Lobby floor plan:
The space in question, the reception desk and lounge area of the Hyatt Herald Square, at West 31st Street, (it had a soft opening in September 2014 and its grand opening in March 2015) which had been severed from the daylight-filled entrance by an 18-foot-wide elevator core that occupied the middle of the lobby’s 32-foot-wide floor plate. Darkening it further were 10-foot ceilings at the entrance and two enclosed staircases on either side. From the moment she saw the space, Peiheng Tsai, who founded PHT Lighting Design in 2006, knew that lighting would play a leading role in stitching the two halves of the lobby back together.
Working alongside the client and the interior designers, Paul Vega and Vennie Lau of New Jersey–based VLDG, Tsai conceptualized a custom clerestory light box that would wrap around the perimeter of the lounge and give hotel guests the impression that the space was illuminated by way of natural light. “The whole idea was to, somehow, create the illusion that there are windows,” says Tsai. “It was a very dark space in the back.” Using glass block would also tie into the interior design, which sought to elicit the area’s industrial history, a hub of both publishing (the neighborhood is named for the now-defunct New York Herald) and apparel and fashion.
Built out of 4-inch-thick industrial glass block and uplit with dynamic white LEDs, the clerestory system, which is replicated behind the bar, is a convincing imitation, glowing with a cool ambient light that visitors no doubt subconsciously assume is somehow penetrating the 20-story building. Controlled by a dimming system, the LEDs transition from a cool 5000K during the day to a neutral 3500K around dusk and then to a warm 2700K at night. Thanks to an astronomical clock, the lighting also is synced to the seasonal changes in the times of sunrise and sunset.