“Context is everything.” That’s what Adam Rolston, a partner at INC Architecture and Design, says as he walks through the new 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, which debuted a little more than a month ago. Context, in this case, means a few different things: not just creating a design that makes sense for the 1 Hotels brand—known for its “eco-luxury” ethos, with a focus on sustainable practices—but creating one that would make sense in the hotel’s Brooklyn Bridge Park location.
A hotel has been a part of the master plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park for some time now, and 1 Hotels signed on to run it in 2012. The hotel, located at Pier 1, connects to the luxury condo development known as Pierhouse (developed by Toll Brothers), and both were designed by Marvel Architects. They are revenue-generating projects for the park, which the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation says is necessary to its survival.
As with most of the private developments within Brooklyn Bridge Park, this one has had its detractors: The buildings at Pier 1 have been at the center of several lawsuits, with neighborhood residents and NIMBY groups arguing that the structures (including a, well, bulky mechanical bulkhead) compromised views of the Brooklyn Bridge itself. Ultimately, two lawsuits brought against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation were thrown out, and construction was allowed to continue.
For all of the controversy over the buildings at Pier 1, they are, as Curbed architecture critic Alexandra Lange has noted, “sensitive to site and context.” The exterior features a neutral color palette that is inspired by the surrounding natural materials—stone, wood, and the like—and while it doesn’t exactly blend into the surroundings, it doesn’t look grotesquely out of place, either.
When it came to designing the interiors of the hotel, INC took a similar inspired-by-nature approach. “We had this running joke that it had to feel like it washed up on the shore,” says Drew Stuart, a partner at INC. Nothing here feels too precious; raw concrete pillars are visible throughout the hotel, and pallet-like wooden slabs are used as decor elements. Reclaimed wood from the Domino Sugar Factory is also used throughout.
INC also incorporated myriad nods to the surrounding area into the hotel’s design, taking inspiration from the riverfront location, the waterfront’s industrial past, and the current “Brooklyn-as-brand” trend of using locally sourced, hand-crafted objects.
The light fixtures hanging over the lobby, for instance, were inspired by diving bells; granite from the same quarry that provided the materials used for the Brooklyn Bridge is embedded in the walls. Context, again, came into play—there’s a staircase in the lobby that’s clearly inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge, with bent steel and suspension cables that evoke its graceful Gothic shape. “There are a lot of layers here,” explains Rolston.
Even the 25-foot green wall in the lobby was influenced by the location, though not necessarily in the way you might expect. After Hurricane Sandy hit the city, FEMA revised its map of flood plains, and the land the hotel is sitting on—mere feet from the East River, so obviously—was placed squarely in a flood zone. Certain aspects of the structural design had to change, but the green wall was one way to reference that impact in a way that guests could interact with.
“This is about the power of nature, and the wrath that can happen as a result of the things that we do, as humans,” says Waad El Hadidy, the design director of 1 Hotels. “It’s about nature overtaking the urban landscape.” Eventually, the wall—designed by landscape-architecture firm Harrison Green—will be entirely filled in with plants.
That idea of context also extends to the artists and designers whose pieces—furniture, art, and the like—are used throughout the hotel. Most are from New York, with many either working or manufacturing within Brooklyn. “There was this real effort to go out into the world immediately adjacent to the hotel and find contributors,” says Rolston.
Bien Hecho, which designed the long, rustic table in the lobby, is based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard; artist Rachel Weiss, also a borough resident, contributed two sculptures to the design, including the seemingly random (but actually quite ornate) pile of rocks next to the sculptural staircase.
All of those elements—the emphasis on eco-friendliness and sustainability and the desire to blend the natural and the industrial—come together in the 194 guest rooms, which vary in size but have several commonalities. The furniture, much of which was designed by INC, is luxurious without being ostentatious. Many items are made using reclaimed materials; the closets and media cabinets, for instance, are fabricated using wood from New York City water towers.
“The trick was to get everything efficiently and beautifully organized,” says Rolston—this is, after all, a New York City hotel, with a standard guest room measuring around 200 square feet. But the overall effect is like being inside a fancy cabin that just happens to have stunning Brooklyn Bridge views.
There are also smaller ways that sustainability is put into practice. For example, there are no notepads in the guest rooms; if someone wants to leave a message for housekeeping, or jot down a note, there’s a chalkboard next to the bed for that. The hangers are made from recycled paper, and there’s even a faucet providing triple-filtered water (the same that’s used throughout the hotel), so you don’t have to constantly buy water bottles.
“A lot of the accessories and details in the rooms are about subtly prodding guests to do the right thing should they choose to,” explains El Hadidy. “It’s about subtle cues, and providing options.”
Other hotel amenities include a fitness center, a “farmstand” where guests can grab fresh produce, a spa (due to open in the fall) and a rooftop pool and bar (which should be open in time for summer), and plenty of open spaces to work and relax. There’s also a cafe, called Neighbors, on the ground floor, serving coffee, snacks, and takeaway meals—ideal for a picnic in nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park. A restaurant, which INC is also designing, is expected to open soon, too.