The Detroit Foundation Hotel,
with Architectural Lighting Design
by Illuminart, Receives Prestigious
Gold Key Award for Excellence
in Hospitality Design

Travel media company Lonely Planet recently named the City of Detroit as the #2 World’s Top Travel Destinations for 2018 (Detroit ranked No. 2…,, 2017) – referring to Detroit as the, “American comeback city”. The recently completed $28-million Detroit Foundation Hotel is no exception to Detroit’s celebrated resurgence.

This October, the Detroit Foundation Hotel was named the ‘2017 Best Upscale Hotel in the 37th Annual Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design’. The program is touted as the ‘industry’s oldest and most prestigious awards program’ sponsored by Boutique Design magazine. (2017 Gold Key Finalist…,, 2017)

In 2016, hotel developers Auparium Hotel Group and Walter Cohen envisioned the conversion of the vacant historic Detroit Fire Department Headquarters building into an independent boutique hotel that would represent all things Detroit. The hotel features design touches unique to Detroit including installations from local artists, products for purchase made by local businesses and features like local custom-made wallpaper adorned with photographs of iconic Detroit architecture captured in the midst of its post-industrial decay. As the various floors are explored, architectural salvage pieces such as repurposed wood for headboards, existing marble detailing, massive exposed brick structural elements and air shafts remind visitors of Detroit’s industrial past.

In order to fulfill the developer’s vision, lighting needed to be carefully integrated into the various historical and present-day references to Detroit. Although there were multiple elements strategically incorporated into the design, according to Robert White, IALD, IES, LC, Director of Illuminart and lighting design principal on the project, the intent of lighting served one major purpose. “The lighting for the hotel, restaurant and bar was designed to augment and highlight features, not to compete with them.”

Award-winning international lighting design firm, Illuminart accomplished this by using the latest in lighting and controls technology for both architectural and decorative lighting. This fostered the reuse of existing historical lighting as well as a seamless integration of new lighting to highlight important and unique architectural details of an amazing building. Therefore, reiterating the importance of lighting as an integral part of celebrating, and in preserving history, while simultaneously unifying modern design elements.

For the hotel rooms, Illuminart created a low-key, relaxed environment through careful use of decorative lighting and limited recessed downlighting with a goal of not distracting guests from city views of the Detroit skyline, river and the iconic adjacent Cobo Center, as well as wider views beyond.

In addition to the aesthetic requirements of the project, careful consideration of the project’s budget, ease of maintenance and the limited availability of lighting gear, made lighting design implementation uniquely challenging, yet equally rewarding.

“The Detroit Foundation Hotel is a perfect example of how an important historical building, having outlived its designed purpose, can be reborn with thoughtful and focused re-design. Architectural, interior design, lighting design, engineering, ownership, and construction teams worked together to deliver a successful rebirth of an amazing structure on a very important corner of Detroit,” White said.

“This building has a real story that is revealed and not fabricated, much like the City itself.”

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