1 Hotel Brooklyn BridgeStacy Shoemaker Rauen • Photography courtesy of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge • May 23, 2017
Compared to its sister properties in South Beach and Central Park, the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge was “a different animal for us,” says Starwood Capital’s senior vice president of design Kemper Hyers. Not only was the third property of CEO Barry Sternlicht’s eco-friendly brand the first new build, but its location—set within Brooklyn Bridge Park on the waterfront in Dumbo with uninterrupted views of the East River, Manhattan, and the bridge—left Hyers and New York-based INC Architecture & Design with a lot to work with and celebrate. That includes the more mature side of the “gutsier market” of Brooklyn, complete with its industrial vibe and sought-after maker culture; the shipping past of the historic wharf that originally occupied the site; and of course, the natural park surroundings. Besides being a perfect fit for a brand that is all about nature, “It’s iconic real estate,” says Sternlicht, adding he jumped at the chance to bid when the city went out for an RFP. “You take a boat from Manhattan and you are there in five minutes, and it is a different world, on a park with unbelievable views—its isolation is its strength. We knew this could be epic.”
That wouldn’t come without its challenges. Just as they were beginning to dig the site in 2014, Hurricane Sandy devastated New York. New FEMA flood lines forced them to raise the entire building three feet, and because the height of the building was fixed, “we couldn’t raise the building, we compressed the whole building down,” explains Hyers. But beyond the physical logistics, Hyers says the experience was sobering for the team. “Suddenly, we were in touch with the power of nature. We tapped that as the natural DNA of Brooklyn.”
Some of the art found throughout speaks to this idea of nature’s darker side: behind the glittery black schist stone reception desk, for instance, a piece by local artist Jarrod Beck is crafted from massive rubber pieces of roofing that were stripped from a store’s roof during a freak tornado in upstate New York. “It evokes the power and brutality of nature over man and yet is installed in the most delicate and sensual way that is evocative of waves or dunes,” says Adam Rolston, creative and managing director and partner at INC. An installation of a pile of black obsidian rocks individually tied with hand-dyed rope by Brooklyn artist Rachel Mica Weiss seems to tumble down from the lobby’s staircase, showing “the tension between the beauty of and the taming of nature,” Hyers says.
That staircase, which leads to the second floor flexible meeting space and gym, is “an ode to the Brooklyn Bridge,” Hyers says. Rough steel with exposed welds form a curvaceous shell shape hung from steel rods that mimic the bridge’s suspension cables, and steel plates supporting the inner ring of the stair are made in the same way as a ship’s hull. It punctuates one end of the long lobby dressed in barnwood floors inset in concrete, crate-inspired wood wrapped walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
As with the South Beach lobby, a subtle seen-and-be-seen feel is created by tiered seating areas filled with boxy sofas, square tables made from pallets (cut into strips and glued together), earthy leather seating, communal tables fashioned from almost-untouched reclaimed wood, and fur rugs that dangle down the stairs. A series of massive funnel-shaped metal pendants with large prism glass lenses almost two feet in diameter give a strong rhythm to the double-height space, as do granite pillars that echo those of the Brooklyn Bridge. Plants stagger up one 25-foot-tall wall and lights “grown” from mushroom pores dot the space.
“The green mission of the band drove us to find beauty in the overlooked and underappreciated,” says Drew Stuart, INC’s partner and field director. Every material, many sourced locally, “was scrutinized for its natural characteristics. Layered, dynamic, asymmetrical, and organically assembled compositions drove the design. As Kemper said in one of our first meetings, ‘If it looks like it washed up on the shore from the East River, it belongs in this hotel.’”
The 194 guestrooms have the feel of a ship’s cabin. “Everything is stacked, placed, or assembled in what appears to be a temporary and ad hoc way, but has been designed down to the fraction of the inch,” explains Rolston. The headboard is crafted from raw corrugated steel wrapped in leather, à la shipping containers, and reclaimed slate roofing shingles get new life as wall tiles surrounding the open bathrooms, evoking “the roofs of the long lofts that would have occupied the site in the 19th century,” explains Stuart. Elements found in the public spaces reappear here, including tie details on pillows, upholstery, and drawer handles, a nod to the ropes once used on the wharf, as well as carpets with patterns informed by images of rusted, stained, and weathered painted ship hulls. Thanks to New York-based Marvel Architects’ glass box façade, a wall of glass slides open to a small balustrade Juliette balcony so guests “feel like they’re sitting outside,” says Hyers. Adds Sternlicht: “The whole room becomes a picture window. I have never seen this done before, and I have done a lot of hotels in my career.”
This one-with-nature feel is critical at every turn. The light and airy ground-floor café Neighbors and still-to-come full service restaurant both feature a window wall that opens out to the park and outdoor seating; one side of the glass-enclosed ballroom folds away for seamless indoor-outdoor events; and upstairs, the 10th-floor bar opening this month is done head to toe in fire-inspired black—quarry stone, black crated ceilings, dark fabrics and furniture, charred-looking blackened wood, and a silica table that looks like a cooled volcanic formation—affording a more dramatic “postcard view of Manhattan,” says Hyers. In contrast, above the scorched room is a beautifully landscaped rooftop, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the same masters of Brooklyn Bridge Park, complete with a bar, shallow pool, seating areas, and firepits—not to mention those views. “I imagined if you flew overhead, the hotel would almost be invisible to the park,” says Hyers. “It’s like your dream patio.”