Design Works: Fairmont Pittsburgh at Three PNC Plaza
Jeff Henry in Hospitality, Hotels, San Francisco, Sustainability

Jeff Henry, Design Director at Gensler, sits down with Len Czarnecki, General Manager of the Fairmont Pittsburgh at Three PNC Plaza, to get his thoughts on the hotel’s groundbreaking design.

Q: The hotel was built at Three PNC Plaza, the first high-rise to be built in downtown Pittsburgh in the last 20 years. What does it mean to the Fairmont brand to be part of such an important catalyst for this rust-belt city’s resurgence?

A: Simply put, Fairmont operates world class hotels in world class cities. We are proud to be a small part of the resurgence of what is a truly world class city.

Q: The design theme for the hotel is “Art and Industry” – two elements that represent Pittsburgh’s rich history. Local steel and glass can be found in design details throughout the hotel, and in works by local artists such as the dramatic ballroom chandelier and glass pendant fixtures in the lobby and bar. Why was it so important for this hotel to create a locally authentic experience? What are your favorite elements of the design?

A: Fairmont’s approach to operating a hotel in a destination is to ‘be the destination.’  We do this by creating an atmosphere that celebrates its origin. What better way to do this in Pittsburgh than by blending the concepts of art and industry. The industrial past of Pittsburgh is self evident in the generous use of steel and glass. Perhaps one of my favorite design elements is the use of art that has all been produced by local artists and artisans. My favorite is the commissioned sculpture in the lobby that is a 15 foot tall sycamore; a common sight on our Pittsburgh streets. It is called “Given to Nurture” and is by Jonathan Shapiro. A natural beacon that draws people in to interact with it, its curves reflect the gentle bends of the three rivers that have been the lifeblood to Pittsburgh and will continue to be vital to the city's future.

Q: How are your customers responding? What is the “wow” moment, the first impression when they walk into the hotel?

A: Direct from the travelers: “A perfect night”, “Modern luxury”, “Nirvana”, “Fabulous. Generous. Friendly”, “Wonderful staff.”  For me, the “wow” moment is the entry into the hotel.  You are greeted with a grand sense of design and space, yet immediately feel at home.

Q: How does the overall design make your property more appealing to travelers and large events?

A: The sense of arrival and the luxurious guest room design are perhaps the biggest contributors to guest satisfaction from a design perspective.  The contemporary approach to design, with a focus on livability, make each space warm and inviting; residential in feel yet totally functional for today’s savvy travelers. Spacious guest rooms, floor to ceiling windows and large 4-fixture bathrooms all add to the feeling of luxury.

Q: What design elements/decisions positively impact the operation of the hotel?

A: There was an acute focus on making each space count.  From the use of thousands of pieces of cross-cut wood in the floor of Andys bar rather than a traditional hard wood floor to the use of floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, the design elements have made the operation of this hotel a joy to receive guests in.

Q: Fairmont Pittsburgh at Three PNC Plaza recently received the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED™ Gold Certification. How does this set you apart in the minds of your customers?

A: Many of today’s travelers appreciate, and even look for, hotels that ‘do the right thing.’  Our LEED certification reinforces an operating philosophy that has been a part of the Fairmont culture for over two decades. The Fairmont Green Partnership program was pioneered by Fairmont’s Canadian hotels in 1990 and has become a core value of the Fairmont brand.  The program focuses on improvements in waste management, sustainability, and energy and water conservation at Fairmont properties, and innovative community outreach programs involving local groups and partnerships.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: Dining options at Fairmont Pittsburgh include “Andys” bar – whose name celebrates two of Pittsburgh’s most famous Andrews: Carnegie and Warhol – and Habitat restaurant, which features world-inspired cuisine and locally-sourced ingredients.  Fairmont Pittsburgh is also committed to taking care of its guests in style with a luxurious 6,000-square-foot health club.

Jeff Henry is a Principal and Design Director for Retail Design and Store Planning Studio at Gensler’s San Francisco office. Jeff’s conceptual approach to design is enhanced by his attention to detail. His ability to provide creative solutions to complex design problems has made him a valued leader of many Gensler project teams. Contact him at
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