A museum where the visitors don’t have to leave
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
Since it opened in November 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has attracted more than one million visitors to Bentonville, Ark., a once sleepy small town now known to the world as the headquarters for Walmart. Funded by $800 million in endowments by the Walton Family Foundation, the museum’s art collection spans roughly five centuries of American masterworks, from Colonial times to present day. The museum has been the impetus for revitalizing downtown Bentonville, including the addition of new accommodations for the many visitors now flocking to northwest Arkansas. Thus, the 21c Museum Hotels group took notice.
Born out of a desire to integrate contemporary art into everyday life, 21c launched in downtown Louisville, Ky., in 2006. The company has since opened a hotel in Cincinnati, and now Bentonville. 21c founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson sought to reverse the trend toward suburban sprawl by making a considerable contribution toward revitalization efforts in their hometown of Louisville. They teamed with New York City-based Deborah Burke Partners to rehabilitate a series of abandoned warehouses in Louisville into a boutique hotel and art museum, and followed that project with the redevelopment of the historic Metropole Hotel in Cincinnati. The 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville is the group’s first new building.
21c Bentonville, LLCExecutive Architect:
Polk Stanley WilcoxDesign Architect:
Deborah Burke PartnersMasonry Contractor:
CB Masonry, Inc.General Contractor:
FlintCo Constructive SolutionsMaterials:
Endicott IronSpot modular brick and thin brick veneer, Natural Arkansas Flagstone paving accents, Architectural Precast
Total Square Feet:
“21c Museum Hotel, Bentonville is our first ground-up building for 21c Museum Hotels. Unlike the Louisville and Cincinnati hotels, 21c Bentonville gave us the chance to create architectural character rather than work within the framework of a historic building,” says Deborah Burke Partners on the company’s website. “We took advantage of this opportunity by composing two volumes that speak to the project’s balance as a public art museum and a private boutique hotel.”
Wilson and Brown announced the $28-million Bentonville hotel project in June 2010. The 98,000-square-foot building features 12,000 square feet of gallery space, The Hive restaurant, 104 hotel rooms, and a ballroom all housed in a single-story structure as a series of distinct, yet related volumes. The rooms feature custom designed furniture and a neutral palette, as well as art pieces from the 21c contemporary art collection. The lobby gallery is illuminated by a clerestory.
At its heart, the 21c Museum Hotel – whose name refers to “21st century” – is a project driven by contemporary art, said company vice chairman Craig Greenberg of Louisville. “We have a wonderful design from Deborah Burke, our design architect, and think it will add to the character of Bentonville’s town square and add a lot of energy to the streets.”
According to CB Masonry, the Little Rock, Ark.-based masonry contractor on the project, 21c Bentonville was a compilation of different styles of decorative masonry work, as well as brick veneer. The artistic element of the hotel created an interesting and challenging construction project, the contractor said. The hotel features varying wall sizes, arched entries, and suspended brick ceilings. One of the aspects of the job was for CB to create a sophisticated backdrop to house the museum pieces. The hotel itself needed to look like a work of art. CB excelled at bringing the architect’s vision into reality while, at the same time, maintaining the structural integrity of the building.
Materials used in the building’s construction include Endicott IronSpot modular brick and thin brick veneer, Natural Arkansas Flagstone paving accents, and architectural precast. CB Masonry says the contrast of the dark brick with the light interior of the galleries is the perfect accent for the project. Much of the landscape of Bentonville is Old South brick, CB reports, and this allowed the hotel to bridge the gap from old construction to the new vision for the downtown area and helped to bring a connection to Crystal Bridges.