Peeping Toms, bust out the kazoos. Your field day has arrived—and it comes equipped with party favors. The Shard, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is London’s tallest skyscraper and, as of last week, home to a new luxury hotel. The rooms include breathtaking views of the city—and, thanks to a design flaw, unscrupulous views of unsuspecting neighbors. Glass panels on the Shard’s exterior bestow the building with a crystalline front and its namesake. But at night, the city’s lights turn the glass into mirrors that fully reflect guest bedrooms into each other. Complementary binoculars (“for the view,” ahem) don’t help matters. Nor do puns about the naked eye. Masking a blush? Rest easy—susceptible rooms include shades for extra privacy.
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When the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in 2011, it put the town of Bentonville, Arkansas, on the map for art lovers. Now, a new boutique hotel by Deborah Berke Partners promises to further boost the town’s cultural cachet. Intended to be a destination in its own right, the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville opened in February 2013, just a quarter-mile from the Moshe Safdie–designed museum. In addition to its 104 guest rooms, the hotel doubles as an art gallery, offering 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. Berke’s restrained architecture serves as a suitable backdrop for exuberant artwork, from psychedelic wallpaper by Brooklyn’s Chris Doyle to life-size, green plastic penguins by the Cracking Art Group. “I really loved making spaces for the work,” said firm founder Deborah Berke, noting that she graduated from RISD and has long been involved with artists. “Doing a hotel where the arts play a key role is a very good fit for me.”
The Arkansas outpost marks the third 21c hotel, all designed by Berke. The hospitality company emerged in 2006, when two art collectors in Kentucky—Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson—commissioned Berke to convert old warehouses in Louisville into a hotel and museum filled with 21st-century art (hence the name 21c). The project was a hit and led to a similar venture in Cincinnati.
The Bentonville location was the first to entail ground-up construction. For the flat, open site, Berke created a simple composition of two distinct, rectilinear volumes. A one-story volume fronts the street and houses public functions (a lobby, restaurant, and exhibition space); behind it, a four-story volume—the town’s tallest building—contains the guest rooms.
White walls and polished concrete floors characterize a series of stripped-down galleries, which are open to the public 24 hours a day. The atmosphere is warmer inside The Hive, a casual restaurant where guests sip coffee by day and cocktails by night. “We really wanted an active bar and restaurant area,” said Berke. A 125-seat dining room contains wooden tables and chairs and soft banquettes. In the lounge, the bar is faced in white brick and topped with indigenous limestone.
The guest rooms are “simple and gracious,” said Berke. Featuring a neutral color palette with dashes of color, the rooms are outfitted with tasteful modern furnishings and original artwork. Co-owner Brown even contributed her own creations, such as photographs of farm animals screen-printed on throw pillows.
Berke emphasized that the hotel’s art program is not some contrived branding experiment. “It’s true to the soul of who these people are,” she said of the owners. “They’re smart, inventive, and delightful to work with, and they believe in what they’re doing.” That passion seems to be paying off. Berke is currently designing 21c Museum Hotels for Lexington, Kentucky, Oklahoma City, and Durham, North Carolina—promising to put more American cities on the cultural map.
Since its founding in 1984, the Rockwell Group has developed a robust portfolio of contemporary spaces imbued with drama. Its latest hotel project, Andaz Maui at Wailea, employs the firm’s signature theatrical style, seamlessly blending it with the magical atmosphere of Hawaii. Completed in September 2013, the resort encompasses 15 acres on Maui’s south shore, an exclusive area known for its five-star hotels and scenic golf courses. The project called for overhauling three existing towers that made up the Renaissance Resort, shuttered in 2007. Rockwell also revamped the grounds and proposed five buildings containing 19 villas. The overall design intent, said firm partner Shawn Sullivan, was to create a luxurious environment that embraced the outdoors and incorporated references to local culture.
The captivating experience begins right as guests arrive. A covered, wooden and stone bridge overlooks a serene reflecting pool and leads to the hotel’s main entrance. Guests are ushered into an 8,000-square-foot lobby, where natural light cascades down through a large skylight and ample glazing offers views of the turquoise ocean.
In the center of the lobby, a sandpit with free-form chairs lends a playful touch. A grand staircase sculpted of wood—inspired by traditional Hawaiian canoes—leads to a bistro serving seasonal cuisine. Other public spaces include a Morimoto restaurant, five meeting rooms, and a ballroom with a bespoke lighting installation made of glass pendants and braided ropes.
