Everything has a past and destinations are no different. Some have a rich history or unique story tied to people or events. This often drives traffic – guests who want to learn more, honor the past, or experience it themselves.
But, over time, things become worn out or outdated and need to be refreshed to attract the next generation and make the experience enjoyable. Our clients bring us in to revive or refresh properties with a rich history, and we always strive to respect the heritage while modernizing it in a way that makes it current and exciting.
One of the main goals of all developers is to drive business, so it’s a balance of how to make the property feel “current” while keeping historical elements of the design that define the property. For example, Fort Worth Stockyards in Texas has a legacy of livestock sales and was listed on the National Register as a historical district in 1976. The recent refresh project was a public/private partnership with the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with Stockyards Heritage Development Company (a partnership between developer Majestic Realty, and Fort Worth’s Hickman Companies). Although we, along with a talented team, were tasked to create something special and fresh for the Fort Worth community, it was also critical to maintain a connection to the historic charm that has molded the district for well over 100 years. The romance and mystique of cowboys still draw a crowd and to this day the Fort Worth Herd is driven up Exchange Avenue twice daily.
The brick buildings along Mule Alley were expanded and evolved into a vibrant entertainment district with carefully curated stores, restaurants, and live music venues. There is new vehicular paving, updated in custom patterns and colors that complement the rich brick facades, and new planting along the streets brings it all to life. The American Paint Horse Association headquarters is stationed at the Stockyards and their bronze sculpture, “Legacy of Color,” was moved to Mule Alley as a centerpiece.
Nestled within a labyrinth of outdoor gardens that feel like they have always been part of the extended landscape of the adjacent creek, Hotel Drover has been added to the end of Mule Alley to modernize the mixed-use property and increase its destination potential. After arriving through the hotel’s ranch-style entry, the landscape design features a rich tapestry of woodland planting, desert cacti, and beautiful red oaks that surround winding pathways and outdoor spaces that complement the sophisticated, yet rustic, interior design exuding relaxed Texas comfort. Guests will also find shaded socializing areas, a swimming pool, and a spacious event lawn. There is also a chef’s table pavilion for a private dining experience, where guests are serenaded by a 200-year-old fountain from Italy in the herb garden.
In Florida, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel’s preceding renovations had taken the design of the property far away from the destination that it had been when it opened in 1955, so we were brought in to bring a modern sensibility to the iconic property. Recalling the clean lines and spirit of the original design by architect Morris Lapidus, the renovation complemented the buildings and reimagined the property through a contemporary, hip, playful lens for today’s guest. The renowned oceanfront poolscape, which was once the backdrop of the James Bond movie Goldfinger, was turned into a series of tropical garden rooms focused on six new pools, each with their own vibe and orientation to the ocean. The spaces have different ambiance and possibilities as they relate to the overall upscale party atmosphere, but they are all connected to the major design inspirations of the property. An axial layout of the pools is a nod to the classical gardens that used to flank the original pool area, inspired by the Fontainebleau Palace in France. The shape of the main pool is a stylized interpretation of a bow tie, which Morris Lapidus loved and used as a pattern in the lobby’s marble flooring.
Another iconic project with a rich history is Rockefeller Center. From 2015-2019, we designed 28 different scenes in the Channel Gardens that connect Rockefeller Plaza to Fifth Avenue. Since the 1930s, this garden passage has offered busy shoppers and office workers a changing horticultural scene to pass through. Our task was to bring some seasonal drama and pizzazz back to the promenade experience, to delight tourists, while also encouraging the locals to return repeatedly. Considering their history, the original, raised planters along the six granite pools with bronze sculptures could not be altered. Our designs had to be both creative and sensitive not to damage or take away from the site’s architectural history.
From rich tapestries of colorful chrysanthemums to succulent gardens not usually seen in the urban jungle of NYC, every garden display was inspired by the season and invoked a sense of awe and whimsy. This included designs for Easter and Christmas, which have become a beloved institutions, so our designs needed to elevate the experience but not take away from the classic elements guests have come to expect. For Easter, the focus was a sea of blooming white Easter Lilies, with fun elements added in, such as oversized Faberge eggs and a giant floral-planted Easter Bunny. The iconic Christmas display, often portrayed in media and a city tradition, needed to feature Valerie Clarebout’s 8’ tall luminous trumpeting angle sculptures that herald in the holiday season. For this installation, we built on the tradition by planting an evergreen parterre garden at the angels’ feet, adorned with glistening silver and gold Christmas bulbs and twinkling lights, while additional decorated evergreen trees lead the eye to the plaza’s world-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
It is a tremendous honor for us to become part of the legacy of a project that has existed for decades (if not longer) and be able to give it a new life for future generations to enjoy. To learn about the rich heritage and translate that into a modern story is extremely satisfying. We have been fortunate to be part of the narrative of so many iconic projects and look forward to many more in the future!