The Pirelli building in New Haven transformed into the Marcel Hotel


NEW HAVEN — The striking, brutalist — and very, very conspicuous — Marcel Breuer-designed Pirelli Building that stood empty for decades next to Ikea at the junction of highways 95 and 91 is no longer empty.

Recently vacant after the purchase of Armstrong Tire Co. by Pirelli Tire Co. in 1988, which opened the building as a corporate headquarters in 1970, the building last week was a noisy hive of last-minute preparations, full sounds of vacuum cleaners and occasional hammering and power tools.

But on Monday, it will settle in and open — just in time for Yale University’s start on May 23 — as the hippest, most sustainable and eco-friendly new hotel in town.

Say hello to Hotel Marcel, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton.

“We are thrilled,” said architect and co-owner Bruce Redman Becker of Becker + Becker in Westport. “Yale is a big part of our community,” as is Yale New Haven Hospital, and “New Haven is underserved” when it comes to hotels, he said.

The 165-room all-electric hotel in the city’s Long Wharf neighborhood will be the third-largest in New Haven when it opens, second only to the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale with 306 rooms and Marriot’s Courtyard New Haven with 207 rooms.

Even before it opened, it’s one of only a few dozen hotels in the United States to have the Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum efficiency rating. It aims to be the country’s first net zero hotel – meaning it generates all of its electricity on site – although Becker said it could take a year to get that certified and official.

Hotel Marcel, with an array of solar panels on the roof and above parking canopies in the car park, has already received passive building certification, meaning it uses 80% less energy than a typical American hotel.

The goal is to use solar power to generate its own electricity for lighting, heating, cooling and hot water, Becker said.

Named after Breuer, the famous Bauhaus-affiliated Modernist architect who originally designed it – and with an architectural history full of open spaces between its second floor and the floor above – the Hotel Marcel n is nothing if not iconic.

It is listed on both the Connecticut and National Registers of Historic Places. Its modernist design — in a place frequented by an estimated 140,000 vehicles a day — was one of the last controversies to emerge from the Urban Renewal-era administration of former Mayor Richard C. Lee, who personally associated Armstrong with both the site and the architect.

It was also named Connecticut’s ugliest building in a 2018 Business Insider article.

But inside, it’s full of placid, muted earth tones thanks to design partner Dutch East Design, with a curated collection of art on the walls, both public and in its bedrooms, that the artist from Westport Kraemer Sims Becker – Bruce Becker’s wife – collected, focusing on female artists.

And it feels quite intimate, in a sort of high-end modern art museum.

“My feeling is that it works better as a hotel than it ever could as an office building. … You have great access and great views,” both of the city and Yale on one side and New Haven Harbor and the Long Island Sound on the other, said Bruce Becker.

Why Becker, a respected Westport architect whose other buildings have included the 360 ​​State St. apartment building in New Haven and the 777 Main St. (formerly Hartford Bank) building in Hartford, wanted to involved in the rebirth of such a long-cocooned building?

It just grew out of driving by over the years and asking the same kind of “I wonder what’s going on with this building?” questions everyone asks, he says.

“I’m passionate about mid-century modern architecture,” said Becker, who grew up in New Canaan “in a house with Marcel Breuer chairs.”

“This building by Marcel Breuer is clearly his most visible architectural work,” Becker explained last week. “After riding alongside all this time, I thought, ‘Maybe I could do something about that,'” he said. “…It was just a shame and a waste of resources to have him sitting there.”

He spent about a year talking to Ikea, which had originally demolished part of the low-rise section of the building, which had been used for research facilities, and had mostly used the rest of the building as a wall panel. giant display from which to hang advertisements.

Becker’s group took over the building at 500 Sargent Drive on December 31, 2019.

“It was much easier to run as a billboard than as a hotel,” he said. And while that was satisfying, “If someone else had done it, I would have been fine.”

To Ikea’s credit, they weren’t ready to accept anything when it came to design ideas, Becker said.

“We are very pleased to be affiliated with Hilton – part of the Tapestry Collection,” which includes boutique hotels “that reflect local culture,” Becker said.

True to form, Hotel Marcel, among other things, will feature local produce at its BLDG restaurant — and sell East Haven-made Foxon Park sodas and ice cream from Arethusa Farm in Bantam, among other products, in a “ grab-and-go” so guests can take a picnic or go up to their room.

It also has Breuer-designed “Cesca chairs”—named after Breuer’s daughter, Francesca—in many of its rooms.

The hotel is operated by Remington Hospitality, which Becker called “one of the best hotel operators in the country” — and will have more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space.

The two things that are most unique about Hotel Marcel are its design heritage and its sustainability, Becker said.

But it’s been a long road to get there, with asbestos and other 50-year-old issues to sort out – and this handsome interior was essentially built from scratch inside the car’s envelope. old office building.

Sustainability “is something that interests me more and more in all my work,” said Becker, who, with his wife, is a family of two Teslas – and it’s not the first alternative fuel vehicle I’ve ‘he drives.

“I think most architects are acutely aware of global warming” and “architects are trying to pivot to make each of our buildings part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” said Becker, who is also president of the Electrical Vehicle. Connecticut club. “I think there is going to be a rapid switch to all-electric.”

Some of Becker’s other buildings, including 360 State St., use fuel cells, although they still use fossil fuels, he said.

But “I think everyone is trying to get away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” and virtually everything inside Hotel Marcel, including the kitchen and laundry room, is 100% electric.

Becker’s own home in Westport, converted from an old historic building, is also an all-electric home, he said.

“Believe it or not, it’s easier to fund a project like this,” with funding available through the Green Bank, among others, he said, and “it’s easier for us to operate in the dark with this project”.

The solar panels atop the building and on the canopies set up in the parking lot — more than 1,000 of them — produce about 550,000 kilowatt hours a year of energy, which is stored in fuel cells on site, Becker said. . The panels were ordered in January, he said.

According to a dashboard app on Becker’s phone, the building’s solar panels currently collect about 216 kilowatts of power on an overcast day, he said. “The building only consumes 168 kW,” he said.

“Solar awnings are actually ingenious because people like parking garages,” Becker said. They are environmentally sustainable and “your car won’t burn in the sun”.

On Friday, dozens of workers under the direction of general manager Michael Scandariato were working to prepare the Hotel Marcel and make everything perfect for its debut, with work taking place simultaneously on several floors.

Scandariato said that if the eighth and ninth floors “come a little later”, everything on floors 1 through 7 will be ready to go.

“We have the whole weekend,” Scandariato said. “This team has been great. Everyone is fully engaged and excited to be here.

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