Balancing Fresh Design and Historic Architecture
January 5, 2011
Set in the heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square - one of the most historic tourist districts in America - the Alaska Building, which is now a division of Courtyard by the Marriott Brand, recently went through an interior reconstruction and renovation. The project, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, involved salvaging original stone pieces, and also selecting new materials that would respect and match the historic nature of this structure.
“We had to keep two different things in mind,” said Zoë Perpich, Associate Interior Designer and Project Lead Designer at Degen & Degen of Seattle, WA, which served as the interior design architect for the project. “One was to respect the historic nature of the building, and the other was to also respect the Marriott Brand.”
During reconstruction, the more than 100-year-old building was completely shut down, stripped to its original structure and rebuilt from there. Perpich explained that although the Marriott Brand is very contemporary, the design team had to consider the urban location of the building, and at the same time, interpret both needs in compliance with the Historical Society. “We decided to flow the interior with old architectural work,” she said. “We had to be able to identify which was old and existing, and which was new in abidance of the Historical Society’s rules. We had to work those two together, and we didn’t want one to outshine the other.”
According to a statement released by Degen & Degen, the design was “influenced by the building’s original detailing and marble as well as the surrounding views to alter the brand’s color scheme.” Moreover, the design team had to fit in modern elements. “The design solution was to float a bold new interior within this century-old architectural framework,” said the statement.
The original main lobby consisted of Alaska Gray marble that was salvaged, restored and cleaned for some of the new main spaces. At the time of the reconstruction, this area was converted into the foyer/elevator area of the new lobby, still featuring floor-to-ceiling marble walls, a restored original bronze mail shoot and a marble ceiling with untouched arches and plaster molding details. Some of the original Alaska Gray marble was then carried into the new main lobby’s reception area.
White Carrara marble from Stoneworks North Pacific of Carnation, WA - which also did the stone restoration and installation work - was then added to areas where the Alaska Gray marble was unusable. The material can be found as wainscoting and for columns in the reception area of the main lobby.
To introduce a contemporary feel, new materials were either “floating,” held back or suspended from the original structure, so that the historic elements remained untouched, according to Perpich. Such materials in the lobby include 6600 Nougat from CaesarStone Quartz Surfacing of Van Nuys, CA, for the front desk pedestals/transaction tops, a “quick print” countertop and market countertops. The same material was brought into the public restrooms as vanity tops, in the Lounge Bar at the Bistro Restaurant and for countertops in the meeting room and ballroom.
Additionally, stone continues into the guestrooms, as the design team used the views of the sky, water and Olympic Mountain Range to broaden their selected color palette. Blue Ice Pearl granite, also from Stoneworks North Pacific, was chosen for vanity tops in the guestroom baths and for kitchenette unit countertops in residential units. “Blue Ice Pearl went fabulous with the color scheme,” said Perpich. “It was perfect.”
According to the design statement, “The 262 guestrooms, suites and extended stay rooms embrace both the history and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.” The project began design plans in November of 2006 and opened in June 2010. “It’s been great for that part of town,” said Perpich. “It’s toned it up. I loved that we could respect the arches, old stonework and building’s nature, but still make is fresh. The Marriott is very happy.”