Craig Kellogg | September 01, 2011
New Orleans architect Albert C. Ledner built two Chelsea high-rises for the National Maritime Union of America in the 1960's. One became the Maritime Hotel in 2003. Then Hampshire Hotels & Resorts bought the neighboring tower, most recently a shelter for runaways, with intentions of transforming it into the standard-bearer for the Dream brand.
Hampshire asked Handel Architects to remake the property as the Dream Downtown—while avoiding the ships-ahoy nostalgia of the Maritime. As Hampshire's senior vice president Brendan McNamara says, "We knew we had to take things up a notch for a flagship." He goes on to cite influences ranging from monumental sculptures by Anish Kapoor to album covers for the house-music trio Dirty Vegas.
Handel Architects partner Frank Fusaro reinvented the exterior of the 12-story building, tripling the number of porthole windows. He screened the front facade with perforated stainless steel, creating moon-window balconies. In the back, he replaced the pink stucco with pillowed panels of polished stainless steel. "We did surgery on the structure," he says.
The 316 rooms likewise update mid-century ideas and materials. The penthouse lounge is more '80's-inspired, complete with chocolate-and-butterscotch marble. Retro glass globes swarm overhead in the more casual of the two restaurants. A restroom is lit by cheekily arachnid chandeliers with task-lamp arms.
In the lobby, walls are paneled with teak planks, installed with a John Pawson-worthy attention to detail, and curvy low seating is upholstered in tufted silver leather. No, you won't find anything as kitschy as a "mermaid" swimming behind glass. But the skylight, actually the clear bottom of the swimming pool upstairs, offers a view of guests doing laps.
Appia Marble & Granite: Stone Supplier. Focus Lighting: Lighting Consultant. Advanced Audio Technology; Shen Milsom Wilke: Audiovisual Consultants. Robert Silman Associates: Structural Engineer. Thomas Polise Consulting Engineer: MEP. Arcus Stone Products: Plasterwork. LD Flecken: Metalwork. Metropolitan Millwork: Woodwork. Bramson House: Drapery Workshop. C&A Seneca Construction; McGowan Builders: Construction Managers.