It’s all in the name. Walking into the glass and steel Herzog and de Meuron-designed Public Hotel, visitors cannot help but be taken by the sheer amount of public space. Many hotels claim to be for the city they’re in just as much as for the guests occupying the rooms. With the Public, this is actually true. A ground-up build in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, four years in the making, the Public offers 370 rooms (with prices starting as low as $150), three bars, a shop, a massive living room-like lobby and a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant—all of which feel luxuriant but accessible. Design matters here—with nuances ranging from plywood textured concrete to a well-placed Iván Navarro infinity mirror—but the Public, which opened its doors on 7 June, presents Ian Schrager’s vision for the future of hotels and it works.
At the heart of Schrager’s concept is luxury for all. To achieve this (the sensation of a grand experience but at a minimal cost) the hotelier snipped unnecessary or antiquated hospitality concepts. For guests, check-in happens on an iPad. There are no bell-hops. Rather, a “Public Advisor” role represents a general staff member on-site who helps with all needs and can act as a concierge. There’s no room service (but plenty of food options, more on that below) and turndown service has been ditched. While the Public Advisors will offer hands-on and personalized service, the tech amenities of the facility (including a custom-built chat-bot that knows the hotel’s ins and outs) accommodate other needs. So where does the luxury element enter? It’s in the air (thanks to Schrager’s custom-designed Le Labo scent), the furniture, and the views. For the most part, the hotel’s visual language closely adheres to minimal and chic, but Schrager’s personality manifests in lush textures and surprising colors every now and then.
Then there are the aforementioned public spaces, which should be addressed floor by floor, as the value they provide benefits guests and locals. The hotel’s ground floor hosts LOUIE, a marketplace and coffee shop with organic food on offer (which can be ordered via the chat bot by hotel guests) to grab and go or sit and savor. Further, there’s the Jean-Georges PUBLIC Kitchen, centered on the concept that New York food is world food and features everything from sushi to hamburgers (and houses a wood burning oven). Extending out behind the restaurant, there’s an outdoor garden bar. The three other bars include a Lobby Bar and Diego (a classy cocktail venue featuring a restored Diego Rivera mural in tapestry form) one floor up. This level also features an expansive floor-plan with plush couches and work spaces (as well as private rooms). The last of the three bars, known as The Roof, appears on the 18th floor. With a cosmopolitan interior furnished in black, the true wow factor comes from the epic outdoor space featuring unobstructed views of NYC in every direction.
The Public features two main room types, broken down into further divisions by bed size and view. There are loft suites, as is expected. But the functional pod-style rooms are of greater interest here, as these start at the lowest prices. Upon entering a Queen room (the smallest the hotel offers), we were immediately taken by the fact that despite the 205 square foot size, everything felt in its right place. The bed rests beside the floor-to-ceiling window. There’s closet and stow spaces galore, and a table with a bench. On the tech side there’s a 50″ flat screen TV and 10 easily accessible USB ports and wall outlets. The King variation of this room type expands to 220 square feet. All of these are the same style. The loft iteration maxes out at 350 square feet. The minimal design, coupled with the city views, leads to an authentic breathability in even the smallest rooms.
The hotel’s most uncommon attribute references Schrager’s illustrious nightlife background (as founder of Studio 54). The Public boasts a subterranean modular venue—known as Public Arts—that will exist as everything from nightclub to performance space. Lavish though petite, the venue’s tech-forward features will allow for film screenings, art openings, theatrical productions and performance pieces. But at the heart of it is a space for revelry. It’s another public space and a commitment to the neighborhood, its neighbors and the city itself. Whereas Schrager’s EDITION Hotel some 25 blocks north has an essence of purity and prestige, the Public is ready to be a modern play-space.
Escalator, exterior, loft and lobby images by Cool Hunting, Patti Smith image by BFA, all other images courtesy of Public Hotels