Like much of Brooklyn, the riverside neighborhood of Greenpoint is in the middle of a development craze. A new fleet of high-rise luxury apartments has taken over, boasting the best views of the New York skyline. One remarkably unconventional hotel is making those views accessible for anyone.
Artist Alex Schweder's Hotel Rehearsal is an inflatable hotel room on wheels, and it rises and lowers thanks to a hydraulic scissor lift. Originally conceived for the 2013 Biennial of the Americas in Denver, the hotel inhabited a parking lot where an actual hotel was scheduled to be built, rehearsing the space's "hotelness" in the meantime. Now it has resumed it's practicing in an industrial corner of Greenpoint as part of an exhibition of Schweder's work curated by the B&O PLAY, a contemporary arm of luxury audio brand Bang & Olufsen.
The idea for the piece came to Schweder while visiting the site ahead of the Biennale in Denver, where he was tasked with reinventing one of their parking lots. "I couldn’t change the parking lots themselves, but I could drive something in and radically change that space," he says. Denver wanted to get rid of big asphalt parking lots like that one, and developers were getting permits to develop them into hotels. "I thought why don’t they just practice that first," says Schweder. "Test that out."
To design the portable hotel, Schweder took inspiration from the inflatable work of 1960s architects like Ant Farm. The hotel had to be designed to the 10-foot-by-10-foot rectangular roof of the unmarked white van it sits on top of. To experience the hotel room, visitors open the rear door of the car and unzip a vinyl opening to enter a bathroom. The room serves as an air lock like one you might find on a submarine. Beside the bathroom is a living room enclosed in transparent vinyl and containing an inflatable sofa/bed, a shag carpet, and a rope of LED lights. At the flip of a switch, a hydraulic system in the van below rises the room on the scissor lift, high enough to see the skyline.
In the three years since it first debuted, Schweder has driven the hotel to various locations. At one point, he parked it at the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, as an art installation. A new addition to Johnson's sprawling estate, the hotel hosted Schweder for a three-week artist residency there.
In Greenpoint, Hotel Rehearsal joins two more of his works—Sound and the Future and Friable Aperture—and has gotten a B&O-themes update in the form of noise-canceling wireless speakers from which visitors can listen to a "bedtime story" narrated by Schweder. Visitors to the exhibition are invited up to the hotel room to listen while they nap. "The thing about inflatables is that they are noisy," Schweder says.
[All Photos (unless otherwise noted): Sylvain Tron]