Hotels: Hôtel Americano
By Morten Wilhelm Scholz
Hôtel Americano is a sleek boutique hotel with a cleverly designed facade facade that creates an interesting interplay with the surroundings while challenging the notions of in and out.
The Hôtel Americano, which opened to the public in May 2011, is an industrial-modernist structure designed by the prominent Mexican Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos (Taller de Enrique Norten Arquitectos). Rising ten floors above ground level, the program includes 56 rooms, a roof deck with a smallish pool, bar, grill and garden terrace, all graced with breath-taking views of the city skyline, a stunning ground level restaurant and all the usual amenities of a design hotel in the luxury category. It is the first hotel in the United States from Grupo Habita, which operates 11 hotels in Mexico known for their cosmopolitan panache and fluid design.
The hotel is situated in Chelsea, the Manhattan art gallery neighbourhood, which seems to be the current battleground of the world’s ‘starchitects’. Thus Enrique Norten has joined the ranks of Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Neil Denari, all of who have recently accomplished some captivating work in Chelsea.
The address of the Hôtel Americano is West 27th Street near the Hudson River and the notable High Line Park. A generation ago, heavy industry and warehouses dominated the neighbourhood – since then the party scene moved in and currently the stretch is the epicentre of New York’s high-end art galleries.
This trichotomy – post-industry, party, and art – seems to be the overall concept behind the layout of the structure, not least reflected in the defining facade.
The north-facing entrance facade is covered from top to bottom in a stainless steel mesh screen. In a subtle hint to the neighbourhood’s industrial heritage the gleaming mesh is created from salvaged conveyor belts. Depending on the circumstances – the angle from which one views the building; the amount of sunlight and so on – the facade looks either utterly impenetrable or flimsily transparent. At night, however, the interior light from the individual rooms perforates the screen and lights up the whole structure – like a building set on fire. Poetically inclined commentators have gone as far as describing the effect as that of a building clad in sexy silk stockings. But the construction is much more than just an aesthetic show-off.
Between the mesh screen and the rooms facing the street side runs an 8½ feet wide catwalk creating an essential air buffer, letting in daylight and views while still permitting the rooms a sense of intimacy and privacy. It is an ingenious solution and only connoisseurs will recognise it as an old TEN / Grupo Habita trick already applied to the Hotel Habita in Mexico City.
Hôtel Americano caters to a slick, clubby and well-off clientele with an interest in art and design. That’s a tough crowd to impress, and Grupo Habita has recognized the need to bring out the heavy (French) artillery to make the fastidious clientele feel at home. The interior design is done by the Parisian agency MCH Arnaud Montigny, famous for having designed the high-end fashion concept store Colette.
The layout of the rather small rooms is modelled after a Japanese ryokan (recently Montigny worked with Japanese architect Kengo Kuma on the Jugetsudo, a teahouse in Paris) with platform beds and minimalist fixtures. The furniture is mostly Mid-Century modern, and the materials are Scandinavian in origin with lots of wood panelling, glossy concrete and squeaky-clean white walls.
This minimal around-the-world attitude even finds its way to the food menu. The main restaurant serves French fare with a Latin flare, while the rooftop grill does Mediterranean all summer, Alpine during winter, and room service comes in the shape of perfectly square bento boxes.
In a world where the boutique hotel concept is under pressure from commercial chains, Hôtel Americano delivers an elegant minimalist solution seamlessly integrating the International Style architecture with a tight globalised interior design.