Skyfold Classic 51™ converts floor area from a service corridor into functional space for this ultramodern, high-tech Vancouver Hotel. 




February 2012

Design challenge: Merging two ballrooms

Capturing back-of-house hotel space for front-of-house use is no easy feat. Yet that's what a last-minute retrofit achieved in a clever reworking of the award-winning design of Fairmont Pacific Rim, a five-star property featuring ultramodern interiors. A brainstorming session for increasing floor area and flexibility of the function rooms led to the ingenious expansion opportunity, opening up the walls to a shared service corridor and kitchen to expand the hotel's popular ballrooms.

Two ballrooms - one large and one small- were originally separated by the corridor's fixed walls. The new layout called for demolishing the walls to make it one very large space. The Skyfold Classic 51 was installed at the midpoint of the former corridor. In this way, Fairmont Pacific Rim gained the flexibility of having a supersized ballroom with the wall up – or, with the partition deployed, two back-to-back function spaces, each now about 3.5 feet wider.

The hotel solution brings an elegant, modern visual appeal and new ways to divide the ballroom. Even better, the hotel can now market a very large ballroom, something they didn’t have before. And instead of two traditional operable walls back-to-back, which the hotel is using in other locations, it’s just a single, 12-inch-thick Skyfold powerlift partition that meets and exceeds the required level of acoustical performance.


To accomplish the task, the team selected a Skyfold Classic 51™ acoustical powerlift partitioning system to maximize interior flexibility while blending harmoniously with its modern design and detailing. “They decided they could eliminate that service corridor and still have sufficient back-of-house functionality,” says Jim Edgecombe, the Skyfold dealer for Vancouver, B.C. “The 56-foot-long partition retracts into the ceiling in just under three minutes.”

So when the 16-foot-tall Skyfold partition is closed, the Fairmont Pacific Rim has two attractive rooms (one large, one small) with full acoustical separation and privacy behind sleek matching wallcovering – and no visual evidence that it’s an operable wall, Edgecombe adds.

According to hotel engineers and managers, the Skyfold Classic 51 requires little maintenance and is easier to operate than other retracting walls. The staff has been thrilled with the operation, flexibility and sound performance that the powerlift partition system delivers.

Skyfold’s precision engineering, finish options and fast, reliable operation also matched the transformative ideas brought to the 800,000-square-foot waterfront hotel by real estate developer Westbank Projects Corp. and their design team, led by architect James KM Cheng Architects and interior architect B+H CHIL Design. The concept positioned Fairmont Pacific Rim as “the first contemporary Fairmont Hotel in Canada,” according to Claudia Leccacorvi, a project designer with B+H CHIL Design. New standards for the property’s modern décor included a standard walnut wood and a signature statuario marble, as well as custom light fixtures and vinyl wallcovering.

The Skyfold powerlift partition – another new Fairmont standard – was added later with matching surfaces. Sleek and carefully detailed, the Skyfold powerlift partition has no exposed tracks, and its reveals are slender and consistent – an ideal complement to the hotelier’s vision of a sophisticated, cosmopolitan image.


The Skyfold Classic 51™ partition boosts the flexibility of the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s 15,000 square feet of versatile function space in ways unlike standard retractable walls. “It’s a precision-engineered, resilient partition designed for a highly controlled acoustical environment,” says Steve Miller, Skyfold’s vice president of sales and marketing. “These properties are very different from conventional retracting walls; the Classic is literally two steel walls nearly 12 inches apart with an air chamber and acoustical panels between them.”

In addition, the Skyfold partition can accommodate a variety of finishes as specified by the designers. When it’s not needed, the wall system retracts fully into a ceiling pocket in minutes, blending with the ceiling plane – a visually clean, minimal look that attracted the hotel project team. Another benefit is the simple, quiet operation of the partition: The 16-foot-tall partition fully retracts or deploys in about three minutes; a 9-foot-tall Skyfold model takes about 60 seconds.

In business terms, the new ballroom layout offers more rentable square footage and more room configurations – with none of the lost space and obstacles common with storing side-stack retractable walls. The hotel can drop the partition when needed – for example to cater two luncheons, back to back – and then raise the partition in minutes to quickly set an evening gala.

With these advantages, the hotel operator elected to make Skyfold a standard for all its properties, says Miller, gaining the rare honor of “preferred supplier status” for the Fairmont Hotels brand.

to detail is what made Fairmont Pacific Rim the No. 5 top Canadian hotel in 2012 and a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice. The Interior Designers Institute of British Columbia gave it a Silver “Award of Excellence,” and Condé Nast readers voted it the only hotel in Vancouver for its 2012 Gold List. Contributing to its success is a powerlift partition that looks like it belongs – and disappears in a snap when needed.

With the Skyfold Classic 51 in place, the renovated Fairmont Pacific Rim enjoys its ease of operation and perfect acoustics every day. The hotel’s executives are planning to use the Skyfold system more as they grow, gaining the hotel more space and adaptability without added work – a prospect that pleases the banquets director and meeting planners.