The much-awaited first JW Marriott in Charlotte, North Carolina celebrated its grand opening on 18 August 2021. The upscale hotel is described as an urban luxury retreat, and boasts an impressive rooftop bar and pool, oyster bar, Spa by JW, an authentic restaurant, and luxurious well-appointed rooms. However, there is one standout feature that truly lights up the hotel – a strikingly exquisite chandelier adorns the welcome lobby.
This custom chandelier is monumental; the one-of-a-kind piece requires an impressive 26 cubic meters of hanging space and weighs over a tonne. Though it now hangs magnificently over a curving staircase in the hotel’s lobby area, it originated on the other side of the Atlantic! This lighting piece journeyed all the way from Cape Town, where it was created by leading South African-based lighting company, willowlamp to take its place as the talking point of this
willowlamp’s award-winning founder and Creative Director Adam Hoets was commissioned by Fabiola Troncoso, an Associate at Chicago’s Simeone Deary Design Group, on behalf of Marriott International in 2018. This was not Hoets’s first commission from the Simeone Deary Design Group – in 2014, the US design firm commissioned willowlamp’s Flower of Life chandeliers for the Hotel Allegro in Chicago.
For this most recent project, Hoets initially conceptualised two proposals for this monumental lighting piece, before settling on the way forward. Speaking of the final creative direction, he states: “The piece takes its inspiration from the original version of our very first Mandala design, which we did for Liwa Suites in the UAE, which was commissioned by Jan Lewis of Design Union. We have reconceptualised this piece and adapted it to suit the JW Marriot space.”
The resulting willowlamp has impressive distinguishing features, that were not without their challenges to achieve. It is like all other willowlamps in that it is composed of cascading tiers of metallic ball chain. But unlike its Mandala predecessor it is not circular, but rather takes the form of a long, narrow ellipse. It is irreverently described by Hoets as “sort of a ‘squashed’ Mandala!”. This vertical flattening presented all-new design challenges for Hoets. It was not just a matter of rotating the same shapes to form a circular pattern – the design required complex creative and technical solutions to bring it to life.
For example, “the chain lengths could not just be repeated shapes, they had to all be worked out to fit the stretched proportions, which was much more difficult.” To further complicate matters, the chandelier has upper and lower tiers of chain and was almost too big to manufacture on willowlamp’s premises!
The extreme size and weight of the piece also required a creative approach and several design innovations to ensure it could take its place in this flagship hotel. The extruded shapes made up of chain curtains had to be broken up into separate panels. Each panel was then individually mounted to a ceiling frame and fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. Hoets was forced to approach the design in this way because “it was the only way to install a piece such as this, because the combined weight is one tonne!”
Now successfully installed, Charlotte’s new JW Marriott basks in the glow of the piece’s 31 LED lamps. These hang on suspended cables that are hidden within each of the extruded geometrical chain curtain shapes. Which means that the newly opened upscale hotel is illuminated by an exquisite example of technical triumph and creative innovation.
For more information on willowlamp see www.willowlamp.com.