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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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    Lara Swimmer courtesy of Waechter Architecture

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Glorious phoenix rises in Columbia River Gorge: Society Hotel Bingen reborn

Nav Pal
26 Nov 2019

Portland-based Waechter Architecture has completed The Society Hotel Bingen, a new 20,000sqft lodging and recreational destination for visitors seeking a refined, off-the-beaten-trail experience in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Initiated in 2017, Society Hotel Bingen consists of five distinct yet related components across a multifaceted 2.57-acre campus, including the adaptive reuse of a former school, twenty individual hotel cabins, a covered pathway, a spa and bathhouse building, and a sanctuary.  

Anchoring the retreat is the 80-year-old Bingen Schoolhouse, which was originally constructed in 1908, and was rebuilt in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps after a fire in 1933. Melding modern comfort with historical preservation, the schoolhouse hotel was retrofitted by Waechter Architecture to retain most of its original feel. Inside and out, Society Hotel Bingen features interiors and landscape design by BLOSSOM, the Portland-based firm founded by Megan Blossom.

Sited near the riverfront within a residential setting, the main schoolhouse building offers 10 private standard rooms and two 24-bed hostels, as well as a library in the reception area, lockers in the hallway and a refurbished gym open to guest use. The floors are all original to the building and a combination of existing or salvaged from the former classrooms to get the entire lobby to match. 

One of our primary goals was to design a hotel that not only felt connected to the Gorge but amplified people’s experience of it. It's exciting to stand within the hotel and cabins today and feel the complementary dialogue between the two.

Ben Waechter, Firm Principal

The reception area recalls the school office with a traditionally styled oak reception desk and a reclaimed slate backdrop - complete with a chalked ‘Society Hotel’ logo. In the lounge, a wall of vintage books, tufted green leather sofas, and library lamps, provide a cozy, adult-version of a school library. Tiled walls, old school cafeteria lighting, and tables for gathering emulate the school cafeteria. Schoolhouse guestrooms are themed by class subjects, and the hostel-style bunk room with lounge is a bustling, communal space akin to a school locker room. In the gymnasium, an event space rich in old-school character, the gym-like feel of the original painted floors and wooden bleachers is elevated by the newly panelled walls.

Salvage and reuse was an important element in the project. Slate blackboards reclaimed from classrooms provide a backdrop for the hotel reception area, existing maple hardwood floors were patched and refinished, and the school cafeteria’s original light fixtures now illuminate the cafe. Repurposed radiators were installed as an under bar kick in the lounge area. Seemingly miles of fir tongue and groove paneling from the gymnasium were reinstalled as wainscot throughout the hotel. Deep green lockers and original schoolhouse lighting still grace the guest room hall.

The design for the historic school buildings ties to the modern aesthetic of the newly constructed cabins and spa though materiality: the deep blue color found throughout the schoolhouse reappears as grounding walls in cabin bedrooms. Built-in furnishings make the most of the cabin’s small footprint. Plywood, a low cost material refined for high style, was used for custom casework in the schoolhouse guestrooms, locker room, cabins, and spa.

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