Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The hotel and ‘unique ethos’ of Adams Morgan

Click on image for large view. See end note on source. 

The columns and long steps leading up the old Church of Christ Scientist in Adams Morgan give it the feeling of a federal building.  The plan to convert it into a hotel, part of a new line of boutique hotels,  Edition, designed by Ian Schrager, will preserve the columns, steps and general outline of the church. The 179 rooms will be in a new 10-story structure.

In the rendering above, the former church space will serve as the hotel’s main lobby. It shows plans for two bars and a restaurant. It’s a large space, and it’s not hard to imagine areas of dramatic light and height.

Schrager’s Edition hotels are being built with a design philosophy that calls for “rare individuality” in each property along with an “unique ethos” that “will reflect the best of the cultural and social milieu of its location and of the time. “

But how will Schrager interpret the “unique ethos” of Adams Morgan? Will the former church space be turned into a free flowing and inviting area that integrates itself with the community, a place for the neighborhood’s laptop toting legions to gather, perhaps a version of Tryst?  Or will the hotel be aloof, along the lines of an expense account-driven hotel on Capitol Hill or a Georgetown boutique, a refuge and island for its guests alone?

To be true to his design philosophy Schrager has a problem to solve.  The hotel has to infuse the character of the Adams Morgan neighborhood to claim that it reflects its ethos.  This goes beyond incorporating architectural elements and art alone. It involves making the neighborhood a part of the hotel and not a collection of design artifacts.

The rendering above shows great design potential. The former church space appears devoted to lobby and public spaces, with immediate access to one bar and restaurant, along with a second bar near the pool. There’s potential for abundant seating. It is easy to imagine this space becoming a welcoming area for neighborhood people to gather for a drink or coffee and to chat and type away on their social networks.

Hotel guests arrive in separate registration lobby with its own entrance. For guests of the hotel, the old church space becomes, perhaps, their first exposure to the creative chaos of Adams Morgan. The steps from the church into the neighborhood may be akin to entering a theater.

The hotel’s developers must be hoping that the vitality, diversity and energy of the neighborhood will help sustain it. That will mean creating a lively social and entertainment place that works for the neighborhood as well as the hotel's guests.

About rendering: That's a screen shot from a PDF by the developer that is posted on the Kalorama Citizens Association web site.