Set at the base of Hollywood Hills, the Sunset La Cienega Hotel cuts an imposing figure. The massing of two angular towers forms a barrier between the residential hills above and the city grid below. And yet, the hotel’s strategically positioned courtyard serves as a crucial link between these contrasting urban conditions. Designed by the Los Angeles office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the structure, with its rough, exposed concrete shell, pays homage to the grittiness of the Sunset Strip, while its refined interior conjures a far more serene atmosphere.
“The use of wood in handrails, balustrades, wall panels, custom-built organic reception desks, and other finishes helps define much of the hotel’s public areas, including two restaurants, a private rooftop lounge, a lobby bar, a ballroom, and a cantilevered pool deck,” SOM Associate Director Kevin Conway explained. “Adorned with large, sculptural silicone brass-tube luminaries, these spaces were designed to reflect a certain midcentury modern aesthetic specific to Los Angeles but also the strip’s rock-and-roll heritage. For this project, it was really all about using humble materials in a detailed way.”
Portions of the 388,000-square-foot property were designed to resemble an art collector’s estate. “We wanted it to be like a big home with big openings that filter in natural light,” Conway said. Paintings and sculptures permeate the complex while smaller objets d’art feature prominently in the hotel’s 286 guest rooms. As if that weren’t enough, most rooms feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows that frame scenic views.
A 65-foot-tall installation by fiber artist Janet Echelman hangs between the hotel’s two towers. Cast in a spectrum of red and yellow hues, Dream Catcher’s netting structure is a conceptual translation of the brainwave activity that occurs during sleep.
Below, an outdoor passageway connects Sunset Boulevard to a terraced amphitheater that overlooks the Los Angeles Basin. A grand outdoor staircase descends from street level to the lobby, where a mid-level landing connects to an east-west axis. “A vehicular ramp brings people down around the building and into the central space, what we call the Oculus,” Conway added. “Even though the main lobby is set a story below the Sunset Strip, it’s imbued with fresh air and ample exposures.”
Header image: The Sunset La Cienega Hotel’s central courtyard is overhung by a 65-foot-tall installation by fiber artist Janet Echelman. Dream Catcher is a conceptual translation of the brainwave activity that occurs during sleep. (Benny Chan/Fotoworks)