In London's high-end Mayfair neighborhood, the Brutalist United States embassy, originally designed by Eero Saarinen, has been keeping watch over Grosvenor Square for 55 years. Diplomats will soon be exiting the building, however, as developers prepare for a hotel conversion by David Chipperfield Architects. The Architects Journal reports that Chipperfield bested Foster+Partners and U.S. firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) for the job. However, there is some uncertainty as to whether Chipperfield has actually been commissioned or not. A spokesman for Qatari Diar, the company that now owns the site, refused to confirm that Chipperfield won the competition, stating: "A range of options on the best use of this important site are currently being considered." Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment has secured the remaining 939 years on the Mayfair district building’s lease and will not be allowed to alter the embassy's design as it was awarded grade 2 listing status for its historical and architectural significance and its "dynamic facade" in 2009. According to the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the concrete building was the "first purpose-built US embassy in Europe." The building's "dynamic facades, well-detailed stonework and consistency of detail and the innovative application of the exposed concrete diagrid" led to its protected status, the DCMS added. Occupying 225,000 square feet, the embassy takes up the entire west side of Grosvenor Square and currently has, according to Bloomberg, around 750 staff. Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake has drawn up plans for the new U.S. embassy in Nine Elms, just south of the Thames, which is set to welcome occupants in 2017. The firm's winning design has been described by the Times as having a "moat" due to its semi-circular pond on one side. The new embassy resembles a crystalline cube and is surrounded by extensive public green spaces.
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Starwood Hotels has announced that it will open The Westin Hamburg next year in the much-anticipated Elbe Philharmonic complex. The 10-story, 205-bedroom hotel by architects Herzog & de Meuron will be housed within a glass-fronted, wave-shaped building that sits atop a historic warehouse on the banks of the river Elbe. Boasting a pointed, wave-shaped roof, the complex will also feature three concert halls, 45 private apartments and a more than 43,000 square foot, publicly accessible plaza offering 360-degree city views. A head-turning assimilation of old and new, the bottom half of the complex is a former warehouse known as Kaispecher A, designed by Werner Kallmorgen and built between 1963 and 1966 on the site of the original neo-Gothic Kaispecher. Architects Herzog & de Meuron gutted and renovated the warehouse specifically for the project. Meanwhile, the upper half of the complex is an all-glass expanse of 1,100 panes, each measuring 13–16 feet wide, with carefully placed projecting curves that give each window a fingerprint-like accent. The windows were shaped with high precision and marked with small basalt grey reflective dots that prevent the building from overheating in sunlight while creating a shimmering effect that ripples as it catches different reflections. Sandwiched between the conjunction of old and new, the aforementioned viewing plaza is set off by the contrast between the bottom half’s brickwork and the top half’s iridescent glass frontage. The hotel lobby, a café and access to the foyers of the new concert hall are also located there. At the heart of the complex is a world-class concert hall with 2,100 seats that rise up on interwoven tiers on all sides of the stage like vineyard terraces. Enter acoustics specialist Yasuhisa Toyota, who was commissioned to seal the concert hall in a material he developed known as White Skin, which also guarantees perfect acoustics. As an added precaution against sleep-deprived hotel guests, the entire concert hall is enclosed in two concrete shells. Floor and ceiling flow seamlessly into one another as if from a single skin made of 10,000 gypsum fiber panels composed of natural plaster and recycled paper. Accessing the warehouse is a journey unto itself: visitors mount a 269-foot escalator with a concrete arch, whose end cannot be seen. The glowing spherical tunnel, speckled with glass sequins that refract the light, envelops one completely. If you’re wondering about that seafaring roof, its pointy undulations consist of eight spherical, concavely bent sections merged together. It is sprinkled with 6,000 giant sequins that make it ripple and shine like the water surrounding it. Those raring to visit should bear in mind three important dates: the Westin Hamburg is due to open in October 2016, the public plaza in November 2016, while the Elbe Philharmonic will be inaugurated on January 11, 2017.
