Becker & Becker and Dutch East Design revive Marcel Breuer’s faded 1967 Brutalist monument in New Haven as America’s first fossil fuel-free hotel

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New Haven, Connecticut, USA

“You have to reuse, recycle and reinvent existing buildings to make them truly sustainable,” says Bruce Becker, president of Becker & Becker.

“The culture we have of tearing down and building new ones is really inefficient, and especially when you have a building like (this one) that has such a beautiful structure and is built to last another century, don’t Reusing it would have been a real shame.”

Originally designed in 1967 as a dramatic gateway to New Haven, Marcel Breuer’s Bauhaus-inspired Brutalist landmark has now been renovated and repurposed by architects and owners Becker & Becker in collaboration with Dutch East with artfully crafted interiors. detailed and a climate-focused credo.

As the nation’s first certified Passive House hotel, Hotel Marcel New Haven, operated as Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the renovated building is the first net zero hotel in the United States, operating independently of fossil fuels using renewable sources. of on-site renewable solar energy to generate the electricity needed for its common areas, restaurant, laundry, meeting rooms and 165 rooms and suites, without carbon emissions.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker

The historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of New Haven’s iconic Breuer monument is a model of sustainable hospitality.

The project responds to long-standing historic preservation and economic development priorities to create a high-quality hotel and meeting center close to the waterfront, train stations and major highways at the entrance to the city.

As green buildings have become increasingly common around the world, Hotel Marcel stands out for its ambitious goals in an industry known for its energy consumption and waste.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker

The building is powered by energy generated on site, primarily from over 1,000 solar panels that cover both the hotel roof and parking lot.

These panels are estimated to generate 700,000 kilowatt hours over the course of a year, the equivalent of powering nearly 70 US homes.

Designed by Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje, the building began life in 1967 as the headquarters of the Armstrong Rubber Company (aka Pirelli Building), and is now listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and was owned by IKEA from 2003 until the end of 2019 leaving the building vacant until it was purchased by Bruce Becker for $1.2 million.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker

The nine-story concrete tower has maintained a remarkable presence along a major East Coast highway, largely due to the gaping void that runs through the building’s two middle stories.

Armstrong Rubber had administrative offices on the upper floors, and the space was designed to dampen noise from the research labs on the lower levels.

Amazingly, a section of Breuer’s building was demolished by IKEA in order to build a parking lot.

After this part of the lower level was demolished, local advocates stepped in with a public campaign to encourage the city and its owners to repurpose the remaining building.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker

This act of large-scale reuse with a site that has been neglected for decades should serve as a case study for others and a call to rethink our throwaway culture.

Becker’s plan to turn it into a net-zero hotel involved approaching the project from two angles: reducing overall energy consumption and finding the most efficient ways to source alternative energy.

“I spent a full year thinking through all the details of the project before I even bought the property,” says Becker.

“As an owner, I had the freedom to do something new without needing to reach consensus, which can be difficult when time is of the essence and the risk is so concerning.” Still, he admits, he was hedging his bets.

“I wanted to be sure before I even bought the building that I could achieve my vision, because the last thing I wanted was to keep a building vacant for 20 years.”

The building itself is conducive to low energy consumption – its precast concrete facade houses deep windows that provide natural shade when the sun is at its highest.

The studio carried out several other interventions, including opening utility spaces in the center of the top floor – a double-height space supported by steel trusses – to create a courtyard that lets in light for a series of meeting rooms .

This opening also allowed the architecture studio to build skylights bringing additional light to the rooms placed in the middle of the slabs.

Becker and his team also implemented triple-glazed windows to keep building temperatures more stable and added fully electric kitchen and laundry systems.

All lighting will use an energy-efficient power and control system known as Power over Ethernet, or POE, which is traditionally used in buildings for computer and telephone systems.

The hotel’s interiors were designed by Brooklyn studio Dutch East Design, which transformed offices and research labs into 165 luxury rooms as well as lobbies and amenity spaces.

As much of the original interiors were unusable, renovation was intensive and Dutch East brought in furniture from a number of local artisans.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker
Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker

Minimal furnishings and white walls with wood finishes characterize much of the hotel’s public and private spaces.

“Good design requires a holistic approach,” says Becker, and that includes how the design “serves its purpose and function,” he further comments.

“How does this affect the wider world, the environment?”

“Beauty, function, durability: you can’t have a beautiful building without addressing all three.”

The Carré atrium stairs are designed as a metal construction to avoid unnecessary material consumption with high wooden sections and an expensive metal substructure.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker

The design of the components responds directly to the strengths and qualities of the respective materials and promotes the economy of the resources used and reduces the weight of the components.

The roof structure weighs only 45 kg/m² thanks to the specially developed metal nodes, the ETFE foil as well as the filigree wooden components, and ensures better illumination in the atrium below thanks to narrower sections.

At the same time, the roof construction can withstand wind loads of up to 100 kg, since each bar can not only withstand tensile but also compressive forces.

Supported by the hybrid timber construction method, the project is pre-certified DGNB Platinum and will receive Germany’s first WELL Core & Shell Gold certificate.

The Carré atrium stairs are designed as a metal construction to avoid unnecessary material consumption with high wooden sections and an expensive metal substructure.

The design of the components responds directly to the strengths and qualities of the respective materials and promotes the economy of the resources used and reduces the weight of the components.

The roof structure weighs only 45 kg/m² due to specially developed metal knots, ETFE foil as well as filigree wooden components, and ensures better illumination in the atrium below thanks to narrower sections.

At the same time, the roof construction can withstand wind loads of up to 100 kg, since each bar can not only withstand tensile but also compressive forces.

Supported by the hybrid timber construction method, the project is pre-certified DGNB Platinum and will receive Germany’s first WELL Core & Shell Gold certificate.

Supported by the hybrid timber construction method, the project is pre-certified DGNB Platinum and will receive Germany’s first WELL Core & Shell Gold certificate.

Project: Hotel Marcel New Haven
Architects: Becker & Becker
Interior designers: Dutch East Design Inc.
Original architects: Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje (1970)
Owner: Bruce Becker
Photographers: John Muggenborg Architectural Photography

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Rozella J. Cook