SH Group CEO and Chairman, Barry Sternlicht, started 1 Hotels with the simple belief that “those who travel the world, care about it.” His efforts have been towards breaking the stereotype that ‘green’ design and luxury cannot coexist.
The core principle of the fledgling chain is sustainability combined with high-end luxury. With this vision in mind, the in-house design unit led by Kemper Hyers assembled a team of professionals that shared the same ethos for nature. Following the completion of 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami, AvroKO Hospitality Group (New York-based firm) was brought on board to design 1 Hotel Central Park. Situated in the middle of Manhattan, the site is one block away from Central Park, at the corner of 58th Street and Sixth Avenue.
The biggest challenge in the brief came from the decision to reuse an existing building. The project aimed at converting a 19-storey office building into a 230 key luxury boutique hotel. “It’s impossible to predict all the conditions that will have to be addressed throughout the adaptive reuse process,” says Adam Farmerie, one of the founding partners of AvroKO.
The project involved selective demolition and asbestos removal, working around two existing tenants. The facade was restored and new entrances constructed. Internal renovations included relocation of stairwells, introduction of an elevator shaft and planning of a fully integrated IT control room.
The facade features a three-storey green wall (created by AgroSci) and two large steel doors clad in 16,000 fallen twigs – totally a red carpet experience. The ivy-covered skin not only offers homage to the neighbouring park, but also provides passersby some respite from the bustling street. Retaining the industrial architecture – the exposed concrete ceilings and floors, steel columns and beams, and terracotta block masonry walls – a natural material palette of wood, brick, marble, stone and glass was blended in.
Original markings, veining, knots and colour variations were preserved and celebrated. Materials were selected to adhere to LEED standards and sourced locally, wherever possible. These include a salvaged water tank, wood branded with its source, river stones, plant species, linen screens, leathers, natural cotton linen soft furnishings, and hemp-blend mattresses.
Barry Sternlicht wanted to blend conventionally opulent materials with the ideas of eco-friendliness and artisanship. “In some cases, the materials wouldn’t read as ‘luxe’ to the guest, so we had to find ways to layer them,” says Philip Pond, design director at AvroKO. The marble in the showers contrasts the rougher wood and metal textures. Similarly, wood panelling becomes a sculptural statement with brass insets.
Elevators open onto artistic renditions of floor numbers, designed in repurposed materials like penny nails or acorns. Preserved moss fills the hallway niches.
The overall concept was to keep the space simple, transparent and approachable. Greg Bradshaw, one of the principals at AvroKO, says, “Our goal was to leave the space feeling somewhat unadorned, so the materials and core of the space could speak for themselves.” The idea of ‘approachability’ was to leave some of the spaces designed ever so slightly, to allow for moments of breath and pause.
The ground floor houses public spaces – the lobby, check-in desk, concierge, seating areas, and restaurant (Jams by Jonathan Wax). Here, Napa-style paned windows overlook the street. The design highlights the industrial interiors complementing it with natural light, reclaimed oak, a quarry stone bar floor, a soap stone bar top and a plum-coloured palette.
The next floor houses the communal spaces, gym, and a mezzanine which overlooks the restaurant. Five private meeting rooms boast of full-height windows, millwork decor, and the latest technology for business needs (sound systems, 55” TVs, interactive surfaces).
Three of these rooms can be combined into one forming a 600 sq ft space called The Great Lawn. A business area, The Hive, features two e-kiosks. A fitness centre, The Field House, equipped with the latest in exercise technology, is flooded with natural light and fitted with flooring reclaimed from the University of Wisconsin’s basketball court.
The remaining floors house the guest rooms. Here, furniture made by local craftsmen is proudly displayed, offset by a palette of warm, neutral colours and accents of blues and creams. Green touches throughout the building (provided by Sprout Home) include terrariums in the guest rooms. Custom box-bay window seats allow guests to perch above the street. Landscape design elements (contributed by Harrison Green) include planters before each room entrance.
Other sustainable elements include energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, custom 1 Hotel products like naturally-derived scents and eco-friendly cleaning solvents, and a paperless approach. This entails electronic check-in, bedside chalkboards, and an in-room Nexus device loaded with newspapers, magazines and 1 Guide (the hotel’s app).
Additionally, the hotel provides electric vehicle rides within a 15-block radius and complimentary bicycle valet parking. “Ofcourse travellers will always want the ultimate in experiences and services,” Sternlicht says, “And I believe we can deliver that in a modern, responsible way that feels natural, organic and connected with the local environment.”
Text By Priti Kalra
Photographs Eric Laignel