NEW HAVEN, Connecticut—Hotel Marcel, a Tapestry Hotel by Hilton, will be opening its doors in April 2022. The building has a storied past: Completed in 1970 by Bauhaus designer and architect Marcel Breuer to house the headquarters of the Armstrong Rubber Company, it sat empty for decades, with a large portion of the structure demolished at one point to make way for a parking lot. Drivers along Interstate 95 can catch glimpses of the building serving as a demonstration of Breuer’s approach to separation of function: a two-story void separating the base of the building from the office block above.
Listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, the Pirelli Building, as it became known, is now getting new life as the country’s first Passive-House certified and first net-zero energy hotel. Hotel Marcel will be one of only about a dozen LEED Platinum certified hotels in the United States. Purchased in 2020 by architect and developer Bruce
Redman Becker, FAIA, LEED AP of Becker + Becker, the hotel will feature 165 guestrooms and suites, a full-service new American restaurant and bar, a lounge, and 7,000 square feet of meeting and event space with a penthouse courtyard and galleries.
The hotel will be all-electric, generating 100 percent of its own electricity and energy for heat and hot water with a rooftop solar array and solar parking canopies. The hotel will also include many technologies to modernize the building, including a Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting system, renewable on-site energy generation, and upgrades to enhance interior temperature control and air quality. The building’s Energy Use Intensity (EUI) rating is projected to be 34 kBtu per square foot—80 percent less energy than the median EUI for hotels in the United States.
“With the climate crisis and continued use of fossil fuels posing an existential threat to humanity, I felt an obligation to build a building that can serve as a model for environmental sustainability,” said Bruce Redman Becker, FAIA, LEED AP, Becker + Becker. “The question should not be why are we doing this but why isn’t everyone else?”
The property’s design is a collaboration between Becker + Becker, project architect, and New York City-based interior design and branding studio Dutch East Design, founded by Larah Moravek, Dieter Cartwright, and William Oberlin. Dutch East Design was engaged to design Hotel Marcel’s visual identity and interior design.
“It is a rare opportunity to be offered such an iconic structure to reimagine into a hotel,” said Larah Moravek, co-founder, Dutch East Design. “We wanted to honor the distinct architecture and celebrate the building in all its glory. We took an intentional position to allow the interiors to be the soft underbelly of the Brutalist exoskeleton.”
Hotel Marcel will be operated by Chesapeake Hospitality and join Tapestry Collection by Hilton, a portfolio of more than 70 handpicked hotels. Upon arrival, guests are met by a palette of earth tones with a textural buildup of stone finishes, found in the custom wood reception desk and terra cotta in a Cle Tile feature wall, complimented by custom lighting designed by Dutch East. An existing depressed floorplate will be made into a sunken lounge that works as the lobby lounge as well as pre-function space should the pivot doors open up from the forum and function spaces.
The furniture, carpets, area rugs, and lighting are designed by Dutch East Design, deploying Bauhaus-inspired patterning throughout all the textiles. The ceiling has been reinstated to respond to the interior layout, providing an open plane of intersecting ceiling tiles that accommodate the original architectural lighting system with new acrylic lens panels.
James Turrell-like experience is on the ninth floor, serving as an event space with an interior courtyard and light wells created to add natural light. With high ceilings previously home to the building’s HVAC system, the space has a truss system, which is cast as a relief into the building’s exterior. Off the elevators is a feature screen that leads to flexible event space. The floor will also have dedicated conference rooms for a total of 7,000 square feet of space for meetings and gatherings in the hotel.
Most of the 165 guestrooms use concrete grey, caramel vinyl, and walnut throughout, emphasized by pops of dark green and sienna and decorative lighting. Following the original floor plans of the office floor, the rooms have an openness through interlocking elements, with the closet connecting with the nightstand and headboard of the platform bed frame. On the opposing side of the room sits a concrete table, celebrating the exterior of the building. Guests will also find a Breuer Cesca chair at the desk.
On the eighth floor live the hotel’s nine historic rooms and suites, highlighting the restored wood-paneled walls of what were once offices and conference rooms. Offsetting the color of the wood, Dutch East selected oak for the casegoods and a blend of light blues and warm grays in textiles throughout the spaces lounge area, kitchenette, and bedroom. Each suite will have a different layout and curated art collection.
Throughout the hotel, nods to Marcel Breuer’s work at the Bauhaus are intentional, from carpets with a Bauhaus-inspired graphic found in the suites to the chevron patterns on the standard guestroom carpeting. The Dutch East team also incorporated the geometry of the exterior window panels into the wood detailing on the interior.
Kraemer Sims Becker, who is spearheading the guestroom artwork selection and a private art collection for the hotel, puts an emphasis on female artists, all of whom connect with the Bauhaus movement in their work, inspired by the likes of Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, and Benita Koch-Otte. The artwork within the guestrooms varies between room configurations but uses the same visual language. Within the King rooms, wall hangings by Brooklyn-based artist Cory Siegler are suspended from wood frames and are handmade of a combination of fabrics. Double Queen rooms will have a set of two silkscreen print editions, each featuring five vignettes, geometry, and form in muted greens and sienna. Larger rooms and suites also include reproductions of three different monoprints from Becker’s portfolio.
Hotel Marcel will be home to a full-service new American restaurant called BLDG, a play on the abbreviation for building, frequently seen in architectural shorthand. The wine list will highlight biodynamic and organic wines from Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Chile, and California, the menu will be locally sourced with items including New Haven lobster rolls
and duck confit sliders. In addition to the restaurant and bar, Hotel Marcel will offer a grab-and-go style counter offering sustainable purveyors as well as gifts and a water filling station.