Conde Nast Traveler interviewed Steve Wilson, co-founder of the 21c Hotel chain that turns hotels in smaller cities into art venues:
How did you come up with the 21c concept?
Steve Wilson: The Guggenheim Bilbao was quite an inspiration—seeing how art could transform a community. When we decided to do the first hotel, we hired Deborah Berke because she understood we wanted to design for art. The lobby looks like a museum; the lighting and walls are designed to change the personality of the room. A lot of people didn’t think it was going to work in Louisville. They thought contemporary art wasn’t necessarily popular [there]. I joke sometimes that it’s easier to break the rules when you don’t know what the rules are. We didn’t know how to run a hotel or a museum, but we somehow ended up mashing those two worlds together. It worked.
In a way, there’s no escape from the art in your hotels.
SW: That’s right; you got it…. I like when people go to 21c to spend the night, have dinner, or hold a meeting. They’re always confronted with something unexpected. Sometimes they don’t like it—a lot of our work is unsettling—but they often do.
Move Over, Ace Hotels: 21c Is The New Artsy ‘It’ Spot (Condé Nast Traveler)