The new hotel isn’t just engaging the public with contemporary art—it’s also a perfect place to spend the night.
There are big changes afoot in The Big Friendly. This month, its downtown Film Row district—so named for its past as a hub for major motion picture companies like Paramount Pictures and MGM—is heralding the opening of a new 21c Museum Hotel, a brand renowned for its urbane, if irreverent, take on sleeping quarters. The regal, terra cotta-covered Albert Kahn-designed space had industrial beginnings: Originally built in 1916 to house a Ford Motor Company plant, the building’s assembly line process was driven by features like long, open floor plans and expansive windows that let in light and ventilation—qualities that have not only survived its rebirth, but that form the foundation of the new space. At the time, the novel design allowed affordable Model Ts to be cranked out with crushing efficiency for hungry consumers, and consequently opened travel up to America’s middle class.
It’s fitting, then, that in their sixth and latest collaboration with NYC-based design architect Deborah Berke Partners, hoteliers (and life partners) Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown of 21c Museum Hotels have adapted Ford’s democratic approach to automobiles for a new purpose: art. The 135-room boutique hotel houses a 14,000-square-foot exhibition and event space, where contemporary art by both big names (Kara Walker! Zanele Muholi!) and rising upstarts hangs, and will feature installations with an “industrial” bent that honor the building’s manufacturing history, like a photography exhibit showcasing workmanship in the 21st century. Further serving guests and the community alike, Wilson and Lee Brown will have docents leading free tours every Wednesdays and Friday at 5 p.m.
Inside guest rooms, huge, casement-style windows that let in swaths of natural light, leather bed frames, and bright, funky paintings by Laura Lee Brown herself help meld the building’s steely past with its sleek new future. Other features, like the life-sized, lacquered arrow sculptures that live in the hallways on each floor, also give the place a pop. The hotel restaurant, Mary Eddy’s, takes over the building’s original Model T showroom—but leaves the original, freshly-buffed terrazzo floor—and in its place, a stone hearth pizza oven, rotisserie, and smoker that patrons can dutifully observe while they wait for their crackling, spit-roasted chicken and Shrooms pizza (that’s oyster and crimini). There’s also an acrylic, assembly line-inspired River of Time exhibit—moving panels that glide along on conveyor belts like a river—to really hammer home the importance of the production line to Ford, and ultimately, to Oklahoma City.
Opened June 7. Deluxe King rooms from $219/night.
From: CN Traveler