Grand Hotel Milano
Check into the 2002 Salone Internazionale del Mobile's special exhibition of hospitality design
Donna Paul -- Interior Design, 6/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
"Design is the international passport," declares architect Adam Tihany. He should know, having completed over 150 hotels and restaurants throughout the world. His most recent hospitality project appeared at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. As curator of the 2002 furniture fair's special exhibition, the Grand Hotel Salone, Tihany selected 10 major architects to present the hotel room of the future. All participants were assigned a city, always one other than their actual home, and matched with an Italian manufacturer: Ron Arad (Mexico City, Ceccotti Collezioni), Zaha Hadid (Sydney, Misura Emme), Arata Isozaki (Rome, B&B Italia), Toyo Ito (New York, Presotto Industrie Mobili), Ricardo Legorreta (Berlin, FEG Industria Mobili), Vico Magistretti (London, Flou), Richard Meier (Paris, Poliform), Jean Nouvel (Tokyo, Molteni & C.), Gaetano Pesce (Moscow, Meritalia), and Matteo Thun (Hong Kong, Lema).
The exhibition brief was to design a standard hotel room, its dimensions 347 square feet with an identical footprint and a ceiling height of 9 feet 4 inches. Tihany admits that the concept was intentionally provocative. "I was hoping to portray interiors that would be out of the mold, to truly reflect the spirit of the cities the architects had been given," he says. "If hotel rooms looked the same everywhere, why would you travel?"
"Genius loci!" exclaims Pesce, describing the idea behind his Moscow installation. The Latin phrase is about capturing the pervading spirit of a locale. "An architect must give identity to a place, express its essence," he says. The classic Pesce touches were evident: abundant color, abstraction, resin, whimsy. Digging deeper, however, he presented a contemplative journey into Moscow as seen through his own eyes. He had visited Russia's capital 43 years ago as a student. When he returned last year, he says, he found a city in transition, a "suspended situation." And that's precisely what his design conveyed. A sense of a floating, not-quite-formed place. "Moscow has the past, which we all know, and a future that is still unknown," he says.
Pesce believes that, when entering a hotel room, people want information about where they are, what to do, how to do it. His multicolored quilted bedcover was a riot of pattern depicting a map of Moscow—the convention center, gyms, striptease clubs, and Kremlin all conveniently indicated. The room exuded a playful atmosphere in general, and Pesce conceived everything to give pleasure to the senses. Many items were fabricated in soft resin. "Strong enough to protect you but not to offend you," he explains. Subtle political messages were woven into the design, too. The floor, made of translucent gel, was an illuminated grid. Yet the hammer and sickle imprinted on the gel's surface was a reminder of the force that had once dominated the city. "This was on top of everyone," says Pesce. "Now it's underfoot."
Tihany assigned Paris to Richard Meier, whose design incorporated the predominance of white—and brightness—for which he is known. "The diffused light in the room is ever changing. That's what I think of as Paris," says Meier. A translucent glass shower enclosure stood in the center of the space, as both sculpture and a functional object. Inside its elliptical shape was a mini retreat, complete with a bidet. Outside the room's windows, a slide show of Rene Burri's iconic images (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc.) flashed upon the wall, bringing the elegance and beauty of Paris to the weary traveler.
Tihany himself designed the reception area, restaurant, bar, and lounges of the Grand Hotel Salone. Unlike the look-don't-touch guest rooms, these public spaces were literally open for business. The restaurant was packed to capacity at every seating. The bar, illuminated by square red acrylic fixtures by FontanaArte, was packed at noon. As at any functioning hotel, people gathered, conducted meetings, drank coffee, read the paper, or simply daydreamed.