September 1, 2011

In Your Wildest Dreams: The Maritime Hotel is Re-imagined as the Dream Downtown

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. 

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