Since opening in 2012, the Wythe has earned a reputation as one of Brooklyn’s hippest hotels and has become a destination for visitors as well as locals. More importantly, it is often raised as an exemplar of how to revitalize old, industrial structures in a manner that respects history while also reflecting an understanding that buildings belong to no single moment in time, but instead exist in a continuum of experience and memory. At the time that it opened, the Wythe Hotel expanded the envelope of hip Williamsburg north from the nexus of 7th and Bedford Avenue north to 11th Street and West toward the East River.
From the earliest design sketch, the Wythe Hotel project comprised three critical elements: the restoration of the original building, a contemporary roof addition and an iconic new sign. Williamsburg is not a designated historic district, but the brick cooperage is exactly the type of postindustrial artifact that draws people to Brooklyn, so it was vital to retain that sense of authenticity while restoring the building. This was not easy. The building’s wood ceilings were in disrepair and its brick walls were damaged, poorly painted or defaced with graffiti. For months, layer after layer of paint and grime were artfully scraped and sandblasted away from the original wood and brick to capture the right amount of historic residue. The process was painstakingly deliberate, and the resulting palimpsest reveals traces of different eras in the building’s history.
Far less subtle was the removal of an entire 20-foot bay from the west side of the brick building. In its place, a glass window wall, modeled after the original factory windows, encloses the building to satisfy mandatory light and air requirements while creating sweeping views of Manhattan from the hotel rooms. This gridded glass facade extends up past the roofline of the original building to wrap the abstract rooftop addition, an airy four-story glass block that starkly contrasts the solid brick mass below. The rooftop bar has become a popular nightlife spot, thanks in large part to its panoramic views of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline.
Image Credits: Matthew Williams, Jimi Billingsley, Mark Mahaney