Out of This World
A 15th-century church and monastery in the Netherlands finds resurrection as the Kruisherenhotel Maastricht by Henk Vos and Ingo Maurer
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 6/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
A tunnel lined with copper leads into the lobby of the Kruisherenhotel Maastricht, a Dutch property designed by Vos Interieur with Ingo Maurer, who also installed the fluorescent strips in the concrete walkway. Photography: Nacasa & Partners.
The Kruisheren church and monastery were constructed in 1438 and abandoned in 1981. Photography: courtesy of Ingo Maurer.
Maurer designed the trio of round fiberglass pendant fixtures that hang at the other end of the lobby from the steel-framed glass elevator enclosure. The elevator transports hotel guests from the lobby to the mezzanine-level restaurant and conference room.
This guest room, formerly a monk's cell, is furnished with a custom bed and Tolomeo lamps by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina. Photography: Luc Boegley.
A guest room's EMAF Progetti sofa and custom glass desk back up to a mural.
In the apse of the church, converted into a wine bar, seating for 40 takes the form of 1930's-style chairs, polished-aluminum Kong stools, and a banquette upholstered in velvet and leather. Photography: Luc Boegley.
Antonio Citterio's sofa and Verner Panton's chair face each other in a guest room. Photography: Etienne van Sloun.
The men's restroom is off the lobby.
In reception, Marcel Wanders's Big Shadow floor lamp stands near Roberto Semprini's Tatlin sofa. Photography: Etienne van Sloun.
New Belgian marble paves one of the passages surrounding the courtyard. Original oak doors now open to guest rooms. Photography: Etienne van Sloun.
Three of the church's side chapels have become lounges. This one features leather-covered armchairs by Centro Ricerche and Sviluppo Frau and a pair of sycamore side tables. Photography: Etienne van Sloun.
Maurer transformed the cloister garden into a paved courtyard. The poured-concrete benches are up-lit by neons, the tree sculpture will eventually serve as a trellis for vines, and the 10-foot-tall acrylic column holds water that's set in constant motion by a ship propeller. Photography: Etienne van Sloun.
The exterior of the entry tunnel is spray-lacquered aluminum. Photography: Nacasa & Partners.
|The Kruisheren Church has seen its share of profane uses. In 1797, Napoléon Bonaparte's army invaded Maastricht and commandeered this Gothic church and monastery for use as a barracks and arsenal. In 1908, the site was converted into an agricultural research laboratory—only to be abandoned again in 1981. Even the name of the church, which means crutched friars, sounds somewhat irreverent to anyone not familiar with its founding order.
Camille Oostwegel Château Hotels & Restaurants, the owner of several other boutique properties in the southern Netherlands, bought the 1438 complex from Maastricht's municipal government. Camille Oostwegel recalls being fascinated by the derelict buildings' history and scale. But when he hired Vos Interieur to take on the 32,000-square-foot project, he gave principal Henk Vos some counterintuitive instructions: "Guests should never feel like they're in a church." That directive is immediately apparent in the new entry, one of several places where Vos collaborated with lighting designer Ingo Maurer. The two designed a dramatic trumpet-shape tunnel lined with copper panels, and Maurer lit it with fluorescent strips embedded in the concrete walkway—giving the entire structure a fiery reflected glow.
With the elevated chancel gone, what was once the nave is now the lobby, a long open space punctuated by the reception area, a glass elevator shaft, an oval enclosure for the back office, and a square one for a conference room. Vos converted the 'side chapels into another conference room; men's and women's restrooms; and three small lounges furnished with deep leather-covered armchairs. "You don't feel that you have to speak in a low voice," Vos says. "People laugh here. There is music—there is life." And the same goes for the restaurant, on the mezzanine directly overhead. Because the mezzanine floats at roughly the same level as a side balcony that now houses the last conference room, Vos enclosed it in a cube of electro-chromatic glass, which transforms from clear to opaque white with the flick of a switch.
While public areas occupy the church, the hotel's 60 guest rooms surround the cloister in the monastery—the original monks' cells have changed in form but not in function. On one room's wall, glass protects an ammunition formula that a French soldier may have scrawled there two centuries ago. To heighten the uniqueness of each room, Vos digitally supersized paintings and vintage photography onto plastic and affixed the images to accent walls. Furnishings vary, too. Because Vos's firm is the interiors arm of Maupertuus, a trendy Groningen design gallery, he had access to a wide selection of high-end furnishings. A sofa by EMAF Progetti, for example, cohabitates happily with a white mesh-covered task chair by Charles and Ray Eames; a Heart Cone chair by Verner Panton mixes with a sofa by Antonio Citterio.
The monastery's central cloister garden was the one area of the project that Vos had difficulty envisioning a new life for. So Maurer took over, filling the space with large-scale concrete pavers and monumental 'round concrete benches up-lit by white neon tubes that look mystical at night. Even more engrossing, a 10-foot-high clear acrylic tank holds 660 gallons of water flecked with silver particles, all aswirl in a vortex created by a ship propeller installed at the bottom. As the water captivates hotel guests, the cloister once again becomes a place of meditation.
Because Dutch law prohibits restoration projects from interfering with the integrity of a historic structure, the water tank and benches could be removed from the cloister without a trace. Inside the buildings, the black marble floor tile is the only one of the recent additions that's permanent. "It's possible to take everything away," says Vos—who suspects that the Kruisherenhotel is probably not the final incarnation for this historic site. "Later generations may want to use it as a church again." For now, though, guests can worship at the altar of design.