Liz Lambert’s Sweeping Vision for Her Marfa Hotel

The Texas entrepreneur and “queen of cool” is enlisting Bjarke Ingels and the 3D-printed home builders Icon to transform Marfa’s El Cosmico Hotel.

El Cosmico Hotel. Rendering courtesy of Icon

Liz Lambert may have been ousted from her hotel empire, but the hospitality magnate and “Austin’s queen of cool” is staying busy. Her latest undertaking is guaranteed to reverberate throughout Marfa, the tiny desert town that was permanently transformed when Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation opened in 1986, cementing the unlikely locale as a pilgrimage spot for coastal art lovers seeking a change in scenery. 

Lambert, who grew up in West Texas and maintains a ranch outside Marfa, bought a 21-acre pasture on the city’s outskirts back in 2005. It soon became the site of El Cosmico, a “bohemian nomadic hotel” where weekenders glamp in trailers, yurts, and teepees to “disconnect, see the stars, and feel the vast sense of space.” Now she plans to relocate El Cosmico to a much larger site nearby and double its capacity with 3D-printed structures designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and Austin home builders Icon.

El Cosmico Hotel. Rendering courtesy of Icon

Early renderings depict otherworldly, dome-shaped lodgings that seem to organically rise from Marfa’s remote desert landscape, where guests sleep on circular, raised platform beds. “Organic shapes, Euclidian circular geometries, and a color palette born from the local terroir make El Cosmico feel as if literally erected from the site it stands on,” Ingels says. Plans call for a lobby, restaurant, hammam, and workshop spaces, all clustered around a central pool. 

Lambert also plans to transform El Cosmico’s former site into a cluster of affordable housing. Marfa’s popularity as a travel destination and landlocked city limits thanks to surrounding ranches have caused housing prices to creep up. (The 200 short-term rentals listed on Airbnb also play a part.) Last year, Marfa’s median home list price was $670,000 even though average local salaries hovered around $40,000. Lambert plans to house El Cosmico staff in the neighborhood, where two-to-four bedroom “Sunday homes” will span up to 2,200 square feet.

El Cosmico Hotel. Rendering courtesy of Icon

A similar experiment is underway in Austin, where Ingels and Icon are building 100 homes that will soon form the world’s largest 3D-printed community. (Construction only takes three weeks.) Lambert says she expects a polarized response from locals, but also wants to involve them in the planning stage as much as possible to encourage the city’s sustainable growth. Her proposal is still up in the air, but if all shakes out according to plan, El Cosmico will open in 2024. 

“Change can make people uneasy,” Lambert tells Dwell. “But no change is also not good. You want to be thoughtful about what you bring, but you can’t just lock the door.”

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