Hyatt Unplugged

The company gives its famous Sunset Strip property an artsy
overhaul under a relaxed new brand.

“Genius loci” is a phrase that more typically echoes through the hallways of academia than in the cubicles of a hotel corporation. Yet that’s the mantra of Andaz, a chain that Hyatt launched in November 2007. “We’re offering hotels that are distinctive and reflective of their neighborhoods,” says Jonathan Frolich, Andaz’s director of operations. “A certain segment of travelers had grown tired of cookie-cutter hotel product.” For the second property, in West Hollywood, Andaz brought in the New York studio Janson Goldstein to summon the rock ’n’ roll spirit of its Sunset Strip location.

The building housing Andaz West Hollywood originally opened in 1963 as Gene Autry’s Hotel Continental. After Hyatt acquired the property from the singing cowboy in 1976, it remained a music destination. In fact, antics like Keith Richards’s tossing a television over his balcony earned the place the nickname “The Riot House.” According to Hal Goldstein, a partner at Janson Goldstein, the design team channeled today’s kinder, gentler recording artists for its transformation. “We had people like Sheryl Crow in mind,” he explains. “Although we don’t know them personally, you can make the leap.” For inspiration, he says, “you might look at the backdrop of an MTV acoustical concert.”

Andaz West Hollywood does have moody nooks in the public areas, allowing high-profile guests to duck the paparazzi, but the hotel’s musical heritage is most clearly seen in the artwork integrated throughout the building. In the lobby, for example, a glass wall by Amanda Weil bears a close-up photograph of onyx that looks just like tie-dye. Likewise, Jacob Hashimoto’s One Percent for Art piece, which hangs from the roof beams of a new glass pavilion (housing the restaurant RH), recalls Woodstock-era patches with a cheery cascade of hand-painted aluminum disks with stripes, stars, flowers, and other groovy patterns.

“The idea was to pull from the building’s past,” Goldstein says, adding that the redo also includes references to the swinging midcentury Los Angeles scene of the hotel’s earliest days. RH’s wavy floor pattern, based on an Erwin Hauer screen, is executed in a chunky mosaic tile reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro’s beachfront sidewalks. Those undulating geometries reappear in the stamped stainless-steel tiles hanging above the Andaz entrance and behind both of its bars.

Not everything is an homage to the past, however. The famous balconies on the building’s southern elevation are now glassed in, allowing Andaz to charge for pricier suites. And Jimmy Page probably wouldn’t demand sustainably harvested wood flooring. Even so, the Andaz has received a fitting form of validation. Page’s onetime groupie girlfriend Lori Maddox had this to proclaim on the guitar legend’s behalf during the opening celebration: “He would love it!”

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