• Hotel Revel comprises four levels on a compact urban site. - photo by Dror Baldinger, FAIA

Hotel Revel breaks new ground in what a boutique hotel can be.

Client Trey Neville
Architect Ibañez Shaw Architecture
Contractor Muckleroy & Falls
MEP Engineer AOS Engineering
Structural Engineer HnH Engineering
Civil Engineer Salcedo Group

Established just after the turn of the 20th century, the Near Southside was Fort Worth’s first inner suburb served by its new streetcar system. Vibrant businesses, elaborate churches, and large homes sprang up from money generated by the city’s fast-growing economy based on oil, rail transportation, farming, and ranching. A 1909 fire destroyed hundreds of structures in the new district, and had it not been for the Texas and Pacific rail yard acting as a fire break to the north, the flames would have spread into the heart of downtown.  

Most of the historic structures seen today in the Near Southside were built after the fire. They then had to survive the district’s decline that started after the Second World War. This trend continued into the ’60s and ’70s, when many grand old homes and elaborate commercial buildings were demolished to make way for the expansion of a regionally important and vital medical district. The historic preservation movement in Fort Worth arose as a reaction, and the city’s Cultural Landmark Commission was established in 1981. 

Realizing an opportunity for new development in the Near Southside, a coalition of public and private stakeholders came together in the early ’90s. This coalition included business leaders, developers, the City of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (now Trinity Metro), and representatives of the Medical District. Sasaki Associates completed the first strategic plan in 1995, detailing a process for revitalization. Subsequently, the nonprofit Fort Worth South was created to advocate on behalf of all local interests in relation to the plan.

The new boutique Hotel Revel, designed by Ibañez Shaw Architecture, fits neatly into this strategic plan along with the surrounding development of new restaurants, nightclubs, apartments, and small business spaces that serve Fort Worth’s growing creative class. The hotel is located near the intersection of 8th Avenue and Rosedale Street, which is within walking distance of the Magnolia Village neighborhood. It sits prominently on its site looking west toward the Medical District, Texas Christian University, the Fort Worth Zoo, and Fort Worth’s Cultural District. 

The hotel is constructed of exposed steel, concrete, and glass curtain walls with four compact levels of mixed-use space on a small, complex urban site. The hotel’s entry lobby and lounge are located on the first level along with a commercial shell space. A future events space will be located on the second level, while 15 generous rooms will occupy the third and fourth levels. A guest lounge on the fourth floor sits next to an outdoor seating balcony that features a thrilling open-grate floor. The building design, while striking and colorful on the exterior, contains quiet, sheltered, and minimal living spaces within. Strategic views to the city are framed by exposed concrete and steel, with white metal panels glazed into the generous curtain walls. Mounted just above the floors, custom built-in metal shelves, bedside tables, and desks cast sleek, angular shadows in the rooms as functional sculpture.

The design had to overcome several challenges along the way that ultimately impacted the shape and massing of the building. Foremost was the orientation of its west-facing 8th Avenue facade. This was handled by means of a large, exposed skeleton of angular steel fins that acts as a sunscreen during the day and a reflective light screen at night. In addition to disguising the building’s mass, it creates a sheltered space within. The color of the steel fins features a subtle gradation from white to dark blue as they move across the building’s facade. While driving down the street on a sunny day, one sees these graded colors blend into the sky like the shimmer of a mirage. It is the building’s signature artistic statement.

The site sits near both a natural drainage way as well as an early part of the city’s storm sewer system. As a result, the first floor of the hotel had to be raised six feet above the surrounding grade in response to a city requirement. Due to a tight footprint on the site, access to the higher front entry terrace required a larger stair and ramp than could be accommodated, so these were eliminated in favor of a more modest on-grade entry from the rear parking lot to the east. The floor elevation requirement also had the effect of elongating a monumental stair on the south side of the building that leads to an outdoor entertainment terrace on the second floor. 

An open drainage swale sat between the east parking lot and the building and could not be substantially altered. To overcome this, a bridge element leading to the rear entry and elongated monumental stair was designed that would have made access to and from the parking lot and neighboring restaurants more direct. Ultimately, the bridge had to be minimized due to a conflict with a power line serving a nearby hospital that could not be interrupted. 

Due to adjacency issues, the north side of the building required a higher fire rating. This necessitated the elimination of open curtain walls in some of the north-facing rooms. The cast-in-place concrete walls that replaced the curtain walls serve to anchor the mass of the building while providing intimacy to the rooms on that side, which still have ample natural light. 

Bart Shaw, FAIA, commented that the building is a response to “a particular developer’s individual needs, the context of a complicated urban site, and a challenging city planning process.” He also noted that, although the design process involved difficult choices and necessary compromises, he believes the firm “achieved a great design outcome through a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders, from the first conceptual idea to the completed project.” 

Lee Hill, AIA, is an artist and architect and works as a project director at VLK Architects in Fort Worth.

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