A brutalist office building receives some much-needed Southern Charm.
In 2014, owner Brian Orter participated in a hospitality design panel discussion in Charleston. John Dewberry, a former quarterback for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets happened to attend. He immediately approached Brian after the event and said he had a hotel project that he would love Brian to work on.
John Dewberry purchased the former L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building in downtown Charleston with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel. It took two years to complete the transformation. The building was commissioned by John F. Kennedy and completed in 1964. It’s late mid-century modern design rendered it a present-day eyesore, but John saw the potential.
When we joined the project team, interior designers were still being considered, so we began with the façade and exterior lighting. The façade was a graphic combination of deep marble window surrounds and exposed red brick. We worked with the project team on lighting schemes and paint color schemes for the façade to maximize light reflectance. We could only light from the canopy and at the top of the building, so it was important to us to lighten the red brick of the façade to unify it and to create a more sculptural effect.
Workstead embraced the mid-century history of the building by creating a time capsule lobby featuring classic period materials and treatments. The hotel living room and bar include custom designed “downlights” which are a combination of a recessed plastered dome and exposed incandescent lamp. Early recessed downlights were large and we were happy to work with the interior designer to create an elegant modern version.
Throughout, we kept the lighting simple. We introduced discreet recessed fixtures to fill in where the decorative fixtures couldn’t. It was important to us that the lighting felt clean, modern and minimal.
Studio Dewberry and Workstead
Location, Charleston, South Carolina
All images used with permission from The Dewberry Charleston