New York City

Last June, Yotel'a U.K.-based hotel chain inspired by Japanese capsule hotels and luxury airline cabins'opened a location on the far west side of Manhattan. It is just one component within a vast, $800 million, mixed-use complex designed by Arquitectonica. But the hotel, with a facade, public spaces, and 669 rooms by Rockwell Group and lighting firm Focus, possesses its own distinct character. It has a '2001: A Space Odyssey feel,' says Michael Cummings, Focus design director.

The hotel's public spaces are illuminated almost exclusively with LEDs. The brightness of the source worked well with the sleek, predominately white and gray interiors, explains Cummings. The choice also helped the project achieve a 1 W/square foot lighting power density, part of the larger building's energy-conservation goals and its bid for LEED Silver certification.

On the exterior, where precast-concrete panels wrap the middle floors of a four-story podium, Focus installed linear RGB (red-green-blue) LED strips. The light is aimed from above and below to highlight the relief pattern in the cladding with the hotel's signature color purple. At street level, a frosted glass portal, backlit with bright white LEDs, defines the entrance. But inside, along the lobby's elevator bank wall, the effect is reversed. Here soft purple LEDs illuminate elevator door surrounds and white LEDs wash a textured ceramic tile wall. For general lobby downlighting, the designers decided on low-voltage recessed ceiling fixtures housing retrofit LED lamps. They decided against LED-integral fixtures because they felt the retrofit option would better allow the client to take advantage of future improvements in lamp technology, explains Cummings.

In the compact rooms, the project team opted for linear fluorescent lamps as the most cost-effective primary light source option. Two are hidden behind a wall-mounted television and storage unit. One, which is illuminated when guests first arrive, is covered in a colored gel sleeve to wash the walls in purple. Guests have the option of turning this light off, and relying on a second, bare lamp for general illumination.

The project's biggest challenges were finding LEDs that offered the desired dimming range, light output, and color rendition, and ensuring that the all-important purple was consistent from application to application and source to source. The selection process involved extensive vetting and testing, conducted mostly in Focus's Upper Manhattan offices. But the lighting designers, along with the architects, also took advantage of a full-scale room mockup that the general contractor erected in Westchester County, New York, for the study of finishes and furnishings, as well as lamps and fixtures. Although such a mockup is often part of the hotel design and construction process, says Cummings, in this case, its proximity to Focus's offices allowed frequent trips for tweaking.