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American Beauty

The American Radiator Building and the Bryant Park Hotel
  • Bryant Park Hotel

    The Bryant Park Hotel at night

  • Bryant Park Hotel

    The facade of the American Radiator building, home to the Bryant Park Hotel

  • Bryant Park Hotel

    The entrance to the hotel; view of the building from Bryant Park

  • Bryant Park Hotel

    The lobby at the Bryant Park Hotel

  • Bryant Park Hotel

    Koi Restaurant at the Bryant Park Hotel

  • Bryant Park Hotel

    The Cellar at the Bryant Park Hotel

  • Bryant Park Hotel

    The Bryant Park Hotel

Hotels with Historic Architecture

The mid-century headquarters of the Superior Oil Company was an established Los Angeles landmark, long before helping to put downtown LA on the boutique-hotel map.

The 1929 Art Deco stunner that the Palomar calls home was, in a former life, home to no less august a body than the American Institute of Architects.

Atop its perch on Nob Hill, the Huntington is surrounded by famous neighbors, but it might just be the finest relic of San Francisco’s Gilded Age.

February, 2013

The Bryant Park Hotel is one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City. There’s absolutely no question about it. Built in 1924 to be the flagship of the American Radiator Company, the Gothic and Art Deco–influenced black building stands at the center of Bryant Park, which essentially functions as a sort of outdoor living room in Midtown. Architect Raymond Hood, who trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was asked to design the building after he impressed the company with his designs for radiator covers.

Hood’s design combined stripped-down modernism with Gothic detailing, and was one of the first skyscrapers in Manhattan to break from the Beaux-Arts classical tradition and embrace a more streamlined, modern design. Its most radical feature is the treated bricks that give the building its deep black hue and unmistakable presence. To the average New Yorker in 1924, the building may have been as shocking as the black monolith that suddenly appeared to prehistoric man in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the design is softened by a judicious use of gilded terra cotta ornament that, in conjunction with brilliant flood lighting by master lighting designer Richard Kelly, who illuminated many Modern masterpieces, highlights the building’s elegant pinnacles and parapets. The black and gold finishes are often understood as symbolic representations of coal and fire – the elements that power America’s radiators. Thus, the building functions as both a corporate and a civic symbol.

In 1967 the building was sold to the American Standard Company and in 1974 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The structure changed hands again in 1988 and stood empty for more than a decade, before finally reopening in 2001 as the Bryant Park Hotel. The stunning renovation from office building to 130-room modern hotel was completed by British architect David Chipperfield.

Chipperfield, who was the curator of the 2012 Venice Biennale, is perhaps best known for his modern yet respectful renovations to Berlin’s Neues Museum and other surrounding buildings on Museum Island. The Bryant Park Hotel renovation displays that same sensitivity to history, paying tribute to Hood’s groundbreaking design. Its black brick, gold ornament, and iconic lighting design have all been painstakingly restored, while inside, the offices and showrooms have been transformed into high-end accommodations for the discerning traveler.

As with the original Hood design, high-quality materials play an important role in constructing the identity of the hotel. The light-filled, modern rooms are adorned in luxury finishes such as oak, travertine, and cashmere and elegantly furnished with custom pieces designed by Chipperfield and manufactured by B&B Italia. The richness of the materials prevents the simple design from feeling too cold or alienating. They really are beautiful spaces.

In the 1920s, Raymond Hood’s American Radiator building was seen as daring, perhaps even groundbreaking. When it opened in 1924, the New York Times described the building as a “daring departure from the conventional in office building construction.” In today’s world of ever-growing glass high-rise towers and radical architectural forms, The Bryant Park Hotel is still in many ways a daring departure from the conventional. As David Chipperfield himself has said of the building: “it’s modern, classic, and comfortable.” In short, timeless.

Jimmy Stamp

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