Designed by Stonehill Taylor and Snøhetta, Graduate Roosevelt Island becomes the Graduate Hotels’ 29th property and marks the brand’s arrival in New York City. With an arrival experience unlike any other (literally with a 12-foot sculpture greeting guests checking in), let’s take a look inside the 18-storey, 224-key design-led hotel…
Created for travellers who seek memory-making journeys, Graduate Hotels is a hand-crafted collection of hotels that reside in dynamic university-anchored towns across the country and expanding into the U.K. in summer 2021. Each property celebrates and commemorates the optimistic energy of its community, while offering an extended retreat to places that often play host to the best days of our lives. The brand’s latest hotel – and debut property in New York City – shelters 224 guestrooms inside a 18-storey building on Roosevelt Island.
Positioned at the entrance of the Cornell Tech campus, the hotel has been designed by internationally renowned design firm Snøhetta, hosptiality-focused architecture firm Stonehill Taylor and Graduate Hotels’ in-house design team. Blending together Old School charm and New Age, the design team took inspiration from the rich history of Roosevelt Island and the future of technology that the Cornell Tech campus embodies. The futuristic and functional meld to create a space that’s bright, open and always interesting.
“We’re thrilled to make our debut in New York with the first ever hotel on Roosevelt Island and proud to join the innovative Cornell Tech campus,” said Ben Weprin, founder and CEO of Graduate Hotels. “Each of our hotels are rooted in the communities they serve, and we took great care in creating a highly customised hotel experience that honours the island’s rich history and has an authentic connection to the Cornell Tech campus. Now more than ever, there is a new appreciation for exploring what’s in your own backyard and we look forward to welcoming locals and visitors looking to experience New York from a fresh and unexpected vantage point.”
The arrival experience has been designed to add personality and drama into the check-in element of the hospitality journey. Upon entering, guests are greeted with a custom 12-foot statement sculpture created by Hebru Brantley that reinterprets his iconic Flyboy character and a neon Graduate sign situated above the reception desk, which is a reimagined vintage apothecary cabinet.
In this area of the hotel, collaboration between the firms was integral. Stonehill Taylor, which recently took part in a panel discussion about the new era of lifestyle, ensured that the design of the ceiling connected the interior space to the exterior as part of the full campus experience. The ceiling’s unique trapezoidal wedge shape points upward towards the East River and Manhattan and aligns with the exterior soffit and façade planes to convey the sense of a mass floating above the ground. Unobstructed by lighting, the ceiling is reflectively lit by a fixture along the space’s perimeter. Three-quarters of the wall are glass windows and when paired with hard floors, the acoustics of the space proved challenging. Therefore, the architecture firm employed materials that would both soften the soundscape and accommodate the ceiling’s complex, three-dimensional shape. The wall opposite the floor-to- ceiling windows features 5,000 square feet of shelving with uplighting built into it that bounces off the ceiling above and surfaces below.
Nods to the island’s storied history can be seen through the corridor behind the front desk, which features a gallery of black and white photographs of the Roosevelt family. The spacious lobby is lined with 5,000 linear feet of textbooks and floor-to-ceiling windows to create a bright and airy space warmed up with Persian-inspired rugs, mid-century light fixtures and pops of Cornell Big Red hues throughout. The lobby is also home to the hotel’s full-service, all-day restaurant with a statement wraparound bar anchoring the space and a variety of inviting lounge seating.
The 224 guestrooms and suites include a Presidential Suite spanning more than 1,100 square feet. Contrasting the modern architecture with warm design details, the guest rooms offer a familiar, residential experience paired with unrivalled views of the East River and Manhattan skyline.
The décor plays with technology throughout the ages as seen through lamps with a Morse code of the Cornell fight song on the base, a neon light fixture inspired by a science project from a Cornell alum, floating glass desks and integrated audiovisual devices. Local elements and nods to Roosevelt Island are also incorporated throughout the guestrooms.
Design highlights include benches upholstered with oil painting-like tapestry of Dutch colonial life, custom art pieces created by Matt Buchholz and Brooklyn-based artist Ashley Cunningham and a thoughtfully curated gallery wall showcasing unique pieces including portraits of prominent figures in the island’s history such as Nellie Bly and Mae West.
Los Angeles-based hospitality team and New York City natives, Med Abrous and Marc Rose of Call Mom are the exclusive food and beverage partners at Graduate Roosevelt Island, marking the duo’s homecoming and their third collaboration with Graduate Hotels, which also includes Graduate Seattle and Graduate Nashville. The hotel includes the full-service restaurant, Anything At All, on the ground level; The Panorama Room, an extraordinary indoor-outdoor rooftop bar and lounge with unobstructed, sweeping views of the city; and, more than 3,000 square feet of onsite flexible meeting space all conceived and operated by Abrous and Rose.
Abrous and Rose have tapped a talented, female-led team including Executive Chef Ja’Toria Harper, Pastry Chef Lindsey Verardo and Beverage Director Estelle Bossy to oversee all food and beverage programs. Opening later in June, Anything At All will serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Rooted in a vegetable-forward, farm-first approach to contemporary comfort food, the light-drenched indoor-outdoor space features a sustainable synergy between the kitchen and the bar whose playful, creative frozen drinks and seasonal spritzes will take centre stage at brunch.
Situated atop the hotel, The Panorama Room, is the stunning 168-seat rooftop bar and lounge designed by James Beard Foundation Award-winning design firm, Parts and Labor Design. Opening in July 2021, the crown jewel of the property will evoke a sense of cinematic drama inspired by futurism creating a true destination for fashion-forward elegance in an intimate space all set against unobstructed city views.
The hotel’s third floor features a variety of distinct multi-use meeting and event spaces set against clear skyline views, offering the perfect venue for every occasion from weddings to off-site corporate meetings. This summer, Graduate Hotels has transformed its ballroom into a space for collaboration inspired by the iconic film BIG. Known as “The Loft” at Graduate Roosevelt Island, this pop culture moment creates an opportunity for families, local businesses and private groups to catch up on lost time in a space that sparks creative energy and taps into the power of nostalgia.
What makes this project that much more impressive is its sustainability initiative. The hotel furthers the campus’ ongoing commitment to sustainability through its LEED-rated architecture and the use of highly efficient materials and energy saving systems throughout the property. Graduate Roosevelt Island’s many sustainability initiatives include the LEED-certified architecture, use of recyclable materials, highly efficient heating, cooling and LED lighting systems, reduced water consumption, waste reclamation programs, healthy indoor air quality and more. The food and beverage operators are equally committed to creating environmentally conscious restaurant operations and culinary programs including: composting food scraps, recycling programs for restaurant waste, no single-use plastic products, minimising food waste and purchasing sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients and products.
Main image credit: Steve Freihorn