[design '97]

The new Meany: A sense of place

The addition of Eddie's Newscafe called for new flooring, art deco metal works and a concrete surfaced coffee bar.


The Edmond Meany Hotel, recently renovated by NBBJ, has not only been transformed into a first-rate lodging facility, but also symbolizes NBBJ's focus in the hospitality industry: to design a facility that conveys a sense of being somewhere as opposed to a sense of being anywhere.

From the mezzanine, the restored terrazzo floors of the Meany Hotel come back to life. New original artwork enhances the art deco furniture and light fixtures.
Photos courtesy Assassi Productions, 1997

The Starwood Lodging Corp., recognizing the potential of this 1930's landmark University District hotel, purchased the building in 1995 and immediately set to work on refurbishment. The real estate investment trust company asked NBBJ to create a design that would recapture the character of the original building design, incorporate a modern design approach, and bring the guest rooms up to market rate.

In 1938, the Edmond Meany Hotel was part of a national architecture exhibition on the art deco style. Yet throughout its 66-year life span, the Edmond Meany has undergone several facelifts and has been renamed three times.

The reception area. A giant mirror reflects the entry doors while the restored columns convey a new sense of openness. Artwork selected from The University Archives celebrates the time period in which the hotel was originally built.

New walls entombed original columns and trendy carpets smothered the lobby's Italian marble floor. With each change, the hotel took on the facade of the current decade, moving farther and farther away from the initial building design.

NBBJ's renovation brought the hotel full circle: restoring the Edmond Meany back to its original art deco glory and christened name.

The design process was extremely responsive to the various surprises found during the demolition and construction phases. As the physical building began to reveal itself, the design team discovered just how much had been concealed by the numerous remodels. The found materials that could be used, and then made the necessary modifications. Through the utilization of existing and new materials, they recreated the elegant 1930's era environment.

The main floor renovation restored the original lobby plan, uncovering the hidden columns and terrazzo floors. Wherever feasible, the existing design motifs and materials were reused and complimented with custom light sconces, a gigantic two-story mirror, metal work and new furniture. The result is a grand lobby that serves as event space or cocktail lounge.

Eddie's Newscafe was added at the lobby level in order to draw hotel guests and neighborhood residents alike. The cafe design juxtaposes materials and design motifs used in the original architecture with contemporary materials and design. Custom metal screens and railings celebrate the details evident in the original art deco design, while the concrete counter tops and perforated brass bar front celebrate the use of new materials.

Each guest room features a corner view made more spectacular by the simple design and neutral colors.

In the guest rooms, the renovation scheme focused on the needs of the business traveler. Each room includes a spacious desk with convenience outlets for computers and fax machines. Neutral colors provide a subtle backdrop to the corner window views (in each room) that overlook the campus neighborhood. Custom furniture, lighting and fabric designs convey the feeling of living in the 1930's. Rich cherry wood, luminescent charcoal laminate, and red lounge chair upholstery provide contrast and add to the mystique. Photographs selected from The University Archives serve as an historical tribute to the University District neighborhood during the time of the original construction.

At the Meany, the NBBJ teem tried to create spaces that are a tranquil and serene expression of comfort. There is a consciousness of design that is immediate, alive and beyond style.

The Edmond Meany Hotel is a renewed facility equipped with modern amenities and reminiscent of a particular era in the University of Washington's history: the time of Edmond S. Meany.

Edmond Meany is often referred to as the "Father of the University." He was a popular University of Washington professor and civic leader. In 1891, Meany was elected to the University of Washington's Board of Regents and became instrumental in securing land for the new campus.

Eddie's Newscafe alcove offers warm wood tones and comfortable wicker chairs.

From 1897 to 1935, Meany was a professor of American history and lecturer in forestry. He was also responsible for organizing many Campus Day work parties and for bringing the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition to the campus in 1909 -- an event that was widely attributed to sparking the university's growth.

The hotel named in his honor now features 159 guest rooms and various public areas including the grand lobby, Eddie's Newscafe, a full-service restaurant and bar called Pleiades, a ballroom and several meeting rooms. Administrative services such as faxing, computing, printing, photo copying and express delivery are available. Guests also have access to an fully-equipped exercise room.

Achieving a sense of place is imperative to NBBJ's design philosophy. Whenever possible, the ethos of particular region, community, and/or time era is integrated into the overall design. The Edmond Meany Hotel is just one example of this design approach. NBBJ is currently at work on several hospitality projects nationwide.

Rysia Suchecka is a principal at NBBJ.

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Copyright © 1997 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.