Becker & Becker and Dutch East Design revive Marcel Breuer’s 1967 faded Brutalist landmark in New Haven as America’s first fossil-fuel free hotel

New Haven, Connecticut, USA

“You have to reuse, recycle and reinvent existing buildings to be truly sustainable,”  states Bruce Becker, president, Becker & Becker. 

“The culture we have of tearing down and building new is really inefficient, and particularly when you have a building like (this one) which has such a great structure and that’s built to last for another century, not to repurpose it would have been a real shame.”

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

Originally conceived in 1967 as a dramatic gateway to New Haven, Marcel Breuer’s Bauhaus-inspired Brutalist landmark has now been renewed and readapted by architects and owner Becker & Becker together with Dutch East with artfully detailed interiors and a climate-first credo.

As the country’s first Passive House-certified hotel, Hotel Marcel New Haven, operated as a Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the renovated building is the first net-zero hotel in the United States, operating independently of fossil fuels by utilizing renewable solar power sources on-site to generate the electricity needed for its common areas, restaurant, laundry, meeting rooms, and 165 guestrooms and suites, resulting in zero carbon emissions.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

The historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of New Haven’s iconic Breuer landmark is a model for a sustainable hospitality. 

The project addresses the long-standing historic preservation and economic development priorities to create a high-quality hotel and meeting facility proximate to the waterfront, train stations, and major highways at the city’s gateway.

While green buildings have become increasingly commonplace around the world, Hotel Marcel stands out for its ambitious goals in an industry that is notorious for energy consumption and waste.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

The building is powered by energy generated onsite, primarily over 1,000 solar panels that cover both the hotel rooftop and parking lot.

These panels are estimated to generate 700,000-kilowatt hours over the course of a year—the equivalent of powering nearly 70 American homes 

Designed by Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje, the building began life in 1967 as the Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters (aka Pirelli Building), and is now listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and was owned by IKEA from 2003 until the end of 2019 leaving the building vacant until it was purchased by Bruce Becker for $1.2 million.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

The nine-story concrete tower has maintained a conspicuous presence along a major east coast interstate, largely because of the gaping void that slices through the two middle floors of the building.

Armstrong Rubber had administrative offices on the top floors and the gap was designed to dampen the noise coming from the research labs on the lower levels. 

Shockingly, a section of Breuer’s building was torn down by IKEA in order to build a parking lot.

After this portion of the lower level was demolished, local advocates stepped in with a public campaign to encourage the city and its owners to repurpose the remaining building. 

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

This act of re-use at a large scale with a site that was neglected for decades should serve as a case study for others and a call to rethink our culture of disposability. 

Becker’s plan for turning it into a net-zero hotel meant approaching the project from two angles: reducing overall energy consumption and finding the most efficient ways to source alternative energy.

“I spent a full year thinking of all the details of the project before I even purchased the property,” states Becker.

“As the owner, I had the freedom to do something new without the need to build consensus, which can be difficult when the clock is ticking and there is so much concern about risk.” Still, he admits, he was hedging his bets.” 

“I wanted to be sure even before I bought the building that I could execute my vision, because the last thing I wanted was to be holding onto a vacant building for 20 years.”

The building itself is conducive to reduced energy consumption—its precast concrete façade houses deep-set windows that provide natural shade when the sun is at its highest. 

The studio made several other interventions including opening up utility spaces at the center of the top floor—a double-height space supported by steel trusses – to create a courtyard that lets in light for a series of meeting rooms.

This opening also allowed the architecture studio to build light wells that bring in additional light to rooms that were placed at the middle of the floor plates.

Becker and his team also implemented triple-glazed windows meant to maintain more stable building temperatures and added all-electric kitchen and laundry systems. 

All the lighting will utilize an energy-efficient power and control system known as power over ethernet, or POE, which has traditionally been used in buildings for computer and phone systems.

The hotel’s interiors were designed by Brooklyn studio Dutch East Design, which turned the offices and research labs into 165 luxury rooms as well as lobbies and amenity spaces.

Since much of the original interiors were unusable, the renovation was intensive and Dutch East brought in furniture from a number of local craftsmen.

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 
Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

Minimal furniture and white walls with wood finishes characterize much of the public and private spaces of the hotel.

“Good design requires a holistic approach,” Becker explains, and that includes how the design “serves its purpose and function,” he further comments. 

“How does it impact the larger world, the environment?” 

“Beauty, function, sustainability: you can’t have a beautiful building without addressing all three.”

The stairs in the atrium of the Carré are designed as a metal construction in order to avoid unnecessary material consumption with high timber cross-sections and costly metal substructure. 

Hotel Marcel New Haven by Becker & Becker 

The design of the components responds directly to the strengths and qualities of the respective materials and promotes the saving of the resources used and reduces the weight of the components. 

The roof structure weighs only 45 kg / sqm due to the specially developed metal nodes, the ETFE foil as well as the filigree wooden components, and ensures greater lighting in the atrium below thanks to narrower cross-sections. 

At the same time, the roof construction can withstand wind loads of up to 100 kg, as each bar can not only bear tensile but also compressive forces. 

Supported by the timber hybrid construction method the project is DGNB Platinum pre-certificated and will receive Germany’s first WELL Core & Shell Gold certificate.

The stairs in the atrium of the Carré are designed as a metal construction in order to avoid unnecessary material consumption with high timber cross-sections and costly metal substructure. 

The design of the components responds directly to the strengths and qualities of the respective materials and promotes the saving of the resources used and reduces the weight of the components. 

The roof structure weighs only 45 kg/sqm due to the specially developed metal nodes, the ETFE foil as well as the filigree wooden components, and ensures greater lighting in the atrium below thanks to narrower cross-sections. 

At the same time, the roof construction can withstand wind loads of up to 100 kg, as each bar can not only bear tensile but also compressive forces. 

Supported by the timber hybrid construction method the project is DGNB Platinum pre-certificated and will receive Germany’s first WELL Core & Shell Gold certificate.

Supported by the timber hybrid construction method the project is DGNB Platinum pre-certificated and will receive Germany’s first WELL Core & Shell Gold certificate.

Project: Hotel Marcel New Haven
Architects: Becker & Becker 
Interior Architects: Dutch East Design Inc.
Original Architects: Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje (1970)
Owner: Bruce Becker
Photographers: John Muggenborg Architectural Photography