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h2hotel: “it’s like the iHotel”

June 28th, 2010

SOMA Studios

David Baker + Partners' SOMA Studios in SF

h2’s architect, David Baker, is not known for his modesty. In fact, quite the opposite. The man behind David Baker + Partners thinks BIG. The celebrated San Francisco architect has bold and bright ideas about how our dwellings should be designed. His SOMA Studios – an affordable housing project that hangs like a Picasso above Eighth and Howard streets – was named one of the city’s best buildings of the past decade by important people who write about such things. And in recent years, as the “green” architect’s focus shifted towards creating energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable, high-density cityscapes – like his 224-apartment neighborhood at Showplace Square on Seventh St. – he’s been hailed as the “high priest” of new-urbanism. So when it came time to select an architect to design our super green h2hotel, he was a natural choice. Not to mention the bang-up job he did with our AIA-award-winning big sister, Hotel Healdsburg, of course.

David Baker + Partners was charged with creating a fun, fresh, and eco-conscious property that catered to active users, and at risk of sounding immodest, or like a sports color commentator, he smacked it straight outta the park. It’s not just that h2hotel looks cool. Sure, it has a visually striking living roof that reflects the rolling hills of Healdsburg, but form always follows function. That undulating roof also serves several environmental purposes (more on the roof in an upcoming post). In fact, there’s a pragmatic utility to everything in Baker’s design, right down to the corten steel balconies that will (quite literally) imbue the property with rustic charm as they intentionally rust over time and stain the exterior. But when talking about h2hotel on a recent press tour, what really got him animated was the rooms themselves.

genius in motion

Genius at work

“I like to think of this as the Apple of hotel rooms,” he beamed. “It’s the iHotel.” For one, the rooms are sleek and stylish. With the 42-inch flat-screen TV’s mounted on the walls (and an auxiliary plug to play movies off your laptop) there’s no need for the deep dresser or bulky armoire that oftentimes house the entertainment system. So the rooms can afford to be sleeker without sacrificing any space or comfort. And with user-friendly closets that can easily accommodate your rolling luggage, he eliminated the standard-issue luggage racks that he may or may not have described as “horrible” on the tour. Another pet peeve of his seems to be showers that you can’t easily adjust without getting blasted with cold water, so he re-imagined their design so you could tweak the head and temperature before stepping in. “We got to build a full scale mock-up of this room which was really great because we solved a lot of the issues.  Typically when you design a hotel, you build it and then realize all the things that are wrong.  But this time, we got to fine tune things big and small.”

As the tour wound down, he elaborated on the iHotel analogy. “Apple has been gaining market share because it’s actually easier to use.  And people finally realize you pay a little more, and you get something really useful that’s not frustrating all the time. I think people will see that we really thought this thing through.”  And with David Baker thinking things through, we know we’re in pretty good hands. Not just me and you and we, but the planet itself.

Check out Healdsburg’s new “iHotel” for yourself.

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Posted in Sustainability, h2hotel

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