PRIDE: Writing A New Chapter In Castro District History


jon de la cruz headshot

Designer Jon de la Cruz viewed his work on the Hotel Castro as an opportunity to give back to the neighborhood. (Photo Courtesy Jon de la Cruz)

In celebration of Pride Month, Luxe taps design pros to discuss empowerment, inspiration and the importance of diversity.

San Francisco’s Castro District is home to many landmarks in the country’s LGBTQIA+ history. The recently opened Hotel Castro—the first hotel in the central part of the district in decades—celebrates the neighborhood’s pedigree by honoring the location’s past and place. For designer Jon de la Cruz, who worked on the property with architect Cass Calder Smith, the project was personal. Here, Cruz shares more about the process and what it means to design with diversity in mind.

What was your goal when designing the hotel?

We were charged with designing a building that remembers where we came from and how we got here without it feeling like a museum. Throughout, we added special touches that reference place. For example, when we found a trove of great vintage neighborhood photos at a flea market, we combined them with images from the archive at the San Francisco Public Library to create mosaics depicting LGBTQ heroes—everyone from Harvey Milk to Sylvia Rivera to David Bowie.

Talk to us about the interiors. 

We wanted the interiors to have a modern, collected feeling. I imagined that a visit to the hotel would feel a bit like visiting your cool, gay uncle in the 1970s. There’s that feeling of a ’70s apartment where a scarf is draped over a lamp and some of the furnishings are from World Market or a vintage shop—but we’ve elevated it.

What are other subtle ways you referenced LGBTQIA+ culture in the hotel’s design?

We used the rainbow colors of the Pride flag in the color palette. And, in something like a pun, there is literally nothing straight in the hotel. Everything is slightly off center and a bit skewed.

What did working on this project mean to you?

I grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, and when I went to art school and right after I lived and worked in the Castro. I spent many formative years in the neighborhood, and I wanted to give back to it. I felt like I owed something to the community that helped make me who I am.

What words of advice would you give to younger members of the LGBTQIA+ community in this industry?

Be open, be eclectic, and travel as much as you can. Traveling allows you to experience the diversity and texture of life, so my advice is travel, travel, travel.

How can you bring diversity to design?

The best way to incorporate diversity in design is to experience it firsthand. It goes back to traveling and obtaining a global perspective. That way, when creating a project, you bring an opinion informed by world travel.

jon de la cruz hotel castro bedroom with city view

De la Cruz worked to give the hotel interiors a modern, collected feel. (Photo: Jose Manuel Alorda)

jon de la cruz hotel castro bedroom

Mosaics of notable LGBTQIA+ members and allies fill the rooms of the hotel. (Photo: Jose Manuel Alorda)