America’s most notorious hotel turns a new leaf.
Ever since the historic break-in to Democratic National Committee headquarters at this property in the 1970s, leading to President Nixon’s resignation, the Watergate Hotel has been synonymous with political corruption. Decades later, as the history books gathered dust, the property was primed for a refresh. London-based Ron Arad Architects were tapped to restore the Luigi Moretti-designed hotel to its former glory. Arad is a master of sinuous lines and forms, a synergetic match to Moretti’s curvaceous facade; to balance out the heavy exterior with concrete balustrade balconies, the interiors were designed to be light and airy. A forest of original columns in the first-floor social spaces is camouflaged with mirror-polished stainless steel tubes that reflect ambient gold and silver hues; the lobby is lined with opaque black granite floors and timber walls. Cheeky nods to the hotel’s sordid past are woven into various elements: key cards read “No need to break in;” voice recordings of Richard Nixon are broadcasted into the women’s powder rooms; deskside stationery is branded in font that mimics period-era legal documents. As lead architect Asa Bruno explains: “The legacy of this place is in its name, not the building or its form. We did our best to create something that is tasteful, timeless, and enduring, but the name is the thing that keeps.”