January 1, 2012

Cosmopolitan Cocktail: Enrique Norton and Arnaud Montigny’s Hôtel Americano

In Mexico City, the jet set used to check into the candy-colored Camino Real hotel. India Mahdavi then stole the scene with the Condesa DF, a soigné boutique property for the fledgling Grupo Habita. Fueling an haute-hospitality revolution throughout much of the country, the company has since opened about one chic hotel per year.

Making a U.S. debut, in New York, the owners returned to Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos, which was responsible for the group’s very first property, the Hotel Habita. For the New York interiors, Habita co-owner and creative director Carlos Couturier reached out to Paris-based MCH Arnaud Montigny. The 56-room property would be christened the Hôtel Americano, with a frenchified circumflex.

Norten draped the front of the hotel in stainless steel mesh, the same kind that airports use for luggage conveyor belts. The anti-aesthetic of the material is “site-specific,” he says. “We interpreted the rough, industrial spirit of the neighborhood.” Viewed from the adjacent High Line elevated park during the day, the mesh is like a silver veil. It entirely dissolves at night, when the lights come on inside the hotel.

Interiors mix contemporary furnishings with modern classics–Poul Kjærholm meets Jasper Morrison. The bar and a private lounge, both in the basement, make cinematic references from the same period: the futurism of James Bond and A Clockwork Orange for the former and the emotional tension of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch for the latter. “It’s not a ‘design hotel’ with a single look,” MCH project manager Gianni Lavacchini declares. The lack of artwork is intended to create an island of calm amid New York’s gallery district.

In the smallest guest-room type, you walk almost straight into the foot of the bed. “The side of a bed is not sexy,” Montigny says. The bed sits on a low platform that extends the full width of the room, with the windows behind. By the door is the bathroom. As in all the rooms, the shower is enclosed by glass sandwiching highly reflective chromed sheet metal, paper-thin and perforated. The perforations create transparency when the light goes on, an echo of the mesh facade.

Shiny black glass, reminiscent of French bistro mirrors, wraps the elevator bank and continues into the cabs, a slick contrast to the cylindrical wicker shades softening the bright ceiling fixtures mandated by the building department. A sole express elevator whisks visitors up, through a glass-block shaft, to a roof terrace winterized with a glass enclosure. When it’s replaced by a retractable canopy for summertime, the Alpine menu will switch to Mediterranean fare, perfect for sharing beside the lap pool. (It’s heated to a high temperature, in the meantime, like an oversize hot tub.)

The main restaurant, on the ground level, offers outdoor dining on a rear patio, plus a sensual playlist chosen by Couturier’s Brazilian-raised singer friend, Bebel Gilberto. The chef prepares such seemingly simple dishes as roasted lobster with tender artichokes and chanterelle mushrooms. “It’s not about tacos and enchiladas,” Couturier says. Nevertheless, the charming bread baskets, wrought from humble wire, occasionally betray the tiniest of disposable tags: Hecho en Mexico.

Project Team: Hale Everets; David Hecht; Chris Glass; Kavita Ahuja; Simon Willet: TEN Arquitectos. Delux: Lighting Consultant. Gilsanz Murray Steficek: Structural Engineer. Robert A. Hansen Associates: Acoustical Engineer. Hirani Engineering & Land Surveying: Civil Engineer. Mehandes Engineering: MEP. Fourth State Metals: Metalwork. Propylaea Millwork: Woodwork. Foundations Group: General Contractor.

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