The atmosphere that guests sense when first entering the doors of a hotel will frame the feeling of their stay. The sensations can be many and varied: from comfort to sobriety; from evocative of times past to a projection of future adventures; and from sophistication to minimalist curiosity.
Here at The Decorative Surfaces, we explore some of the most outstanding hotel receptions from a design perspective. These spaces have been conceived as a welcome point, for guest check-ins and enjoying a shared setting with others.
The World Architecture and Design Awards, the Prix Versailles, include a specific hotel category. This coming September 29th, we will learn the 2020 continental winners. Then on December 20th, the traditional annual gala will be held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Looking back at previous editions, we have selected a few outstanding hotel designs: the Niehku Mountain Ville in Riksgränsen (Sweden); Bisate Lodge in Ruhengeri (Rwanda); Les Bains in Paris (France), and the Morpheus in Macau.
Niehku Mountain Ville: the Swedish dream
Niehku means ‘dream’ in the Saami language. This luxurious reverie has just taken top spot in National Geographic’s Big Sleep Awards—part of the Walt Disney group— for best hotel in the snow queen category. Located in the Arctic Circle, Swedish Lapland provides the natural backdrop from where guests can head out to heli-ski. They have access to 60 slopes spread across Riksgränsen, Abisko and the Kebnekaise massif. Erik Nissen Johansen, founder of Stylt—the Norwegian studio that designed the complex—states ‘we have a hotel in northern Sweden where the accommodation, food and beverage match the magical experiences provided by the natural landscape’. Comfort in a backdrop where nature reigns supreme. Quality, calm stays at a hotel committed to sustainable co-existence and integrated spaces that peacefully combine the intangible and tangible in a singular setting. All this goes to explain the Stylt project’s best interior win at the Prix Versailles.
Bisate Lodge: an organic reception in Rwanda
The South African architecture and design studio, Nicholas Plewman Architects, took home the UNESCO-sponsored award for best interior in 2018 for the Bisate Lodge. In the words of the atelier itself to Arch Daily, the hotel is ‘inspired by the rolling hills of Rwanda and the thatched design of the King’s Palace at Nyanza. Bisate (…) reflects the innate organic culture of Rwanda and reflects sophisticated spaces around every turn. Craftily designed, the spherical rooms and commons areas add bespoke and sustainable solutions to the intricate and difficult surroundings. The design is a celebration of modern luxury and a unique culture which has stood the test of time. It becomes a platform from which the guest experience departs.’
In this vein, the reception and dining area is located in one of these rooms. They were created as a kind of capsule whose production was conceived in Johannesburg. However, they were assembled on site, integrated into the natural volcanic setting like added elements to the liveliness of the landscape.
Les Bains: a magical accident
Les Bains hotel can be classified, as the hotel’s architect and interior designer Tristan Auer himself states, as ‘the magic of the accidental’. The studio’s description further develops this idea, highlighting the project as ‘a meeting of shared visions and interweaving sensibilities. A “made-to-measure” architect sensitive to eras and time who, at first glance “felt” the heart and soul of this mythical setting.’ The project took shape in 2014 with a reception, 40 rooms, a restaurant and mythical night club.
The hotel houses modernised spaces capturing the essence of Parisian settings, nightlife, relaxation and culture. The reception is the only space to still retain essential original features dating from the late 19th century. A worn leather counter presides over a novel-like ambience enhanced by gentle light from stained glass windows. They evoke Flemish paintings and invite guests to read languidly on Chesterfield sofas. It’s a traditional character that has charmed many famous guests to check in here. Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Françoise Sagan just to name a few. In addition, the hotel has hosted performances by Depeche Mode, Prince and Simple Minds for private concerts with select guest lists invited by Jean-Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld.
Fascination, suspense, and a feeling of being part of a science fiction fantasy film or on a papier-mâché set. Perhaps the imagination can draw other notions, but the reception of the Morpheus captures an endless number of them. It brings together endless possibilities thanks to the view guests can enjoy upon entering this unique complex. Opened in 2018 and designed by the London studio of Zaha Hadid Architects, it stands out as an organic concept housing three orifices that perforate the façade. It also offers guests a panorama from the welcome reception area that plays with the optical illusion it creates for those who attempt to imbibe the projected geometric shapes.
Set in Macau’s City of Dreams, it also seduces the imagination of those seeking out some R&R. According to Viviana Muscettola, project director at Ubibene, ‘the design is intriguing as it makes no reference to traditional architectural typologies’. The hotel has won several international awards, including the Prix Versailles for its innovative design.