Art & Design

Award-Winning Architect Lauren Rottet on the Hotel World’s Art Obsession

Art & Design

Award-Winning Architect Lauren Rottet on the Hotel World’s Art Obsession


Lauren Rottet is difficult to get a hold of. But I guess we would be too, if we owned an internationally renowned design firm with offices in New York, Houston, L.A., San Francisco and Shanghai. As head of the eponymous Rottet Studio, the award-winning interior architect has overseen the design of some of the world’s most iconic hotels, among them: The Surrey in New York, The St. Regis Aspen, and the Presidential Bungalows at The Beverly Hills Hotel. With her most recent project, the revamped James Royal Palm in South Beach, Rottet fully embraced the growing notion of the hotel as gallery. Hanging art in hotels is nothing new, but with The James Royal Palm, Rottet made a strong effort to curate a collection that uniquely reflects Miami’s explosive art scene. Here, Rottet discusses her many inspirations behind the James Royal Palm’s unique collection, and takes us inside her personal, Spoiler alert: It’s bigger than yours.

When designing the Royal Palm’s new interior, how important was it for you to maintain South Beach’s classic aesthetic while incorporating more modern sensibilities?
Maintaining the history of The Royal Palm was a crucial aspect to the design aesthetic for what was to become The James Royal Palm. South Beach has a rich, eclectic history both culturally and through architecture, so staying true to the original art deco style while incorporating modern design elements was very important. We were able to salvage many elements that were original to the hotel, including the compass rose on the floor of the lobby and the porthole windows in the lobby lounge.

Why do you think hotels have decided to take their artistic endeavors more seriously over the years? 
They’ve come to realize the importance of the guest experience. Every hotel is searching for the next great feature that will lure in guests and as the art world continues to grow, so does the interest and necessity for hotels to incorporate unique artwork.

How is the way we interact with art in a hotel different from the way we interact with art in a gallery or museum?
The person buying a ticket or entering an art exhibit intends to view art and is hoping to be moved or inspired by it in some way. However, the guest of a hotel interacts with art much differently in the sense that it is an unexpected but pleasant surprise that promotes the vibe, culture and theme of their surrounding environment.

What was it about the works of Alex Prager and Gavin Perry specifically, that made you think they would be a good fit with the James?
The art collection at The James Royal Palm is centered on the idea of many different cultures coming together in one place, which is what we tried to express through each piece. It is not very much about each piece individually as it is every piece as a whole through many different mediums. Gavin Perry is a well-known and loved Miami artist who works in resin. His work is very colorful and vibrant and so appropriate for the James Club lobby. Alex Prager is a fashion and art photographer and I Loved “Cindy” with her dear in the headlights look standing in front of a car like. “Wow, what happened last night?” Both reflect two cultures of Miami and South Beach in general—art and fashion.

Was it a mandate of yours to show the works of lesser-known, local artists? 
It was not mandatory by any means, but it was important that the collection feature local artists. We had a tight budget for art as most hotels do, but I wanted to make sure we had “real” art and art that related to the local culture. We met with gallery owners and selected some local artists through them, and we also reached out to the local art schools and researched young graduating artists. It was a pleasure to work with them and the young artists were thrilled to have their work selected.

How would you describe the emerging art scene in Miami, and specifically in South Beach?
An amazing diverse culture of people from all over the world coming together to have fun, soak up sun, and exercise by day and socialize by night. “An Ocean Apart” addresses this notion that people are all really one in the same. They may just be an ocean apart, but they come together in Miami through common interests.

Does Miami ever have the potential of overtaking New York as the centre of the U.S. art world?
It’s headed in the right direction, but the cultures are so different from one another that it would be doubtful one would “take over” the other.

What is it about an artwork that gets you really excited?
Lately I have been concentrating on works that the artists make more for themselves than something intended to sell. Some of my favorites are the two gouaches by Sol Lewitt. He made one per morning after a swim I’ve been told, and they were intended to release the tensions and allow him to concentrate on the more tedious work. The gouaches are so expressive. Same with the Matthias Weischer drawings – so spontaneous and lovely.

What’s your favorite hotel in the world and why?
Villa de Este. Not so much for the design but for the authenticity of place, the pool floating in Lake Como, and the memories of my son and daughter there in June on their first trip to Europe.

 What do you like and dislike most about Miami Art Basel?
I like that you can see so many diverse artists and galleries all at once.  My friends and I like to see if we can spot the “in theme” of the year. One year it was Circus, several years it’s been skulls. Once it was the Star of David. We’ll see what it is next year. I find it fascinating to see so much art from all over the world and you start to see so many things in common that are expressive of what is current in world society – it is informative on so many levels.

Describe your dream project?
I used to say when designing an office building that I wanted the owner to agree to let me design it so that every floor had some very high volume space in it. So the building would be more like an interlocking set of volumes of interesting space instead of one floor after another of 9′ high typical office space. I haven’t given up on this one! I have actually had a few dream projects and still do, and feel very lucky to have such wonderful clients and projects.