Helpern Architects-Designed AC Hotel, Times Square

Inside the first NYC property for the European-inspired brand

An iconic building does more than make a statement of its own; it anchors a block or neighborhood and converses with structures around it. Such is the case with Renzo Piano‘s New York Times building, a towering masterwork in midtown Manhattan. But now, where there was once nothing more than a five-story parking garage, rises the AC Hotel New York Times Square. Designed by Helpern Architects, this first edition of an AC Hotels in NYC, responds to its neighbor. With a mirror-like glass facade, predominantly grid-defined but offering slopes and slants nearer the ground, it speaks to the whole of its surroundings—sky included. Inside, the youth-skewing Marriott brand delivers peace and quiet in a neighborhood not really known for either.

“They want to be of their location, of the context of their location,” David Helpern explains to us on a site tour. “The architecture is not branded from the exterior. Inside, however, every room around the world should be the same. That’s the branding,” he adds. Helpern and his team visited several AC properties, and the Barcelona destination offered the most inspiration—thanks to contemporary design and its transparent, open presence. Helpern wanted the building to speak with the city. He wanted to trigger the excitement young design lovers feel toward architecture.

Through the revolving doors, one finds an airy double-height lobby with several activated areas—including an AC store selling travel items and local products like a hot sauce from Hell’s Kitchen. The full scope is quietly dramatic, underlined by exquisite Venetian Terrazzo with brass inlays. Helpern Architects brought the finish to Marriott as a potential AC standard. Here, it’s a welcome addition opposite the structure of the warm walnut wood and cool pleated-glass paneling. All of the public spaces within, including a library, appear dynamic, and receive accents by artwork from local artists.

The spaciousness of the lobby has additional design value: natural light. Filtering down one level, it lends distinct brightness to a lower level conference room and a spacious gym. The gym’s most beautiful accoutrement, however, happens to be a glowing infinity mirror artwork, reminiscent of Iván Navarro’s sculptures. Aside from the light, a design component unites the lobby and underground—in the form of powerful architectural concrete columns. More than functional, structural additions, they have a higher level of finish lending an industrial chic intonation. It’s just one more decision that Helpern Architects made to bring the space to life.

The building boasts 290 rooms, of which there are seven different types. In reality, however, there are 23 different types—taking into account minor variations. Some stretch lengthwise, others offer more depth, and they vary from 200 to 280 square feet. The floor-to-ceiling glass on the north side truly impresses. Higher up, the balcony rooms are even more striking. All south-facing rooms have very New York Garment District rear window views. Regardless of their technical size, all guest rooms are very breathable. The bed’s been lifted off the floor, there are outlets everywhere, and (perhaps uncommonly) there’s substantial bathroom counter space.

The food and beverage outlets also live up to expectations. Boqueria, which takes up a portion of the 125-foot ground site, offers a vibrant menu. Castell, the year-round rooftop lounge, will open to non-hotel guests in a few weeks. Its extensive terrace will be a hot commodity for sure. In fact, the whole space was designed to make the inside feel like it’s also outside. “The whole idea was a pavilion in the sky,” Helpern concludes—which is exactly what it feels like.

This is Helpern Architects’ second hotel in NYC (and in the neighborhood). And a second AC is coming to NYC soon, downtown though. But the midtown debut, Helpern says, “is a New York hotel—a New York response to a very sophisticated building.”

Second image by Cool Hunting, all other images courtesy of AC Hotels