Philly’s past and present

CRÈME, a collective by Jun Aizaki, focused on authenticity for the interiors of Hyatt Centric Center City, the brand’s flagship Philadelphia location, with design rooted in the region’s heritage. The Brooklyn-based design firm’s first full hotel project captures rich craft traditions as well as the city’s historic industrial prominence, overlaid with Aizaki’s Japanese influence. The newly constructed, 332-room upscale lifestyle hotel located in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square has a sophisticated simplicity, with an airy, muted palette and abundance of raw wood that references the region’s past as a lumber capital. This elevated rusticity is accented with details that connect the city’s roots to its contemporary streetscape, considering the street art, mosaics and murals that give its built environment a unique character.

“I love being inspired by the locality—we focused on the region’s industrial heritage and its past as a lumber capital with abundant natural resources for the interior design of Hyatt Centric’s flagship property in Philadelphia,” said Aizaki, founder/principal, CRÈME. “The local history and architecture, the nature surrounding Philly and the street art were a big influence. I also have a deep appreciation for George Nakashima, whose studio and workshop is a National Historic Landmark in Pennsylvania. The interior of the hotel has a focus on woodwork and craft, celebrating natural materials, referencing Shaker design principles and pulling on inspiration from Nakashima. As Nakashima once said, ‘In Japanese, kodama, the ‘spirit of a tree,’ refers to a feeling of special kinship with the heart of a tree. It is our deepest respect for the tree…that we may offer the tree a second life.’ The property really is a fusion of Philadelphia’s past and present.”

The public areas feature industrial materials such as exposed concrete and blackened steel, alongside details such as stitched leather and wood-paneled walls that unify the craft traditions of woodworking, metalsmithing and leatherworking, mainstays of the cultures that shaped Philadelphia.

“We had a rich inspiration to work with, which gave us the opportunity to dive deep into the region’s heritage to create the hotel’s interiors,” Aizaki said. “The city’s industrial background is visible throughout the public areas in materials like exposed concrete and blackened steel, and even in custom black cage lights fabricated by Preciosa as well as an art installation behind the reception desk. Use of these industrial materials paired with nature-inspired motifs creates a loose narrative around the natural world and the cultivation of land.”

The lobby’s expansive shelf display features a mix of old and new, natural and made-made, as well as wood and metal artwork, accessories and objects curated by Fanny Allié and Yael Caffrey. CRÈME also used their award-winning, contemporary take on the traditional Windsor form, the Exchange collection by Stellar Works throughout the public spaces and Patchwork Restaurant and Bar.

“Hyatt Centric guests are adventurers who like to have the influence of place in every aspect of their travels,” Aizaki noted. “We synthesized the city and surrounding region’s most significant contributions to American culture and its commerce and presented them through our lens. We collaborated with artists to help us tell this story. For example, distressed textile-based works by Fanny Allié hang in the elevator lobbies reference the city’s visual tapestry of diverse neighborhoods, integrating recycled garments to create 22 unique collages that evoke abstracted floor plans, figurative elements and landscapes of the surrounding area. At every turn throughout the property, there is a possibility to contemplate Philadelphia’s very important role in American history.”

This patchwork theme is mirrored in the corridors’ custom carpet by Sacco, which includes a series of patterns based on the Japanese shibori technique. Minimalist guestrooms feature elegant, space-saving millwork and are layered with subtle allusions to local culture; colorful kayak paddles create a whimsical nod to the major rivers of Pennsylvania, while custom area rugs by Crosby Street Studios reference Quaker quilting patterns that complement artwork sourced by Soho Myriad Art Consulting. The bathrooms also capture shifting landscapes with the Terrains wallpaper by designer Jill Malek.

“As one of the first Hyatt Centrics built, the project presented the unique challenge of creating an environment that was entirely location-specific and captured the heart and culture of a historic city within the blank slate of an entirely new construction,” Aizaki said. “The cultural and visual fabric is so deeply rooted in Philadelphia’s heritage, so the design team explored ways to recreate that feeling of warmth and tradition through impression, not imitation. We needed to be cognizant of accomplishing this goal both budget constraints and the new restrictions and delays that emerged with the onset of COVID-19. Despite those constraints and the fact that this was the first full hotel interiors project for CRÈME, we ultimately found the added considerations to be a great creative motivator and looked at how to tell the story only with what was essential and authentic to the design narrative.”

The new build project team includes DAS Architects as design architect with construction by Clemens Construction.