original publication material - courtesy of Deborah Berke & Partners Architects
21c Museum Hotel LouisvilleEdit profile
21c Museum Hotel was launched in 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky by philanthropists and art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. This husband and wife team had seen farmland and rural landscapes fall to development while the historic buildings of Louisville’s downtown sat vacant.
Born out of a love of contemporary art and a belief that art should be accessible, interactive and without pretense; a desire to create livable downtown spaces that prevents urban sprawl; and the conviction that art drives commerce, the project vision was to support the revitalization of Louisville's downtown while engaging the public with contemporary art in a new way.
Working with Deborah Berke & Partners Architects, the team set out to adaptively re-use five contiguous historic 19th century tobacco and bourbon warehouses – brick and cast iron buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places – to create a unique mixed-use 92,000 sf boutique hotel and free contemporary art museum to help make Louisville—and its historic downtown arts and theater district—an even more vibrant place to live, work, and visit.
Partially funded by historic tax credits and other federal, state, and local incentives, Brown and Wilson created 21c in Louisville’s downtown arts and theater district to support both urban renewal and, by developing partnerships with local growers to supply produce and ingredients for the Proof on Main restaurant, regional agriculture.
The project involved precise interventions into the historic building’s structural walls to weave guest rooms, a restaurant, meeting rooms, and exhibition space for large-scale art into the narrow warehouse shells. The design boldly juxtaposes contemporary design and art against the warehouses’ architectural details. A steel and glass canopy has been inserted into original cast iron details to mark the entrance. Once through the large steel and glass doors—occasionally used for large artwork—guests are presented with a registration desk, fabricated from reclaimed wood from joists removed from the building during demolition, and a collection of modern and contemporary furniture.
Beyond the lobby gallery and its original cast iron columns is a grand stair with a milk-glass railing leading to the 6,000 sf main gallery. Carved out from the basement of the warehouses, the gallery is topped by a new, massive steel truss that distributes the weight of the original load-bearing brick walls. The main exhibition space continues toward additional galleries and meeting rooms. A fitness center, additional meeting spaces and support areas for the hotel and museum are located on the lower level. The warmly modern guestrooms bridge the gap between the former warehouses and
the challenging artwork. Custom furniture in rich woods and fabrics sit comfortably beside original exposed brick and contemporary art.
21c Louisville, has proven to be a critical and financial success and has established itself as market leader in the hospitality industry while simultaneously helping to re-establish Louisville as a nationally recognized destination. In 2009 and 2010, 21c Museum Hotel was named the Number 1 Hotel in the United States by the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List.
Original description by Deborah Berke & Partners