The Mandarin Mandate
Mario López-Cordero -- Interior Design, 4/1/2010 12:00:00 AM
firms:ferrater & asociados, juan trias de bes tdb arquitectura, andpatricia urquiola
site: barcelona, spain
Patricia Urquiola has earned boatloads of critical and commercial success. Ever prolific, she's tried her hand at an astonishing range of products, from outdoor furniture in an overblown wicker weave to a bathtub aerodynamic enough to fly. Her client list reads like a who's who of top-shelf manufacturers: Agape, Axor, B&B Italia, Flos, Hansgrohe, Kartell, Moroso. No less impressive is her first hotel project, the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona—about 500 miles from where she was born. Partnering with Carlos Ferrater of Ferrater & Asociados and the namesake founder of Juan Trias de Bes TDB Arquitectura, who together won a competition to gut and revamp the bank building chosen by the five-star chain for its first Spanish location, she handled virtually every aspect of the interiors, from the armchairs in the restaurant to the tiles of the lap pool.
The result is a singular interpretation of understated luxury steeped in a serious sense of place. A nine-story 1955 building, the onetime Banco Hispano Americano stands squarely in Barcelona's commercial heart, on one of the city's most storied avenues, the Passeig de Gràcia—Antoni Gaudí's Casa Batlló apartments are just steps away. A visual extension of the Passeig, an entry ramp pierces the limestone facade to bring visitors through a stylized gold-anodized aluminum screen reminiscent of the scrolling ironwork on facades all over town. In the bar, the steel doors of safe-deposit boxes cover the ceiling and walls, the highly burnished metal giving the room a rich gleam.
Asian details, evoking Mandarin Oriental's Hong Kong heritage, are filtered through a Western prism. "No banal colonialist chinoiserie references," Urquiola says. A painting by a Chinese contemporary artist hangs behind the reception desk. In the formal restaurant, abstracted flowers bloom on the orange silk carpet, complemented by the clouds gold-leafed on sections of the ceiling. "It's like having the sky inside," she continues. She also played with the idea of traditional Asian screens, installing geometric versions at the concierge station and in the skylit double-height lounge. In the 98 guest rooms, walls are upholstered in an orientalist floral, and shiny white wardrobes are meant to resemble Japanese lacquered boxes.
While sun shines into much of the hotel, the 11,000-square-foot basement spa is cloaked in shadow. This is as much out of design as necessity. "We played the contrarian card with a spa that isn't in any way typical, that has the feel of a cave," Urquiola explains. Under a black swath of ceiling, the lap pool is lined in black granite. Chain mail curtains off the eight treatment rooms, and backlit glass walls glow malachite green.
Naturally, Urquiola's furnishings are omnipresent. Nearly all the seating is hers, as is custom carpet. "Luxury, for me, is about continuity," she says. "Guests should be able to see that the person who conceived the door handle in the lobby also thought about the Gio Ponti cutlery in the restaurant."
Photography by Eric Laignel.
B&B ITALIA: DINING TABLES, DINING CHAIRS (LOUNGE), DESK, SOFA (CONCIERGE), BED, BENCH, TABLES, SOFAS (SUITE), CHAISES (SPA), SEATING (BAR).
FLOS: LAMP (CONCIERGE), BLACK FLOOR LAMP (SUITE).
COLBER: WINGBACKS (LOUNGE).
MOROSO: SOFA (LOUNGE), TABLE (CONCIERGE), CHAIRS (RESTAURANT).
BD BARCELONA DESIGN: TABLE LAMPS, METAL FLOOR LAMP (SUITE).
DE PADOVA: CHAIR (SITTING AREA).
TAI PING: CUSTOM CARPET, RUGS.
ISOMETRIZ LIGHTING AND DESIGN: LIGHTING CONSULTANT.
GRUPO GÁMIZ: WOODWORK.
ACS ACTIVIDADES DE CONSTRUCCIÓN Y SERVICIOS: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.