Since its inception, the hospitality industry has been built on catering to guests’ needs and preferences. But today, solely meeting basic consumer requirements no longer fits the bill. Like many industries, the hospitality sector is striving to return to pre-pandemic levels as business and leisure travel rebound. Nevertheless, such a downturn has presented hospitality architects and designers with a unique opportunity to positively change the hospitality industry’s outlook.
As one of the most human-intensive industries, the hospitality industry focuses on what matters most — connecting people with place, with human interaction at the core. So, how can hospitality architects and designers positively impact the industry and deliver an unparalleled experience that consumers are willing to invest in?
Signia by Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta’s largest downtown, ground-up hotel development project in four decades, is redefining hospitality innovation. A collaboration between Gensler and Hilton, Signia by Hilton Atlanta is more than just a luxury hotel. Situated in Atlanta’s burgeoning western edge neighborhood, the 40-floor, 976-room hotel also acts as a bridge between historic neighborhoods and the growing Westside district. The hotel pays homage to Atlanta’s rich history while embracing its dynamic present and ever-evolving landscape.
Setting the Blueprint: Hilton’s New Masterpiece
Conveniently located at 159 Northside Dr. NW, Signia not only offers a touch of opulence but also plays a vital role in the ongoing expanding Westside district. As the area undergoes rapid growth with numerous projects and expansion westward toward the city’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), this iconic GWCCA and Hilton establishment becomes a beacon of progress and prosperity that exerts a positive influence on the surrounding areas. Hilton’s commitment to the district solidifies its dedication to the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Championship Campus as a premier destination for conventions, sports, and entertainment.
Owned by the GWCCA — a state agency charged with generating economic benefits for and enhancing the quality of life for Georgia and Atlanta citizens — the new hotel is a central connection point to the existing GWCCA campus. What initially started as a solitary exhibition hall has evolved into a campus that features a 22-acre Centennial Olympic Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the International Plaza, multiple parking decks, the College Football Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement Discovery Center, the convention center, and now, the Signia hotel.
Effortlessly integrated with the 3.9 million-square-foot convention center, this hotel is designed to provide seamless accommodation for conference attendees. Nestled into the inner corner between two GWCC halls, Signia offers one of the rare direct connections from a convention center hotel to the convention center, ensuring convenience for conference guests.
The first five hotel floors house a myriad of amenities, including high-end restaurants, a spa, a pool terrace, fitness center, and the exclusive Club Signia. The hotel’s large, flexible meeting spaces provide ample room for entertaining, private dinners, corporate functions, and more. Covering over 100,000 square feet, the meeting and event spaces are strategically organized into three zones: a social ballroom, a grand ballroom, and a conference center. The amenities serve as a dynamic hub for both convention-goers and those partaking in the diverse activities of the surrounding campus.
A Convener of Southern Hospitality
The Signia project unfolded with a distinctive vision — to seamlessly weave the notion of Southern hospitality into its fabric. Gensler’s design team collaborated with The Drew Company and GWCCA to integrate the Southern spirit into every facet of the design, creating an urban retreat that pays homage to tradition while embracing the future.
The journey begins with a grand entrance, reminiscent of the Southern vernacular. The long driveway procession beckons guests toward the entrance. Evoking the spirit of a wraparound porch, the Porte Cochere’s warm wood ceiling gracefully extends into the main lobby. Here, sleek double-height glass walls, flanked by a garden terrace lawn inspired by traditional Southern homes, welcome guests into an urban oasis that harmonizes tradition with modernity.
On the first floor, a vibrant tapestry of communal and lounge spaces echoes the Southern tradition of welcoming guests with open hearts and good food. As day turns to night, the space transforms into a dynamic gathering space. Traditional elements and rocking chairs are reimagined, blending the charm of yesteryear with a modern Southern ethos. The terrace lounge, adorned with wisteria-draped trellises and layered lighting, mirrors the charm of Southern gardens. Dark woods and marble tones create a sophisticated ambiance.
The reception area radiates modern minimalism, balancing warmth with an open, inviting aura. Curved structures envelop the space, creating an inviting “front porch” experience. Balconies overlooking the lobby echo traditional Southern fences, and a grand feature wall reflects both the space and the introspection encouraged by the hotel.
Open lobbies and pre-function spaces echo the grandeur of classic Southern homes. Ceiling fans create a breezy atmosphere, reminiscent of Southern summers, while vitrines mirror the shuttered windows of traditional homes. Further activating the building’s podium, the hotel’s public spaces wrap and face outward toward adjacent terraces, lawns, and campus venues.
Downtown as a Destination: Signia and the GWCC Campus
Signia is set to play a central role in helping the GWCC campus generate a staggering $2 billion in economic impact, acting as an economic engine for growth and prosperity within the city. The hotel aims to become a catalyst for additional growth by creating over 700 new jobs and fostering diversity by collaborating with local talent pools, universities, and nonprofits.
Signia positions itself as a beacon, inviting Atlantans and visitors to engage with the city’s rich history and progressive spirit. In addition to its economic impact, Signia stands as a testament to the transformative power of design in enhancing cities. The hotel’s interior design reflects the city’s diverse landscape. A recent Gensler City Pulse survey emphasized the importance of design in shaping positive experiences in central business districts. Signia’s thoughtfully crafted public spaces and architectural design contribute to making Atlanta a more enjoyable place to live, work, and visit.
The hospitality industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, with guests prioritizing experiences over material possessions. Hotels, including Signia, recognize and embrace this shift by offering immersive experiences within and beyond their properties. Gensler’s Hospitality Experience Survey 2023 highlights the importance guests place on the surrounding neighborhood as an extension of the hotel experience. Signia transcends the conventional perception of hotels, emerging as a space that embraces the aspirations and desires of its guests, and contributes to the dynamic evolution of Atlanta’s hospitality scene.
This Southern magnet will become a new destination for upscale hospitality, imaginative dining, and world-class events. With the legendary Georgia World Congress Center as its backdrop, guests and visitors can experience the soul of Atlanta in a whole new way.
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