It has been over one year since the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel officially opened to the public and its doors have been receiving guests ever since. Its presence in Copper Square is unmistakable due to the sheer size of its facades and street level mass. On an early October morning in 2008, the hotel became an official member of the skyline which got transformed by its contribution making one more gesture to the contemporary character of the city of Phoenix. What is there to like and why is it that sometimes urban hotels slowly become the memory we search to associate certain places or experiences when we travel?
Not pretending to defend any design philosophy or architectural manifesto, the initial unveiling of the proposed design was not always welcomed by the local architectural talent. But without going into deep waters, it is proving that its conception has been justified thus far. The hotel serves well the function inherent in its program and it also blends well with the city life given its high profile site. The city of Phoenix owns the property and the Starwood family thru Sheraton manages it, which sets up the character and image inspired for the hotel. It offers spacious meetings areas, pool, gym, and adequate public spaces without being ostentatious, as well as serving as a dormitory to the new Phoenix Convention Center a couple of blocks away.
So why should we remember or bother to visit or use this building? What is it offering that may enrich our urban experience? On a positive note, perhaps the best attribute of this project is its permeability at pedestrian level. For instance, the restaurant, named District makes perfect use of the corner, which wraps around Van Buren and 3rd street in full height fenestration. Allowing everyone full view of the ever changing ambiance of the establishment, it welcomes the looks and appetites of the passerby at any given time of the day. With such a setup it intends to become more a destination place rather than the usual static old fashion hotel eatery. Moreover, on larger scale, the main tower was designed to not only balance out the valley’s sun cycles but to promote full views for all the rooms either to the North or South of Phoenix. These are very simple design clues that actually go far in the guest experience as well as for the local Phoenicians taking advantage of the hotel spaces. It all contributes to slowly grow roots in the minds of its neighbors and perhaps creating some memorable moments in some of the guests welcomed by the city.
Looking at the interior design of the public spaces, we could argue that it subtly intends to interpret the State of Arizona with a soft contemporary urban touch. Through the use of desert color hues, natural materials and chosen permanent art work, the design intends to create a southwest contemporary character and upbeat environment that appeals to a broad range of guests and locals; not an easy task considering it is a one thousand room hotel and over one hundred thousand square feet of meeting areas.
To promote the image of Phoenix for instance, real copper was used in different ways to highlight certain areas of the hotel due to its historical importance in the economic growth of Arizona. Furthermore, a deliberate effort by city officials and the design team was done to select local artists and craftsmen to create and select art work for the hotel. We may find a different experience going up the escalators and appreciate the large installation of copper walls which inspire desert landscapes and features a wonderful ceiling hung water-drop sculpture; Perhaps as a metaphor of life in the desert. The designers attempting to balance the pragmatic with a sense of place, provided an experience beyond the mundane. Exactly what hospitality should be all about? If you can write a postcard to grandma about something you saw and experienced, perhaps it is due to that sensitivity someone applied to his trade while designing or building, given all the obstacles found in the process. Perhaps a space reminds you of some hidden thoughts and warms up a cherished memory.
One year might not be a long time to establish strong awareness in people’s minds about a large building occupying the space that shaped it, especially when it is not the kind of building that stands out in the neighborhood. It might take a while, but perhaps in a few years when this downtown hotel becomes a familiar space to find friends, does its job by fulfilling the need to conventioneers and provides secure nightlife in the bars and restaurant for many, some guests and locals will begin to associate this building with a Phoenix experience. Appreciating the effort that some professionals do to improve our urban experience by balancing the pragmatic and the art of hospitality goes a long way in renewing your sense of wonder and positive discovery while traveling. Do visit the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel, it may surprise you.
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(Photography by www.carlosjmeyerphotography.com) Visit web.me.com/bautempo for more Pictures of the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel
Location: 340 N. 3rd street, Phoenix, AZ. Always open and welcoming.