For the hotel’s villas and 290 guest rooms, Rockwell created fresh, modern spaces filled with natural light. Custom furnishings include platform beds, walnut side tables, and vanities with teakwood slats. Sliding glass doors open onto terraces that enable guests to take in the breathtaking surroundings.
Those seeking a respite from the sand and surf can get pampered inside a 14,000-square-foot spa. With its warm glow and tall wooden cabinets, the space feels earthy and soothing. In the reception lounge, a walnut table displays herbs, spices, and fruits that are used to prepare customized oils and lotions. “The ingredients come from the local hillside and local markets,” said Sullivan. “We wanted to invent a spa experience that was really specific to Wailea.”
That commitment to honoring the resort’s milieu went a long way toward winning over the locals. Sullivan said area residents praised the design during the hotel’s opening party. “A lot of people were expecting it to be so out-there modern,” he said. “It was rewarding to hear them say the project feels very Hawaiian, even though New York designers created it.”
Christian HoranManhattan’s West 57th Street has drawn considerable attention for the spindly glass skyscrapers now rising there. But set within this crane-dotted corridor is a new 30-story tower that stands apart for its rigor and refinement, both inside and out. Completed last fall, the 240-room Viceroy Hotel was designed by Roman and Williams, the renowned firm behind such influential projects as the Ace Hotel and The Standard, High Line. Founded in 2002, the firm is led by the husband-and-wife team of Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, former Hollywood film set designers who have a remarkable talent for producing deftly curated, atmospheric spaces. The Viceroy, for which they envisioned the interiors and the facade, marks the duo’s largest project to date.
Over the course of her illustrious career, the British designer Tara Bernerd has taken on an array of projects, from nightclubs and department stores to the interior of a 150-foot private yacht. In 2012, she completed Belgraves–A Thompson Hotel. Located in London, it was the hospitality company’s first property outside of the United States. Now, Bernerd has produced another edgy, boutique hotel for the Thompson portfolio, this one on American turf. Thompson Chicago, which debuted in October, occupies the former Sutton Place Hotel, built in the 1980s in the city’s exclusive Gold Coast district. Following an extensive interior makeover guided by Bernerd’s firm, Tara Bernerd & Partners, the 23-story building now contains 247 guest rooms, six two-level penthouse suites, a fashionable restaurant, and more than 12,000 square feet of meeting and catering space. The overall goal, said Bernerd, was to create a comfortable, “rough luxury” atmosphere. “We wanted it to feel aspirational but not intimidating,” she said.
Visitors enter a lobby that promptly reveals Bernerd’s knack for crafting environments that are sophisticated yet cozy. A timber-beam ceiling, wood paneling, weighty bookshelves, and seating upholstered in tweed encourage guests to linger with a cup of coffee and their favorite novel. Just off the lobby, a staircase constructed of black iron and brass mesh lends a subtle, industrial vibe. Throughout the hotel, raw materials such as concrete, metal, and brick are used in a ways that Bernerd describes as “seductive and soft” while still conveying a sense of refinement.
The lobby leads to a double-height atrium housing Nico Lounge, where a verdant, living wall measuring 36 feet wide by 22 feet tall serves as a striking centerpiece. Adjacent to the atrium is Nico Osteria, an Italian seafood restaurant led by the celebrated chef Paul Kahan. Its design includes a large open kitchen and Scandinavian-style tables and chairs.
For the guest rooms, Bernerd set out to create a residential vibe. “We wanted to keep it warm and not go too modern,” she said. The bedframes and headboards are crafted of wood and connect to side tables and a velvet sofa. Lacquered cabinetry is accented with leather, and eclectic artwork adorns the walls. In most rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows provide sweeping views of the cityscape and Lake Michigan.
Bernerd said she loved working in Chicago, particularly given its rich architectural heritage. “There’s such a serene elegance to the place, with its marvelous buildings and sense of scale,” she said, adding that she’d love to continue working in the city. “I hope we are embraced.”
