Aloft Philadelphia DowntownJoAnn Greco • February 13, 2018
When the design team at New York-based Stonehill Taylor first encountered the abandoned, nearly century-old Liberty Title & Trust Building next to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, they found the soaring space littered with graffiti and concertina wire. “It looked,” says principal Michael Suomi, “like a war zone.” But the good bones hidden under the dust and grime wound up being incorporated into the Aloft Philadelphia Downtown‘s lobby, which features an original clock, marble balustrades, and huge arched windows. There is is even a nod to the graffiti in the altered portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson that greet guests as they ascend a set of steps from the street.
First constructed in 1925, the building’s location and original purpose also acted as guiding posts for the artwork and motifs found throughout the 179-key hotel. Those presidential murals, for example, are based on the celebrated profiles found on the quarter and nickel, while the cracks running down the lamps suspended from the coffered ceilings above the lobby lounge evoke arguably the most famous fissure of them all—the fracture on the Liberty Bell.
Echoing the shape of the structure’s windows, two niches flank the elevator bank. One envelops the bar, while the other contains built-in shelving furnished with vintage safety deposit boxes painted aqua. In between, another arch is outfitted with the brand-standard digital ticker that sits next to a neon art piece. “Usually these appear on a wall or above the elevator, but we wanted to play off of the architecture as much as possible,” observes Suomi.
On the mezzanine level, the team designed a small two-story addition, the roof of which operates as an outdoor terrace bar called Back Yard. Other amenities include grab and go café Refuel, the signature XYZ bar in the lobby, and a fitness center nestled into the bank’s original vault.
Meanwhile, in the guestrooms, abstracted sections of a Liberty Bell medallion from the lobby adorn the walls, and navy striated carpets reminiscent of graffiti brushstrokes cover the floors. White-tiled bathrooms are offset by gray slate flooring and teal walls. “Aloft hotels are generally new builds,” explains Suomi, “so the level of customization and the adaptive-reuse aspects of this project make it pretty unusual.”