riverwalk patio

Illuminating Vision with Lighting Design

Published by Scott Oldner on Jan. 11, 2024, 3:37 p.m.

The Canopy by Hilton Case Study


Canopy by Hilton is a modern boutique hotel that architecturally tailors to the local environment and prioritizes guest experience. Canopy provides a local flair to travelers (and their pets!) at 25 locations, and in 2021 they opened their doors to a stunning spot on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

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The Challenge

Oldner Lighting was tasked with creating a luxury atmosphere on the world-renowned San Antonio Riverwalk. The brand—and location—called for high-end features while remaining on budget.

So how could Oldner Lighting help Canopy by Hilton create a 5-star experience for guests on a 4-star hotel budget?

The Insight

The site location was fertile ground for creativity that could meld rich history and sleek, modern design. Oldner Lighting wanted to weave the building into the city's fabric with its Riverwalk-level limestone and original cistern located in the hotel's restaurant—adding to the existing character and giving it new flair. Oldner drew a lot of inspiration from the Riverwalk's string-lit trees and wanted to carry that through the building exterior to create the illusion of embers floating toward the sky. Striking the balance between crisp clean lines and that laid-back San Antonio feel was key. Imagine mixing a starched French white collar with sugar skull cuff links and torn jeans with patent pointy-toe cowboy boots—classic with a southern edge.

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The Goals

  • To create a luxurious yet relaxed environment for guests with an exterior that fit the context of the city
  • Provide eye-catching, unique lighting to Canopy by Hilton, located on the high-traffic San Antonio Riverwalk
  • Emphasize architectural features and stonework local to the area while also complementing them with unexpected details

The Process

When the Oldner team began consulting with the client, the vision was clear—a modern approach to classic South Texas architecture. In collaborating with the talented interior designers of Mark Zeff Designs, design architect Lake|Flato, and Gensler as architect of record, everyone was collectively inspired by the rich culture of San Antonio and the one-of-a-kind draw of a boutique hotel. So began the easiest part of the lighting design process—complementing the interior design and architecture. However, navigating challenges also played a factor as a few lighting design features were more difficult to implement due to installation or cost. For example, the color-changing dots on the building's exterior were costly and challenging to install, but in a relentless pursuit of perfection, we ideated affordable iterations for mounting and wiring to achieve the elevated look.

Another budgetary dilemma? Dimming controls for guest room corridors are rarely used in 4-star hotels due to the cost and the appropriate lumen output of fixtures is chosen for the correct ambiance. In the elevator vestibule on each floor the artwork was a little bit on the bright side. Ownership requested options to tone down the brightness of the art. Solutions included re-circuiting the art lights and installing a dimmer or lowering the light level at the fixture by the use of neutral density filters. The latter was chosen for it’s lower implementation cost after the opening of the hotel.

The decorative fixtures also posed a challenge as they kept tripping the breaker since the contractor installed the incandescent lamps instead of the LED and the dimming module that they were connected to had too much wattage on it (not the module that they were supposed to be connected to by the plans). The solution was to use a LED lamp with the right color and dimming performance (as well as aesthetic since they are exposed lamp fixtures.)

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The Results

A stunning Canopy by Hilton shines alongside the Riverwalk's edge as a luxe gem with southern swagger. Guests are greeted with perfectly illuminated art, gorgeous lighting in unexpected places, and a fresh, boutique hotel atmosphere. Many aspects of both interior and exterior lighting set the Canopy apart and highlight its exquisite architecture that not only invites guests in but creates an environment. We were able to create what our client was looking for and successfully made cost reductions and pivots to capture unique lighting for a beautiful property.

This project is proof that when extraordinary talent comes together and collaborates, we can create something beautiful and on-budget.

riverwalk patio

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