In Las Vegas, you win some and you lose some. Lining up as what must be one of the biggest busts in Sin City history, the exceptionally-botched, Foster + Partners–designed Harmon Hotel, now has a date with the wrecking ball. The stubby 27-story tower—it was originally supposed to measure 49 stories but construction problems stunted its growth—never opened and no one ever checked in at what would surely have been a posh front desk. As AN reported in 2011, the Harmon Hotel was in the midst of a bitter lawsuit to allow demolition to proceed as some were claiming the structural deficiencies were enough to make even the shortened tower structurally unsound and at risk of collapse:
After discovering deficient steel reinforcing in early 2009, MGM left the foreshortened tower an unfinished shell but is now moving to implode the structure citing safety concerns. Alan Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs at MGM, said the company had submitted an engineering recommendation and demolition action plan to Clark County, Nevada detailing the structural shortcomings of the Harmon. “The city asked us to respond to the engineer’s report to determine the best way forward,” said Feldman. “We decided the best move is to take the building down.”The Harmon Hotel is part of MGM's $9 billion mega-development, CityCenter, which features buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Vinoly, Helmut Jahn, and others. The Harmon Hotel sits adjacent to Libeskind's ultra-luxury shopping center, the Crystals, which AN profiles in a past retail feature. Now, MGM has resolved that lawsuit and on April 22 received court approval to proceed with demolition of the tower. According to a report in Architectural Record, there won't be a dramatic, Las Vegas–style implosion. Instead, the hotel will be taken apart, piece by piece, over the next year.
A recently restored Frank Lloyd Wright house on Chicago’s far North Side will be open for weekly tours this summer, starting May 7. The Emil Bach House, 7415 North Sheridan Road, is a Chicago Landmark and an entry on the National Register of Historic Places. As a vacation rental, the carefully crafted private dwelling invites Wright enthusiasts to stay a while. Its fortress-like street frontage conveys a verticality unusual to Wright’s work, offering deep, inset windows and brick columns on the lower floors instead of the more typically expansive Prairie-style planes that protrude from the upper bedroom level. Built in 1915 when its location set back from the eastern edge of Sheridan Road would have given it uninterrupted views of Lake Michigan, the house was first a private home for Bach, a brick company president whose brother had a Wright-designed house just a few blocks north. That building was demolished in the 1960s. The house was open to the public briefly during last year’s Open House Chicago, while it was still undergoing restoration work by Harboe Architects, but May 7 marks the start of the rehabilitated building’s weekly guided tours. Wright’s custom built-in furniture, which divides the common floor into intimate areas around a central fireplace, was replicated based on original plans. Previous owners had removed most of the wooden benches and even a dining table budding off the hearth that runs parallel to the bevy of front windows. To enter the building, visitors take eight turns along a rising, winding approach leading to a front door that actually faces toward the back yard—a somewhat forceful division of public and private space that is classic Wright. Natural light abounds throughout the upper floor, which houses two bedrooms, a guest room / study, and two bathrooms. Wright specified “sunshine yellow” paint for the walls—a detail that was restored along with built-in desks proportioned to Wright’s diminutive frame. Evanston-based Morgante Wilson Architects furnished the interiors with space modern furniture to update the vibe without corrupting its historical significance. Now a vacation rental, the Emil Bach house is managed by the owners of the Lang House—a 1919 bed-and-breakfast next door. Guided tours of Bach House will be offered on Wednesdays, May 7 through September 24. Tickets are $12 general public, $10 students/seniors/military, and free for members of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Tickets and information are available at www.flwright.org and 312-994-4000. For rental information and further inquiries on the historic Emil Bach House, please visit www.emilbachhouse.com or email email@example.com.
New York's newest boutique hotel, Row NYC, opened its doors at the end of March in Times Square. This launch comes after two years and $140 million were spent on developing the 1,331-room property at 800 8th Avenue, a collaboration between Highgate Hotels and Rockpoint Group. This hotel strives to bring the pulse of the city into the experience of its visitors and redefine the Midtown Manhattan hotel experience. Row asked New York–based architecture and design firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates to integrate elements of the city's redesigned grittiness into their hotel. Upon entering the space, visitors are immediately confronted by a twenty-four-foot-high entry space that draws off of the electricity of the surrounding area. The double-height lobby is accessible through a grand, illuminated staircase meant to lend a theatrical sensibility to the entry sequence. The entryway combines industrial and organic elements to create a space that feels both intimate and limitless. The reception area is flanked by two light sculptures by New York artist Yorgo Alexopoulos. Row's restaurant, District M, features items from New York's most famous bakeries and bistros including Payard, Murray's Cheese Shop, and Balthazar. A full market is expected to open later this year called City Kitchen that will offer additional cuisine from around the city. According to a statement from Row, "it will be a respite for foodies who work in the area and allow guests to get a taste of New York's finest without ever having to leave the property." The hotel will have a digital art gallery that features work by Ron Gabella, the so-called "godfather of U.S. paparazzi culture." The collection will feature images of Manhattan during the late seventies and early eighties. Never before seen images by Gabella will be featured in guest rooms.
