The New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) is set to present a retrospective exhibition of the work of Neal Prince, an American architect and interior designer who played an essential role in creating a new type of luxury hotel. The show will be open March 8 – April 26 in New York City.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Prince designed the interiors of more than 135 InterContinental hotels—one of the most revered brands of luxury hotels, with hundreds of locations in more than 60 countries worldwide.
This exhibition will explore Prince’s influence and his strong, consistent vision that led to the designs of some of the finest international hotels of all time. The focus will be on eight hotel interiors: the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel in Beirut, Lebanon (1961); Frankfurt InterContinental Hotel, Germany (1963); InterContinental Genève Hotel, Switzerland (1964); Siam InterContinental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand (1966); InterContinental Resort Tahiti, French Polynesia (1968); InterContinental Barclay Hotel in New York City (1978); May Fair InterContinental in London (1982); and Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. (1986).
From 1961 – 1985, Prince was the founder and director of the Department of Interior Design at Pan American World Airways, the company that founded InterContinental Hotels. As air flight technology improved, Pan-Am flew to destinations such as Indonesia, the Ivory Coast, Singapore, Jordan, Pakistan, Zambia, and countries throughout Europe. With each new destination, Pan Am built a new InterContinental hotel and turned to Prince and his departmental staff, comprised of Charles Alvey and Richard Simpson, to create a look and style that reflected the local culture but was still comfortable to Western travelers.
“We wanted our hotels to reflect the native culture regardless of which country that hotel was located in,” said Prince. “Each hotel’s native designs became our trademark and branding, which allowed Inter-Continental Hotels to become a leading international hotel network.”
Prince’s first project for InterContinental Hotel was the Phoenicia—he designed the famous mosaic patterns for the terrace and the oval swimming pool as well as the popular bar beneath it, where a glass wall provided a view of the pool with mermaids set against a rippling background of the mosaic tile. The pool was a favorite gathering place for Pan-Am crew members, until civil strife shut down the hotel in 1976.
Prince ended his career at Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation with the refurbishment of the Willard InterContinental Hotel. Two blocks east of the White House, the historic luxury hotel is informally regarded as the “residence of the presidents” with every president since Franklin Pierce having slept in or attended an event at the luxury Beaux-Arts style hotel at least once.
From Corsicana, Texas and armed with degrees in Architecture and Architectural Engineering from Rice University, Prince’s influence and understanding of branding techniques was visible in hotel murals and matchbooks, sofas and stir sticks, and banquet rooms and bedspreads. Prince and his departmental staff worked with local artisans; graphic, product, lighting, and textile designers; as well as architects to create a new type of luxury hotel.
“Designing the Luxury Hotel: Neal Prince and the Inter-Continental Brand” will be open from March 8 – April 26, 2013 at the New York School of Interior Design Gallery, 161 East 69th Street, NYC. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.