Wilson Ishihara Channels Beat Generation for Hotel Emblem Lobby

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The lobby of Hotel Emblem brandishes light pendants, abstract artwork, and books to create an atmosphere reflective of the famed Beat Generation movement. Photography by Garrett Rowland.

The lobby of Hotel Emblem brandishes light pendants, abstract artwork, and books to create an atmosphere reflective of the famed Beat Generation movement. Photography by Garrett Rowland.

The new lobby of the Hotel Emblem in San Francisco offers a thoughtful reflection of the Beat Generation’s unconventional style and free expression. Not to be confused with the Beatnik poets, the renowned art movement of the 1950s made a lasting impact on culture throughout the United States, especially San Francisco, the city of its origin. Designers Mark Wilson and Yoko Ishihara, cofounders of Wilson Ishihara, infused the lobby with telling artwork and an eye-catching book installation, ensuring that revolutionary ideas from the movement permeate the 400-square-foot space.

The Wilson Ishihara team wanted to tell the authentic story of San Francisco’s relationship with the Beat Generation. The redesigned lobby—including a meeting area and bar lounge—maintains the original architecture of the structure built in 1907 while a 260-cubic-foot installation of stacked books behind the ‘writer’s desk’ registration table serves as a focal point. The design duo also wanted to establish a “place of dialogue,” Ishihara told Interior Design, resulting in the L-shaped bar, which anchors the space. “Transformation from day to night was a really important part of the design,” she adds. As a result, the lounge seating has the flexibility to function as a space to recharge during the day, or a hub for communal gatherings during the evening.

Excerpts from the 1957 trial against Allen Ginsberg for his poem “Howl” form a cross-sectional design on this communal table. Photography by Garrett Rowland.

To further highlight the creative prowess of the Beat Generation, the lobby features abstract paintings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. A wooden communal table even includes excerpts from the 1957 trial for which Ginsberg was accused of obscenity for his poem ‘Howl’—a fitting conversation piece in a lobby that celebrates the marks of a movement that got its start in San Francisco.

The focal point of the space, the bar, forms an L-shape to encourage communication among guests. Photography by Garrett Rowland.
Books, whiskey, and black and white photographs intermix, serving as a homage to the past. Photography by Garrett Rowland.
A 260-cubic-foot installation of layered books is displayed behind the ‘writer’s desk’ of solid walnut. Photography by Garrett Rowland.
Abstract paintings displayed in the bar lounge depict Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, highly influential writers of the Beat Generation movement. Photography by Garrett Rowland.
The book installation shelters a cozy nook for reading or lounging. Photography by Garrett Rowland.

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