Scandalous no more: The Watergate Hotel post-$125 million renovation looks more classy and elegant than ever
As Washington, D.C.’s first “unapologetically luxurious” stomping ground for the rich and famous, The Watergate Hotel recently underwent a $125 million modernizing facelift. Inextricably connected with the Watergate scandal, the hotel has maintained its avant-garde design and curvaceous, classic elegance in a nod to its 1960s design by Italian architect Luigi Moretti. Moretti designed a series of curvilinear buildings made from reinforced concrete as a counterpoint to Washington's conformist neoclassical architecture. New York–based real estate developer Euro Capital Properties commissioned Ron Arad Architects to design the lobby, whisky bar, and restaurant, filling these spaces with custom-designed sculptural furnishings by the architect. “In its heyday, the Watergate Hotel was a playground for powerful people. My vision was to recreate that by celebrating [Luigi] Moretti’s original design and updating it with modern, luxurious details that guests and locals will value,” said Rakel Cohen, Vice President of Design & Development, Euro Capital Properties, in a statement. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby frame views of the Potomac River, with the graded black granite ceiling and floors creating a floating sensation akin to Moretti’s inspiration of a boat sailing on the Potomac. Pops of color complement the sculptural metalwork and showstopping chandeliers, while a wall of hand-patinated brass tubes draws the eye toward the Potomac. Avoiding straight lines altogether, the 46 foot-long brass reception desk recalls the building’s signature curves. Meanwhile, twisted columns made from mirror-polished stainless steel tubes create distorted reflections. On June 16, 1972, four men rented two rooms in the Watergate Hotel and dined on lobster at the hotel restaurant. That same evening, they broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters on the sixth floor of the Watergate office, triggering the scandal that caused Nixon to resign two years later. Arad admits that the Watergate scandal was an irresistible lure for him when asked to come on board. “Working within such a significant period piece, you can’t ignore the context, but at the same time you don’t want to mimic it. Instead, you want to create something complementary, but most importantly, something new,” Arad said in a statement. “We have tried to enhance Moretti’s original curves using our own, while at the same time influencing the anticipated flow of people through the spaces. To honor Moretti, we introduced a brilliant Italian fabricator to the project as a way of completing the cycle,” Arad continued, referencing Italian furniture designer Moroso, which manufactured most of the hotel's sculptural furnishings. The lobby of the 377-room hotel features a new double-height space carved out of the original building, with casual and fine dining concepts under a black polished plaster ceiling with eight custom-made spiral chandeliers. The fine dining restaurant is wrapped by a red, curving banquette and decked with bespoke Watergate Chairs designed by Arad for Watergate Hotel and manufactured by Moroso.
You can credit Chicago's recent boom in boutique hotels with revving up an historic 16-story building once home to the Chicago Motor Club, which rolled back onto the market in May as a Hampton Inn. As AN wrote at the project's inception, the design draws heavily on 68 East Wacker Place's history. Perhaps most notably, Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture retained a 29-foot mural by Chicago artist John Warner Norton that suggests cross-country driving routes from 1927. Mural restoration expert Dmitri Rybchenkov, of the Chicago firm Restoration Division, led those efforts. In addition to the mural, other details recall the building's original identity as a motorist's mecca. To wit, an original 1928 Ford Model A overlooks the lobby. Interior designers with Gettys One also worked to restore many of the art deco details originally included by architects Holabird & Root. Vacant for over a decade, the building was destined for demolition before developer John T. Murphy, president of Murphy Asset Management, cobbled together historic preservation tax credits and financing from the Hampton Inn hotel chain to revive the short yet handsome structure.
