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Hotel Marcel

Becker + Becker

New Haven, CT, United States

October 2022


Bruce Redman Becker, FAIA, CPHD (Architect)


GNCB (Structural Engineer), Blades Goven (Landscape Architect), LN Consulting (MEPF Engineer), Dutch East Design (Interior Designer), SWA (LEED and Passive House Consultant


Bruce Redman Becker, 500 LLC care of Becker + Becker


Seamus Payne


The transformation of the long-vacant Pirelli building was conceived to address simultaneous cultural, economic and environmental goals:
• Save an iconic landmark in a way that fully respects its architectural legacy and design character. Meet rigorous historic preservation standards for a certified historic rehabilitation to allow financing with historic tax credits;
• Economical and efficient design to create a 165-room boutique hotel, restaurant and conference center addressing market needs, satisfying extensive Hilton brand-standards, and allowing for successful market-rate underwriting and financing by lenders and investors, while also creating economic opportunity for underserved community;
• An unbending commitment to environmental stewardship to create the first all-electric, first Passive House-certified and first LEED V4 Platinum-certified hotel in the United States.

Hotel Marcel sought to create a new model (where few others existed) for sustainable hospitality through electrification, zero operational carbon, deep energy efficiency and minimizing embodied carbon through adaptive re-use of an existing building.

Hotel Marcel challenges a culture where older buildings are treated as disposable and signals a change in the architectural preservation and hospitality paradigms toward uncompromising climate stewardship.

In demonstrating that market rate real estate development projects can be designed and built to meet Passive House standards, and operate without use of any fossil fuels, it was the firm’s objective to squarely address the existential climate challenge of our time. Hotel Marcel was conceived to provide a replicable model for how the making of buildings can respect cultural and economic objectives and while not contributing in any significant way to climate change.


The Armstrong Rubber Company Building, designed by Marcel Breuer with Robert Gatje and in 1969, is Breuer’s most visible work, greeting thousands of travelers every hour on Interstate 95.

Breuer’s masterful solution marries the Armstrong’s needs for office and production space with the Mayor Richard Lee’s aspiration for a corporate landmark as a symbolic gateway to the City.

Mayor Lee hand-picked the nation’s leading architects for high-visibility projects throughout the city, and contacted Breuer regarding a “nationally known manufacturing firm” who would redevelop a former slaughterhouse site adjacent to Long Wharf. Lee directed Armstrong to hire Breuer, the Bauhaus teacher and architect who shaped a generation of modernists with Walter Gropius at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. In 1968, Breuer received the AIA Gold Medal, making him arguably that year’s most lauded architect.

To address the client’s practical desires and the urban renewal mandates of th Mayor, Breuer developed a steel truss structure allowing the offices to be suspended above laboratories. The resulting iconic form, clad in “Mosai” pre-cast concrete panels, framed the City for motorists on I-95, while advertising the company that made many of the very tires that they drove on. In its vertical splitting, the building formalized the client’s program: hoisting corporate headquarters into the air with the research and development facilities hugging the ground.

Pirelli Tire acquired Armstrong in 1988, taking over its headquarters. Pirelli wound down their Northeast operations and vacated the building in 1999, leaving the structure empty and for over two decades.


Hotel Marcel demonstrates how an abandoned brutalist structure can become a high-performance building: Its rectangular envelope is efficient to insulate, heat and cool, and deep-set windows provide excellent passive shading. The facade was insulated and air-sealed on its concealed interior surface to meet Passive House standards. New triple-glazed laminated windows make the rooms remarkably quiet.

Precast panels, board-formed concrete, terrazzo stairs, polished steel railings and full-height wood paneling in former executive offices were carefully restored. Hardwood window surrounds follow the geometry of the original plaster spayed jambs, and incorporate concealed shade pockets. Original light fixtures were refinished and relamped to illuminate public spaces. Guestrooms were furnished with Breuer’s iconic Cesca chairs, upholstered in an Anni Albers textile design, and fabric designs by Gunta Stolz with hand-stitching are exhibited in elevator lobbies.

The building incorporates a 1.5 mWh renewable micro-grid, powered by over 1000 solar panels on the roof and parking canopies. Daylighting is enhanced with two new light wells, transforming former mechanical wells into open-air courtyards on the 9th floor, where massive trusses, previously hidden, become architectural features of the conference center. Custom-designed casegoods and classic modern furnishings and original artwork create a warm, inviting modern character for all interiors.

The all-electric systems, include Power-Over-Ethernet lighting and shades, a renewable microgrid with 1.5 mWh of battery storage, and 24 electric vehicle chargers and an electric shuttle van. The fully electric kitchen, laundry, hot water system, and HVAC system offer the hotel industry a decarbonization toolkit that is now being replicated.

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