Marcel Breuer's Pirelli Building becomes hotel in New Haven

2022-06-15 17:09:02 By : Ms. Yang Eloise

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How ironic: The building hovering in sight of busy traffic choked I-95 in New Haven, Conn., claims to be the first net-zero hotel in the nation.

Opened this month, Hotel Marcel is big news in the energy-sucking hotel world, but there’s lots more to this building than a big hug to our planet: It is an architectural marvel, too.

Hotel Marcel, a Tapestry Hotel by Hilton (room rates start at $229), to give this Brutalist icon its full new name, was originally designed as the Armstrong Rubber Company HQ by Bauhaus alum Marcel Breuer — a Hungarian architect and designer famed for his much-reproduced (hello, IKEA!) form-fitting minimalist chairs, and who eventually lived on East 63rd Street after fleeing Nazi Germany.

Listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, the Pirelli Building, as it became known, is a futuristic two-tiered block — which appears spookily suspended in the air from the highway — completed in 1970. Abandoned for decades, architect and developer Bruce Redman Becker of Connecticut-based architects Becker + Becker, bought the neglected building in 2020.

“We found lots of dead pigeons,” Becker noted.

“I have a passion for historic buildings. I love this building and have done for years, and my appreciation just gets greater working on it. There is a great poetry to it; but nothing is accidental,” he told The Post while grabbing a coffee at the IKEA megastore next door. (Another irony!)

Becker, who likewise worked on the Octagon apartments on Roosevelt Island, is also passionate about healthier, planet-friendly construction. Hotel Breuer is designed to attain top LEED Platinum status, Passive House certification (meaning the hotel incorporates natural energy-saving design) and net-zero designation with 100% of its electricity generated on-site via a solar array.

Using less will help that: a Power over Ethernet lighting system nixes the usual hotel model of lights left on in empty rooms and spaces. Then there are simple things like a water-filling station, giving guests the comfort of plastic bottle-free drinking water.

More likely, guests will notice the cool design, though.

An original Breuer-designed desk is incorporated into the lobby’s hospitality desk and the sunken lounge — a feature Breuer often favored — is refurbished.

“Level one was a huge space without columns. We had to create a dynamic area from this blank industrial space — it was intimidating,” said interior designer Larah Moravek, a founding partner of Brooklyn-based Dutch East Design, who added Cradle to Cradle certified upholstery in Bauhaus inspired graphic prints, and low emissions, low-VOC furnishings.

“It was a real eye-opener. Once you know what you know, you can’t turn away,” she added of toxic furnishings.

If level one was a blank space, level nine, which housed mechanical elements, was a hidden one.

“They have a feeling like in ‘Mad Men.’ They have amazing views of Long Island Sound.”

“The ninth floor saw the most dramatic change. This was the level no one other than a mechanic went to before,” said Becker. “Once we began to peel back the layers and saw the trusses, it took shape,” he said of Breuer’s original 16-foot-high trusses suspending the building’s upper block from the lower.

“We removed concrete walls and replaced with glass to create a glass courtyard and an interior courtyard with light wells,” Becker added of what is now 7,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

In the breakfast-through-dinner restaurant, BLDG, biodynamic and organic wines are poured from a back-lit perforated metal horseshoe bar, and locally sourced food ingredients are served up in a dramatic room with a floating island centerpiece.

The 165 guest rooms and suites trace original office floor plans and echo ’70s functional minimalism with space-saving interlocking modular headboards and furniture. Stark retro-futurism is warmed by caramel-colored vinyl, and dark green and clay color pops.

All this had to be done with historic preservation orders in place. The eighth floor’s nine historic rooms and suites, some with kitchenettes, were once executive offices. “We could not touch the wood veneers or acoustic tile ceiling,” said Moravek.

“They have a feeling like in ‘Mad Men,’ ” said Becker of the historic rooms. “They have amazing views of Long Island Sound.”

Becker feels guests will not only have a blast in the space, but feel better doing it.

“A bonus of being all-electric is better air quality,” he said. “Guests will get a healthier night’s sleep. The building is also super quiet. You can’t hear the highway.”