The Ace’s Latest Hotel Concept? “A Blank Canvas”

The hospitality brand known for aggressively designed boutique hotels takes a gamble on simplicity, with its newest property, Sister City, opening later in 2018.

The Ace’s Latest Hotel Concept? “A Blank Canvas”
[Photo: courtesy Ace Hotel Group]

Atelier Ace, the creative team behind the Ace Hotel Group, has announced plans for its newest project: Sister City, a minimalist micro-hotel concept billed as “an experiment in essentialism,” slated to open this fall in New York City.

Finnish saunas, Japanese bento boxes, prehistoric rock-cut cliff dwellings, and John Cage’s 4’33”–the avant-garde composer’s famous score of silence–are all listed as lofty sources of inspo in the press release, and the hotel’s freshly launched Instagram account (@sistercitynyc) includes only a trio of very subtle gray-to-white gradients that nearly look completely blank.

It all nods to a pared-down, zen-like retreat, which isn’t what we’ve come to expect from the formula of popular Ace Hotel properties: highly crafted, reclaimed urban structures that offer a curated slice of city life for creatives and trendy see-and-be-seen clientele. Instead, Sister City reads as a very different prototype, made to attract the visitor who not only minds forgoing the clubby boutique-hotel experience and all of its little extras but might even prefer to.

[Photos: courtesy Ace Hotel Group]

We’ve certainly seen other boutique hospitality brands, including Standard Hotels, pivot to a changing marketplace, largely in response to peer-to-peer rental platform Airbnb’s growth as a major player in the field. According to the New York Times, Airbnb hosts in New York City alone generated nearly $1 billion of revenue in 2015. This past October, the tech giant also quietly announced partnership plans with a real estate developer in Florida to launch a 324-unit apartment complex “optimized for home sharing and flexible living.”


Sister City is located in a 55,000-square-foot building that was formerly home to the Bowery Salvation Army Chinatown Shelter (a sort of crushing irony in itself), with 200 rooms each measuring a modest 162 to 262 square feet, according to Curbed, and in place of a bustling lobby entrance, visitors will enter through a garden via historic Freeman Alley.

“Sister City is meant to act as a quiet respite from the noise of modern life,” says Kelly Sawdon, chief brand officer at Atelier Ace, “a place to recharge and begin again. Like John Cage’s 4’33”, we’re interested in creating a blank canvas that allows the humans who enter to animate the space directly.”

The teaser is catnip for the minimalist, and maybe anyone looking to actually get some rest and unplug from the noise of it all. Could Ace’s plan for a Japanese and Scandinavian-design inflected oasis signal a wane to last year’s trend for peak maximalism? At the very least, it’s a practical alternative to the common boutique-hotel trope, and the “essentialism” could feasibly appeal to more visitors outside of Ace Hotel’s usual circuit. “In terms of a demographic, we’re open to everyone that’s looking for a sanctuary in the city,” says Sawdon.

In any case, the luxury of quality peace and quiet is hard to come by these days, and at Sister City a low-key stay will come with a reported $259/night price tag.


Aileen Kwun is a writer based in New York City. She is the author of Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations on a Lifetime in Architecture and Design (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016).

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