Via Kenny Kim Photography, take a look inside the renovated Chicago Motor Club building:
Lucrative gains from annual religious pilgrimage has the Saudi Ministry of Finance clamoring to build the world’s largest hotel in the desert of Mecca, featuring 10,000 guest rooms, four helipads, and 12 tightly clustered towers on a 10-story plinth. Crowned at its summit by one of the largest domes in the world, the $3.6 billion mega-hotel has five off-limits floors earmarked for Saudi royalty, 70 restaurants, and an entire multi-function commercial space at its base for a shopping mall, food courts, a bus station, conference center and a lavishly appointed ballroom. Construction conglomerate Dar Al-Handasah designed the mammoth edifice to model a “traditional desert fortress,” sporting flourishes such as fluted pink pilasters framing arched blue-mirrored windows. The two towers within the dome will rise up 45 storeys above the Mecca desert, while two more towers will attain 35 floors, with the remaining eight towers at 30 storeys tall. London-based interior design firm Areen Hospitality has signed on to appoint the interior spaces in the palatial luxury typical of the region. While deep pockets are an unspoken mandate, guests can choose between four and five-star luxury accommodations. The hotel occupies a 646,000-square-foot site in the Manafi district, and is less than one mile south of the Grand Mosque, thronged by two million pilgrims per year and currently undergoing a $61 billion expansion to accommodate seven million worshippers by 2040. The world’s largest hotel by number of hotel rooms, soon to be dwarfed by the Abraj Kudai, is the MGM Grand Las Vegas at 6,198 guestrooms. The gargantuan construction, opening in 2017, is the latest in a spate of residential and commercial developments galvanized by rising tourism revenue, currently raking in more than $9.2 billion annually. An example is the Jabal Omar development along the western edge of Mecca, which will accommodate nearly 100,000 people in 26 luxury hotels, as well as a six-story prayer hall. “The city is turning into Meca-hattan” Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Guardian. “Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out.”
The future of the mobile office is on its way, and it's blurring the lines between the home and the workplace. Spacious is the name of a "coworking hotel" concept being touted by its founder and CEO, Preston Pesek, as the future of the workplace, combining a traditional coworking space, a hotel, and retail into a giant live, work, play experience. And what better way to house the modern nomadic workforce than shipping containers? New York–based architects at LOT-EK—who designed the coworking space—have built their reputation on living and working inside shipping containers. The firm's principles, Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano, explained on their website that the modular design is organized around a roughly 50-foot-tall central atrium that "opens to the street with a large glazed opening visually connecting to urban life." The massive space helps to uncramp the potentially claustrophobic sensation of typing away inside an 8-foot-6-inch tall container all day long. "The building design is a response to natural human cycles of productivity," Pesek said in an email. "Sometimes we need social interaction for stimulation, and sometimes we need privacy to be productive. The building offers a spectrum of environments for public engagement and quiet privacy, on demand, as needed." Guests can belly up to long, shared desks overlooking the activity of a sort of "public plaza" lined with retail space. Members can also choose a private bedroom/office combo. Each 8-foot-by-40-foot shipping container can hold two bedrooms and bathrooms that convert into offices by folding beds up against the wall. Two shipping containers can be combined to create larger rooms. Pesek's promotional website said repurposing shipping containers is a sustainability and financial no-brainer. Each container ranges from $2,800 to $4,000—and diagrams show upwards of 80 would be needed. That cuts down on the cost of raw materials, leaving more room in the budget for sprucing up the interior. Details on the project's website let the renderings do most of the talking, but it does explain that Spacious is all about reducing temporally wasted space—and, in turn, bring down real estate prices. "Our daily movements create vacancy gaps in the spaces where we live, work, and play," the site reads. "Even the densest cities reveal an abundance of available, usable spaces hiding just under the surface." Members would be able to book the secure hotel rooms—with full hotel amenities—on demand. And if you venture out during the day, you can earn a rebate by loaning your room to others. The larger coworking space would be open to anyone in need of coffee, doughnuts, and some free wifi. You likely won't be able to plug into your local Spacious any time soon, however. A location for the New York City flagship has not been announced, and Pesek said it's too early to disclose details about a timeline. Spacious still plans to ship out its concept to other cities in the future. [via Motherboard.]
