The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, completed in May 2014, occupies six contiguous 17th- and 18th-century grand houses on the Herengracht canal. Far from embodying the typical international hotel experience, the project is firmly rooted in the history and atmosphere of the Dutch capital. In adapting the buildings from residential use, London design firms G.A. Design and dpa lighting consultants took every measure to preserve and accentuate the existing fabric while providing a world-class, 21st century hospitality environment.
“The client, who is an old friend [that] we’ve worked with for over 20 years, had collected this group of lovely old canal houses,” says dpa partner Nick Hoggett. “He maintains a long-term interest in his properties. He cares about quality, and about design, and understands the value of lighting design. It’s a great relationship. Our role was really to just show off this wonderful architecture, but in an extremely discrete manner.”
To accomplish this, dpa worked with a combination of small contemporary fixtures and period and period-sympathetic decorative luminaires. Almost all of the sources in the project are LEDs, though in a couple of places—the restaurant and the lounge specifically—the designers employed 20W high-efficiency tungsten halogen lamps. In these areas, warm dimming was desired and the LEDs of four years ago, when the project was in the process of being designed, were not capable of achieving this effect.
“We all love the way tungsten warms up when you dim it,” says Hoggett. “There’s a human comfort when you dim light and get that candle glow. Even today the majority of LEDs don’t do that. You get this apparent grayness at low levels, and flatness, which none of us like. Manufacturers are producing warm dim products, but they’re relatively expensive and difficult to get into a project, budget-wise.”
Perhaps the most challenging spaces to light were the entry vestibule and grand staircase, which is topped by a domed skylight. Here, ornate period plasterwork adorns the walls and ceilings. The lighting designers worked with the local historical commission to select discrete 3W LED fixtures, small enough to be concealed among the elaborate moldings and painted the same off-white as the walls. The designers positioned the fixtures in such a way that from normal viewing angles they are, for the most part, completely concealed.
In order to accentuate the depth and texture of the architectural treatment in these areas, dpa layered the lighting scheme, employing varying beam angles and orientations. For instance, 6W 10 degree narrow-beam LED uplights placed in corners graze the friezes, casting shadows that bring out the texture of the plaster work. Meanwhile, 2.4W spotlights positioned on the cornice opposite cross-light the sculptures that the friezes frame, giving them a softer appearance without drastic shadows.
The team could not impinge upon the historic plasterwork at all, so cables had to be run along the molding as discretely as possible in order to get power to the luminaires. In the stairway, the designers were taxed, even more than usual, to find a way of incorporating emergency lighting without it becoming an eyesore. After exploring several options, dpa decided to place recessed, adjustable downlights in the corridors that open onto the vertical circulation and aimed the fixtures toward the stairs, thus fulfilling the emergency lighting requirements.
All of the hotel’s 93 rooms are unique, in terms of dimensions and architectural features, and so each was given a unique lighting treatment, though a similar material and finish palette was used throughout. “The guest rooms are a combination of a few 20W downlights to highlight the artwork, some beautiful decorative fixtures on the tables, and 20W floor-standing uplights—little 3-inch cubes placed in the corners,” says Hoggett. Some rooms have fireplaces, but since they have been decommissioned fixtures are placed in the fire surrounds and when illuminated recall the glow of an actual fire. Guest rooms on the hotel’s top floors (the hotel is five stories) have exposed timber trusses at the ceiling. Here, dpa placed 9.7W per meter linear LEDs atop the trusses that pick up the ancient beams and purlins. Other rooms have decorative parapets outside the windows, and dpa lit these to highlight the exterior brickwork and add another dimension to the experience of being in the room.
Another of the lighting design challenges was how to maintain a consistent lighting ambience within the hotel over the course of a year. “In Northern Europe there is massive deviation of light through [the] day and seasons,” says Hoggett. “It’s still light at 10 p.m. in summer, but it’s dark at 4 p.m. in the winter. We had to think about that as well.” To address the variability and fluctuation of illumination, dpa set up an intelligent control system that activates the lighting with various themes that respond to the drastically changing character of the daylight. The system is also equipped with a variety of nighttime pre-sets.
The combination of high-tech innovation and historical sensitivity at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam keeps the project firmly rooted in its elegant Old World context while placing it on par with the most advanced of international hotels. The lighting scheme by dpa focuses on accentuating the existing architecture and the interior design, paying close attention to how color interacts with the materials, and using a variety of beam angles and fixture orientations to create a rich, layered environment. “It’s about understated elegance and simplicity and quality without being over fussy,” says Hoggett. “It reflects Amsterdam. It could only be there.” •
Project: Waldorf Astoria, Amsterdam • Client: DvM b.v. • Architect: Oeverzaaijer Architecture and Urbanism, Amsterdam • Lighting Designer: dpa Lighting Consultants, Clifton, England • Interior Designer: G.A. Design International, London • Electrical Contractor: Hirdes Energie Techniek, Amsterdam • Lighting Controls/Programming: EmenEm Building Automation, Weert, Netherlands • Mechanical and Electrical Engineer: HE Adviseurs, Rotterdam, Netherlands • Cost Consultant: Interplan Bouwsupport, Sassenheim, Netherlands • Project Size: 12,000 square meters (129,166 square feet) • Project and Lighting Costs: Withheld • Code Compliance: Met local historical committee approvals for refurbishment of the project’s protected spaces • Watts per Square Foot: Not Available • Lighting Manufacturers: Aldabra; Atomis; Heathfield & Co.; Linea Light Group; Lucent Lighting; LightGraphix; Mike Stoane Lighting; Osram; Zumtobel