanced design solution was the objective. Challenging an artist to inject the concept with masterful brushstrokes pushed the idea over the top. Showcasing the feminine side with the rule-breaking Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and juxtaposing an athletic sport, created an unexpected tongue-and-cheek art moment. Approximately 500 individual portraits of the bold secret keeper, power wielder and guillotine seeker are configured in a way that at first suggests a profile of vintage skis. Bold red backgrounds and crisp acrylic boxes pull off the charade and reveal the surprise of individual detail in magnificent spirit. The unexpected is the unpredictable, interactive art moment we were seeking. We know that immersing ourselves in the history and the nuances of the brands, and supporting artists to bring our vision to life added to everyone’s story.
These artist collaborations have been some of the most rewarding partnerships of my career. The artist’s point of view, colliding with mine, has yielded fantastic creative bursts, which transcend the physical space and add some of the most interesting chapters to the narrative.