Work is currently underway on a new mixed-use development at Ohio's Oberlin College that, once complete later this year, will include one of only a handful of hotels pursuing LEED Platinum certification in the United States. The hotel operator is Olympia Companies, based in Portland, Maine. In addition to 70 guest rooms, the building features a restaurant focused on local food, 10,000 square feet of retail, a conference center, and a basement jazz club. Rounding out the facility's 105,000 square feet will be offices for the college's admissions and development staff. The Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, developed by Cleveland's Smart Hotels, was planned to be “the cornerstone of Oberlin's Green Arts District,” at the intersection of North Main Street and East College Street. Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz designed the project, which will draw on Oberlin's existing 13-acre solar photovoltaic farm adjacent to campus. Smart Hotels' Christopher Noble said the design team worked with the New York office of Germany's Transsolar on the development of that solar farm, and the new building will not throw Oberlin off its target of purchasing 100 percent renewable energy for electricity by the end of 2015. Mechanical engineers KJWW helped finesse the building's fully radiant heating and cooling, which employs no forced-air ventilation—although some back-of-house areas will still use some water-source heat pumps, Noble said. “We're relying on nonconventional HVAC systems,” said Noble, who added that heating and cooling needs will be fulfilled fully from geothermal wells on site. The building is expected to be certified LEED Platinum after opening early next year. While the design team hasn't assessed the payback period for the building's sustainable features, Noble said Oberlin made energy efficiency a project priority. “It wasn't a cost issue,” he said. “It was a design issue—we were going to make a statement and do this.” Of the $35 million total project cost, $12 million came from outside donors, including $5 million from the building's namesake, the late philanthropist and chairman of Progressive Insurance Company, Peter B. Lewis.
A few blocks south of City Hall in Manhattan is 5 Beekman—one of New York City’s most intriguing historic landmarks. Behind the building’s brick facade is an ornate, nine-story, glass-pyramid-topped atrium that has been off limits for more than a decade. The Architect's Newspaper took a behind-the-scenes tour of the building with the architect who is bringing it back to life as a boutique hotel. https://vimeo.com/125948595 The Queen Anne–style structure, originally known as Temple Court, was designed by Silliman & Farnsworth and opened as an office building in the late 19th Century. It was one of New York's first tall fireproof buildings and a vanguard of early skyscraper design. But after Temple Court's last tenant left in 2001, the building sat vacant—save for some magazine, film, and TV shoots—for more than a decade. In 2013, GFI Capital and GB Lodging started turning Temple Court—and its adjacent annex building—into a 287-room boutique hotel that will be known as The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel. It will be joined by the adjacent Beekman Residences, a 68-unit condominium tower. New York–based Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects (GKV) is leading the design of both projects. The hotel is slated to open near the end of the year and the residences should follow in the first quarter of 2016. Before either project opens its doors, Randy Gerner of GKV gave AN an exclusive look inside.
JetBlue Airlines—the one with free snacks and live television—is interested in getting into the hotel business, and it wants to kick things off with Eero Saarinen's swooping TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. The Wall Street Journal reported that JetBlue and New York–based hotelier MCR Development are in "advanced negotiations" with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for the rights to turn the swooping structure into a modern hotel. While things seem promising, similar attempts have failed. In 2013, hotelier André Balazs won the rights for a terminal-to-hotel conversion, but ultimately decided not to move forward with the project because of how long it would take to complete—he's a busy guy and said he had more interesting things to pursue. After that episode, the bidding process was relaunched and JetBlue and MCR came out on top. If this new plan doesn't meet the same fate, the two companies plan to fill the terminal with 500 rooms, many of which will be occupied by frustrated fliers whose flights were cancelled and need a convenient place to stay before they catch the next flight at the crack of dawn. Honestly, having to spend a night in Saarinen's masterpiece wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Deafening Silence: Morphosis designs a skyscraper in the Alps next to Peter Zumthor’s famous Therme Vals spa
Can a 1,250-foot-tall skyscraper qualify as "a minimalist object” under any circumstances? It depends on who you ask—particularly if the building in question, the 7132 Tower hotel designed by Los Angeles–based architecture firm Morphosis for a site in Vals, Switzerland, would go up next to Peter Zumthor’s understated Therme Vals spa. Morphosis’ Thom Mayne said yes, calling the slender, reflective high-rise “a minimalist act that reiterates the site and offers to the viewer a mirrored, refracted perspective of the landscape.” The project’s critics, meanwhile, accuse Morphosis and client 7132 Limited of disrespecting the hotel’s surroundings, both natural and built. Zumthor, who completed the quartzite-walled Therme Vals spa in 1996, appears to be taking the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” approach. BD Online quoted a firm spokesperson as saying, “He doesn’t want to comment on this hotel.” The tower—which would top Renzo Piano’s Shard by over 200 feet to become the tallest in the European Union—is still a long way from being built, requiring planning permission and a public vote prior to construction. Among the marks against it are the manner by which Morphosis received the commission. What began as a competition ended in February with a unilateral decision by 7132 Limited to narrow the three-firm shortlist down to one, over the jury’s objection. On the plus side, Mayne’s concept has garnered a vote of confidence from Tadao Ando, whose nearby Valser Path park is expected to be finished by 2017. “I believe it will harmonize in the beautiful landscape and will attract and impress various guests and visitors from all over the world,” said Ando.
