There is this pure excitement when I find a well-designed hotel where the designers and architect put their heart and pay attention to even the smallest details. It is a great joy to me to know that my “temporary home” while overseas is made with such passion and taste.
Since August last year to February this year, I have been traveling to three continents to find these gems. From ever-exciting New York City in the US, romantic Bratislava in Slovakia, the imperial ambience of Vienna, to the charming beauty of Christchurch in New Zealand: these are the cities focused on for this issue. Each hotel is truly unique and has strong design originality that gives them not only fame, but also recognition from their peers.
Park Hyatt Vienna
In a city like Vienna, it is well-quite impossible to establish a new building in the city center as most of the buildings are historically important and protected. Thus, changing the use of an existing building has become the way out, though they have to work within strict parameters in order to preserved the building facade and inside layout. One of the best recent examples of this kind of work in Vienna is none other than the newly opened Park Hyatt hotel.
At Park Hyatt, real luxury often discloses itself on second sight. Renovated and newly planned from top to bottom with great passion, a multitude of artisans have revitalized the historical building on Am Hof 2, true to its original form. In 1913, the building was drafted by architects Ernst von Gotthilf and Alexander Neumann before it finally opened in 1915 as the headquarters of the Lower Austria company Escompte and later Laenderbank. It is done in the Art Nouveau style, which is characterized by natural forms, structures and curved lines. When it was sold from its last owner, Bank Austria, to Park Hyatt Vienna’s owning company SIGNA in 2008, renowned Viennese architecture office Neumann + Partner as well as interior firm FG Stijl from Amsterdam were assigned to convert the building into a hotel. The result of their work is simply magnificent.
From the lobby, to the room and even the spa, the hotel oozes grandiosity from the fine crasftsmanship of the 600 workers, including designers and artisans, who returned the building to its glory days. The 143 guest rooms, including 35 suites, were formerly bank offices and because of that no two rooms have the same size or ceiling height. Inspired by the ancient bank building and Viennese culture, FG Stijl designed a soothing wooden tone with Viennese-inspired contemporary art and Italian marble in the bathroom that creates a residential feel. A few iconic design accents are implemented in the rest of hotel as well as ornamental works. The first is the use of mother of pearl, where it is subtlely utilized as part of the tile motif and inlaid into the mini-bar cabinet handle. The second is that the door design inside the guest rooms is based on the design of the air shaft of the former bank. However, the last and the best is the obvious massive Art Nouveau ornament that is inspired by a brooch.
That brooch, originally created by Joseph Hoffmann, Karl Otto Czeschka and Dagobert Peche of Wiener Werkstatte (1903-1932), is blown into oversized proportions and used as a wall sculpture that can be seen from the Reception Area to guest rooms and suites.
Not only that, but the designer also decided to use a historic hair comb as a model for sculptures on a plinth in the Reception Area and in the corridors. Hair combs were used widely in the 1920s when the short hair style (bob/crop) became fashionable.
Spectacular changes of function can also be seen at their only restaurant called The Bank, located in the former cashier hall. Here, you can also see Hyatt’s worldwide signature open-kitchen concept. The historical bank director’s offices with ballroom and Bel Etage are now also transformed into a stunning conference and meeting room. A further architectural icon in this hotel can also be seen at the bar called Pearl. As its name suggests, here we see not only the continued use of mother of pearl in the interior design but also stunning mirror-glass staircase in art deco style inspired by the similar stairs at Coco Chanel’s apartment in Paris. It is an elaborate, artistic, low-carbon steel staircase that is supported by a pearl-covered column as homage to the hands-on elegance of Coco Chanel.
In overall, the grandiose ambience at Park Hyatt Vienna, which opened just last year, is one of the finest in its category. So much attention to detail is given to the design, from unseen elements like a bar handle/button made from mother of pearl to obvious ones like putting gold bar-like tiles on their 15-meter-long pool in the former bank vault (which still has its original steel door, weighing three tons). Park Hyatt Vienna is really a fine example of modern luxury design incorporated into an existing historical establishment.