Zaha Hadid has designed another seemingly-structurally-impossible parametric building form that is set to touch down in Macau in 2017. The building, which could be equally at home in Miami or Dubai, is a large block that has been punctured by three curvaceous openings. The entire mass is encased in an exposed exoskeleton that twists and turns along the structure's contours. The project was undertaken at the behest of Melco Crown Entertainment, casino magnates who have contributed the City of Dreams resort to the gambling-soaked Chinese island. The developers commissioned Hadid to create the fifth hotel located on the property, which will top out at 40 stories and house 780 rooms in over 1.6 million square feet of space. Other expected amenities include luxury retail, specialty restaurants, spa facilities, a roof-top pool, and a number of gaming areas. The external latticework varies in patterning as it crawls up the structure's facade. It is densest at its middle, where it navigates the irregularities of the design's central void, and becomes more elongated at each of the building's poles. The interior is more angular, awash in crystalline glass outcroppings subdivided by triangular grids. These walls collide with the curved base of the structure's opening to create a 130-foot central atrium that welcomes arriving visitors to the hotel. Construction for the newest member of the City of Dreams is already underway.
Albany Bahamas Resort Honeycomb Building Architect: BIG + HKS + MDA Location: Albany Bahamas Client: New Providence, The Bahamas Completion: TBD A team comprised of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), HKS, and MDA has unveiled its design for the Honeycomb building at the Albany Bahamas resort. This 175,000-square-foot private residential building takes its name from its hexagonal facade, which mimics the naturally occurring shapes in the coral reefs found off the shores of New Providence. When completed, it will be the tallest structure on the island. Infinity pools on each level create stunning vistas of the Elysium-like surrounds of the golf resort, connecting guests directly to this manicured world of pleasure. Swimmers on their own private balcony pools can imagine that they are immersed in the marina and the ocean beyond. Summer kitchens reinforce this connection to the natural surroundings while providing all of the comforts of modern technology. “Our design is driven by an effort to maximize the enjoyment of the abundant natural qualities of Albany in The Bahamas: the landscape, the sea, and the sun,” said Bjarke Ingels in a statement. “A honeycomb facade functionally supports the pools making them sink into the terrace floor and provides spectacular sight lines while maintaining privacy for each residence. Drawing inspiration from its coastal setting, the hexagonal design evokes the natural geometries you find in certain coral formations or honeycombs.” The building contains units with diverse floor plans to suit a variety of pampered lifestyles, while the architecture itself melts into the lush flora and fauna of the resort’s grounds. All images courtesy BIG.
During Chicago’s last real estate boom it was all condos, and during the following bust developers were all about building apartments. The buzzword during this modest recovery, if you can call it that, is hotels. Eavesdrop used to have panic attacks thinking about a completely condo-fied downtown, with a deflated business district. The new-and-now planned or rumored hotel for every block of the Loop, it seems, leaves us confused. Is this good or bad? Will tourists fill these West Of The Shopping hotels on the weekends? Will the Loop get a much-needed jolt of life after 6:00 p.m.? It’s hard to defend the Loop to New Yorkers, whose inevitable first question is, “Where are the people?” In Eavedrop’s humble opinion, it’s only going to happen with good design, as no one is going to stay after work to sit and sip in a cookie cutter Westin lobby (sorry, Starwood!). The glut of new projects from Hyatt, Kimpton, Virgin, Hilton, and the new Indigo better up the design ante—dump your in-house designs for something truly unique. Additional plus: most of these appear to be adaptive reuse and not tear downs—fingers crossed!
After several false-starts, plans to re-open the landmark building as a hotel appear to be underway. Jeffrey Holmes of Australian Architecture firm Woods Bagot is the latest figure attached to the project. Developers David Bistricer and Joseph Chetrit of the Chetrit Group purchased the Brooklyn property for $81 million from Watchtower Society in November 2012 but progress subsequently stalled. Selldorf Architects and Gene Kaufman have both at times been tipped to lead the rennovation, but neither is currently affiliated with the project. While initial prospects looked grim, the city has recently approved plans to change the building's certificate of occupancy, allowing for construction to begin with an eye towards a summer re-opening, a year later than expected.