Hotel Saint George
To the untrained eye it may seem like an inconspicuous town in Texas, but since the 1970s Marfa has been a cultural hub, attracting artists and visitors from around the globe.
Instigated by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who first moved to the town in 1971, Marfa boasts a number of high quality galleries, restaurants and shops. It’s also home to a small number of independent hotels with a major chain not in sight.
The latest addition to the town’s landscape, Hotel Saint George, opened in spring 2016 and has been the recipient of envious glances ever since. Created by HKS Architects, Hotel Saint George is a 55-room boutique hotel located on the site of an original 1880s-era hotel. Connected to Marfa’s renowned book store, the hotel also boasts a restaurant and a bar.
Mary Alice Palmer, Associate Principal and Design Director of Hospitality Interiors at HKS Architects, was responsible for the whole design along with her dedicated team. Mary Alice spoke to Premier Hospitality International about the project and some of the hotel’s main design features. She began, however, by outlining why the hotel was needed in the first place:
“There was really no place for a global tourist to come and stay. The owner of a building on the main street in Marfa, who has been instrumental in a number of renovations in the town, decided to take on this challenge of bringing additional accommodation to the town. He also owns the Marfa Book Company which is quite famous as an art and culture book store.
“His brief was to add four storeys to this building and create a hotel on the existing footprint, using the existing structure but transforming it with a modern sensibility into what would be an appropriate lodging for people in town for a variety of reasons.
“We worked with Carlos Jimenez, who is a well published and award-winning architect from Houston. With the public spaces we essentially stripped everything back, polished the concrete floors and kept the columns in their places to create this unusual framework that sets the backdrop for the open public spaces. We wanted to celebrate the nature of the structure and allow that to shine through.
“Within that we created the steel box that floats in the centre zone and the public spaces are organised around this. It holds the centre of the building along with the reception desk that’s quite long and stretches through the linear lobby space, acting as a gathering space for people to lounge.”
Adjacent to this space is where you will find the book store, meaning customers can purchase a book before heading into the lobby to read. The idea was to create somewhere that would bring the wider community into the space. At the opposite side of the building, the bar bookends the space and continues the communal theme with its openness. Mary Alice continued:
“One of the things we did was use reclaimed materials, not only from the structure we were working with, but from other buildings and sites around Marfa. The idea was to reveal the beauty of the existing structure and celebrate that as the primary start and work within it to create something authentic and humble.
“Probably the most successful aspects of the guest rooms is the volume of the space. The big, square windows help frame stunning views across the landscape. Again we wanted to create something that was simple, inviting, comfortable and relaxed for guests. The rooms are as open as possible using materials that felt luxurious. We have furry goat skin rugs from New Zealand that bring the idea of ranging and the surrounding natural area into the room.”
Laventure, the Hotel Saint George restaurant, boasts rustic American-style and continental cuisine married with regional flavours and ingredients. The seasonal menu ensures diners get the best experience possible with the freshest ingredients and exceptional service.
Located across the street from Saint George in the heart of town, Bar Nadar is the perfect spot to swim, relax and dine, featuring shaded cabanas and Donald Judd-designed picnic benches for poolside lounging. The bar boasts frozen drinks (including frosé!) and cocktails with light Mexican fare by LaVenture’s Executive Chef Allison Jenkins from the open-air grill. The pool is open daily while evenings play host to live music, guest DJs, film screenings and more. Hotel guests enjoy complimentary access, while day passes are available to other visitors and locals alike.
What from the outside might seem like an innocuous project was in fact a major step for the town of Marfa. With artistic prowess at the core of the town, it was crucial that Hotel Saint George blend in with the local culture. Mary Alice and her team worked hard to create a simple yet sophisticated space and the result owes much to the collaborative nature of the project.
To find out more about the hotel, please visit marfasaintgeorge.com.