Courtesy AC Hotels, photo by Marcus Brooks
AC Hotels by Marriott recently opened at Mall of America, less than six months after opening its first Twin Cities location in downtown Minneapolis. (A third location is slated to open later this year near the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park.) The modern luxury hotel brand is well-established in Europe, thanks to its emphasis on design and accessible rates, and has been making an aggressive expansion into the U.S. market since 2015.
The Mall of America location features an array of museum-quality art, including a historical sculpture by Austrian artist Herbert Bayer, and original paintings by local artist Patrick Pryor, commissioned specifically for the hotel.
To help facilitate its west expansion, AC Hotels tapped British fashion photographer, filmmaker, and TV personality Nigel Barker as its global brand ambassador. His role is to contribute to the hotels’ design aesthetic, from providing his photography for exhibits within the hotels, to curating the offerings in their libraries and retail shops, to using his film chops to create ads for the brand.
I recently spoke to Barker over the phone about how he became AC Hotels’ brand ambassador, his contributions to the hotels, and his interest in design.
How did you get involved as AC Hotels’ global brand ambassador?
The idea of bringing a European brand to the U.S. ties to my own story. I’m someone who spends a lot of time at hotels, for better or for worse. The reality is I travel a lot, seven-odd months out of the year. Being something of a connoisseur of hotels comes with the territory when you spend so much time in them. When AC Hotels began their partnership with Marriott to bring the brand to the U.S., I was approached because they were looking for curators to help tell the brand’s story.
What makes AC Hotels stand out for you?
What I love about AC Hotels is the simplicity of its design. One of the things about business travel is, I work in fashion, I work in busy cities, Milan, Paris, London, and you’re constantly surrounded by noise, creativity, and action on the streets. So the last thing you want as a business person is to go to a hotel and be bombarded by more. You’re looking for a moment of calm, an oasis to recharge for your day, and that’s what AC set out to do. There’s no fuss—there’s exactly what you need in the room. It’s thoughtfully designed, from the height of the beds to the lighting, the small things you take for granted. Ultimately, great design is just that, so when it’s there, you don’t even see it.
Library and media salons at AC Hotels Mall of America
What can you tell me about your role with AC Hotels?
My contribution is to illustrate that story for them. I’ve worked with curating the library, which is really fun. There are books on everything from fashion to architecture to mixology. The library is an old-fashioned thing in a way, but I think being able to sit down in a library in a hotel is wonderful, especially in this day of the digital age. Additionally, we created a series of videos where I’m interviewing friends of mine who are tastemakers and innovators and influencers, everyone from fashion designers to creative directors at advertising agencies to actors and DJs, who are really entrepreneurs, to tell their story of what’s important to them when it comes to traveling. It was interesting because it wasn’t about AC specifically, but it was about their natural experience as people who travel all over the world, and what they look for in a hotel experience. Just by asking them these simple questions, what came back is they all spoke to the same story of why a hotel like AC was going to be successful. No matter who they were or what they did, they were all craving the calm and that blank canvas, that place to recharge and think, and an environment that was conducive to the creative process. That’s what AC offers.
What’s your interest in interior design?
I’ve always been interested in design. I actually have my own furniture collection called the NB1 collection, it’s sold at a company called Art Van. For me, collaborating with other artists or designers has been exciting, and interior design is an absolute skill. There’s an element of simplicity that works for everyone. With that being said, I have rooms in my home that are very bohemian and avant-garde and full of collectibles I’ve found all over the world on my travels. But I also have rooms in my house that are the opposite, like my bedroom, which is serene and calm and uncluttered and monochromatic.
What’s your take on AC Hotels’ decision to open a location at the Mall of America?
These types of placements are what makes AC brilliant. When you go to Vegas, the hotel is also like Vegas—it’s nonstop noise and energy. When you go someplace like that, perhaps that’s what you’re looking for. For me, I find the opposite is true. The AC Hotels are meant to be a blank canvas. They’re designed for business travelers who have a lot of their plate during the day. It’s to encourage the business traveler to relax and regenerate. Just being outside of the Mall of America, which is full of hustle and bustle, to have that retreat is wonderful.
To book a room at the AC Hotel Mall of America, visit marriott.com
The lounge at AC Hotels Mall of America
The lobby at AC Hotels Mall of America