One of hospitality’s hottest hideaways is located—where else—on barren desert land solely accessible via a treacherously winding road. Booked to nearly full capacity for the first two years of operation, the Amangiri resort is nestled in a desert region called the “Four Corners,” where the borders of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona converge. The resort was crafted by architects and designers Wendell Burnette, Marwan Al-Sayed, and Rick Joy, and guest rooms overlook a sea of sand billows, presenting unhindered views of the Stud Horse Point of the Glen Canyon to the majestic Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. A bird’s-eye-view of the estate hints at an unimpressive, boxy encampment, but staying in this luxury enclave will set you back $1,100 a night for a desert-view suite and $3,600 for the Amangiri Suite. Designed to blend into the surrounding monoliths, the building features natural materials and textures, with a concrete facade subtly tinted pink, ocher, and light yellow to soften the building’s profile. The pavilion and main pool (which is heated to more than 80 degrees at all times) are configured around a dramatic stone escarpment which is more than 150 million years old. Adjacent to it is a communal great room with four fireplace niches, which serves as a reception area, dining room, gallery, library, and living room—as well as an optimal vantage point for drinking in the sunset. Two accommodation wings stem from the pavilion—the Desert Wing contains 16 suites, with 18 suites and the Aman Spa located in the Mesa Wing. In designing the building the architects deferred to the geometry of the looming cliffs, often slanting walls towards each other to provide slot canon views of the desert and mesa. Desert-dwelling pastimes touted by the resort include hot air ballooning, helicopter rides, equestrian excursions, hikes, and day trips to Lake Powell. The luxury resort is the brainchild of Singapore-based company Aman Resorts, which specializes in developing small, exclusive properties in locations that stray from the beaten path. [h/t Fubiz.]
In August the London creative club Soho House set up shop in Chicago, carving out a chic space for itself amid the city's hotel, dining and cocktail scenes by retrofitting an industrial building in the Fulton Market District. Designers touted the balance of “grit and glamor” in the new Soho House at the time, beckoning self-identifying creative types to the former belting factory at 113-125 North Green Street. With the launch of its first annual “art week” in January, Soho House announced itself as somewhat of a gallery, as well, unveiling a site-specific installation by Damien Hirst. Hirst, the wildly successful London artist and development dabbler, created for Soho House Chicago a “painting” made of butterflies, mounted behind frosted glass that outlines the word “CHICAGO”. It hangs 15 feet or so above the heads of guests sipping cocktails or checking into Soho House's hotel. Hirst's previous work with butterflies—famously letting them live their lives inside an art gallery—has garnered international attention, as well as a fair share of criticism from animal rights advocates. Museum of Contemporary Art Associate Curator Julie Rodriguez Widholm welcomed the piece, noting that Soho House and MCA shared an appetite for modern and contemporary art, having both previously shown work by artists like Rashid Johnson and Angel Otero.