If you want to convince travelers a hotel is worth a look in, don’t use the l-word. Local inspiration is as expected as a bed. So, what is new(s)? Hotels like W Panama. Instead of just mirroring the cities around them, they’re using the sights, smells, sounds and signature elements that shape urban life in their environs and mixing in fresh influences to create interior neighborhoods with their own culture and vibe. Forget local; think locale.

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Okay, so W’s first hotel in Central America may be offering the city’s unofficial new borough on prime vertical real estate on the 12th to 23rd of the Evolution Towers’ 56 floors instead of a ground-level plot. But, its real-deal mix of old and new, business district chic and shipping industry grit, signature dining and authentic street fare (served from a stylized version of a food truck) gives it a lived-in and livable sense of community.

In the Corner Suite, the bed literally takes center stage. The horizontal sweep of the ceiling detail works with the vertical reach of the blue built-in unit to define distinct zones without using walls or closing down the panoramic views. MARK SILVERSTEIN PHOTOGRAPHY/STUDIO GAIA

New York-based interior design firm Studio Gaia started building the foundation for a municipal microcosm by considering how people explore and experience the postcard moments and much beloved hole-in-the-wall backstreet eateries in the places they want to be part of. That changed up the entire flow of the public areas in this 203-room luxury lifestyle hotel.  While its contemporary competitors (and there are plenty of them; the hotel inventory has grown more than tenfold in recent years) roll out lots of open-plan spaces, W Panama narrows the focus with a walk pattern much closer to a sidewalk with focal points on either side and corners where guests and locals can kick back and relax.

Although the hotel has an enviable CBD location and an address on Calle 50 just off Panama City’s ultra-luxe Zona Rosa, Studio Gaia founder and principal Ilan Waisbrod and his team deliberately chose to craft an environment that puts guests face-to-face with all the crosscurrents of this 519-year-old destination—not just a carefully edited, ivory tower retreat for the super-rich.

Business is part of community life. Artist Oscar Melgar makes it a visual pleasure with his spray-painted wood artpiece in this meeting room.

 In terms of delivering an authentic feeling of la vida loca-l, the need to reference the Panama Canal was clearly the elephant in the creative room. The design team turned this have-to-have into a want-to-have slice of the city by using five custom-made versions of standard shipping containers found along the canal as anchor points for the public area narrative. Long and narrow, with corrugated sides, these industrial elements take over the role of sidewalk cafes as places to meet and mingle in the Living Room (W’s lobby concept), pool deck WET bar and Cargo, a bar sheltering within one of the boxes.  Like most urban gathering spots, they not only give people a place to talk; they also give them something to talk about—in this case original graffiti painted on the containers by Diablos Rojos-inspired artist, Oscar Melgar, who worked onsite “for months,” according to Waisbrod, to express his vision of the building of the canal. In Waisbrod’s view, these come-together elements also help eliminate “the dark, empty, lonely spaces” that make business travelers feel even more isolated when they’re on unfamiliar turf.

“For us, the design is always about connection to the local culture and people,” says Waisbrod. “That’s essential to the narrative. What makes it trite is being too literal. Designers can’t just recreate aesthetic or cultural references verbatim. They have to apply a strong twist in order to encourage guests’ imagination and curiosity. For example, at first glance, people may not see that the mural on each of the shipping containers tells part of the story of how the canal was built. That’s good. We aim to create that look-and-look-again feeling that invites guests to linger and get invested in their surroundings.”

Colorful cushions suggest the pattern of painted containers floating in the canal. The sheltering slant of vibrant guy wires completes the dockside-but-inside experience.

Taking a cue from the street-level neighborhoods below, W Panama layers in influences that provide a window to the city’s past and a glimpse of its future. A gleaming, reflective W sculpture greets guests as they enter—much like the marked entrance to any community. Rows of Panama hats mounted on a cool green wall signal the transition into the reception area—a compelling reminder that it was hard-working people, not crowned heads, who built this city. An oversized, white Rococo-inspired reception desk brings the canal’s French connection front and center, while bold panels (made from wallpaper and fabric) that seem to float on the wall above it celebrate handmade mola fabrics and patterns from the Guna and Embera indigenous communities.

But Panama City isn’t just about its past. Waisbrod and his team made modern aspects of urban life the inspiration for the hotel’s guestrooms and suites. Their crisp white palette is punctuated strategically with small injections of eye-catching patterns (not only on the rugs, pillows and upholstery fabric but also on an op art-meets-geometric black-and-white slashed design for the shower door).  As expected, the views from this soaring structure are the stars. The Instagrammable yellow entry door, an interpretation of similarly-toned doors used on shipping containers, serves as an insider’s wink at continuity.

“The design goal isn’t to be fashionable or trend-setting,” says Waisbrod. “By really studying the building blocks of local culture as expressed in color, pattern and materials, designers can create concepts that defy the test of time.”

How the country’s capital will inspire Studio Gaia’s redesign of the W Washington D.C.

Source : Hotel Management:

W Washington DC, the closest hotel to The White House, is launching a $50-million renovation scheduled for completion next year.

The project will be overseen by architecture and interior design firm Studio Gaia, which has overseen numerous W projects, alongside the W brand’s design team.

Upon completion, the historic Beaux Arts building—dating back to 1917—will get updates to its Living Room (W’s name for the lobby), all 317 guestrooms and suites and the POV rooftop bar. The new look for these spaces will mix modern design with elements that pay homage to the city’s past and present.


The entrance will have a waterfall that will celebrate the city’s memorials. From there, guests will arrive in the Living Room that will have a seemingly endless mirror, honoring the Reflecting Pool of The Lincoln Memorial. The Living Room will also have live music and DJs every night. With fresco art reminiscent of the Capitol dome and lobbyist symbols on the archways, the Living Room will also have private, partially glassed-in areas for intimate gatherings.

The hotel’s 317 guestrooms include 23 Marvelous suites, seven Wow suites, and an Extreme Wow (the brand’s take on the Presidential) Suite. When the transformation is completed, these will have glass, boutique window-style closets; modular seating for lounging that will transform into additional bedding; and new bathrooms with open-flow concept, including glassed-in showers and new vanities. All guestrooms will have custom décor with references to local history, including a minibar that mimics the angles of the Washington Monument.

Following the total renovation of the 1,176-square-foot E-Wow suite, the room will have a floor-to-ceiling graphic mural by artist Amit Greenberg; a sliding door with cryptic lettering (inspired by the Kryptos sculpture of the CIA); and mirrored ceilings that will capture the views of the National Mall and monuments below. W will replace the traditional hotel dining room table with a full-size bar for in-room entertaining. The one-bedroom, 1.5-bath suite will also adjoin with its neighboring room, providing additional bedrooms for a full entourage.

The property will also have two new restaurants by chef Barry Koslow. The ground floor restaurant will extend from the Living Room, and it will have an open-kitchen concept. There will also be a new speakeasy with an attached beer garden patio on Pennsylvania Avenue.

POV, the hotel’s rooftop bar and lounge, will similarly be renovated. Upon completion, it will have design elements inspired by the city’s Metro in a new, Brutalist-inspired design with floor-to-ceiling glass leading to the Terrace, opening the space to the city sights. The POV Lounge will also be transformed into an indoor-outdoor space, with accordion-style windows for direct access to views of the Washington Monument.

The hotel’s 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space will be reimagined including the Great Room which will have new LED ceiling lights with changeable colors, a built-in bar and custom carpeting that evokes a map of the city’s streets.