A German lesson
Designing part of Berlin's Ku'damm 101 was a hospitality-project education for Ascan Tesdorpf and Vogt + Weizenegger
Otto Pohl -- Interior Design, 11/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Now the third most popular tourist destination in Europe—behind only London and Paris—Berlin is unquestionably booming. About 30 high-end hotels have opened in the last four years, and dozens more are scheduled for 2004. While most of the large chains are concentrating on former East Berlin, however, Hotaka is pursuing opportunities farther west.
The company, which already owned three Berlin hotels, recently purchased two adjacent unfinished apartment buildings at number 101 on the Kurfürstendamm, once West Berlin's main shopping street. Hotaka then hired Swiss design firm Kessler + Kessler to develop the Ku'damm 101 concept: a young, hip, and urban hotel at a three-star price. The Swiss, in turn, brought in two young German firms to handle key areas.
Ascan Tesdorpf Architekt took sole responsibility for the interior architecture of the lobby, while Vogt + Weizenegger focused on furniture and fixtures. Ascan Tesdorpf also helped design the breakfast room, seven meeting rooms, and 171 guest rooms, overseen by Kessler + Kessler. For both firms, Ku'damm 101 was a first opportunity to expand into hospitality interiors. (Tesdorpf, an architect, had first branched out into restaurant interiors; Oliver Vogt and Hermann Weizenegger are industrial designers who'd started out with items as varied as towels and porcelain before moving on to contract furniture, an art gallery, and shops.)
It wasn't an easy introduction. Stuck with an existing concrete shell and a ground level filled with load-bearing columns of different shapes and sizes, Ascan Tesdorpf and Vogt + Weizenegger somehow had to produce a stylish hotel lobby. "The space was like a car with five wheels, completely devoid of logic," Tesdorpf remembers. Ultimately, those deficiencies became strengths.
After rounding off the columns to the same size, the team enclosed them in steel frames and stretched off-white spandex over each frame's four hoops. Low-wattage fluorescents, installed inside the fabric, transform the columns into glowing, Isamu Noguchi–esque lamps that set the tone for the entire 3,700-square-foot lobby. Tesdorpf describes the look as "contemporary retro future."
Ribbons of upholstered custom seating encircle the columns and snake across the asphalt tile floor. Walnut furniture unifies separate zones—the lozenge-shape reception desk ties in to the oval bar and a teardrop-shape table in a small adjacent meeting room.
The three principals agreed that the lobby should contrast as much as possible with the compact rectilinearity of the guest rooms. Though Vogt + Weizenegger wasn't involved upstairs, custom case goods continue to play a part: Take the molded-plywood TV cabinet. Wheels give guests the freedom to move it to where they prefer to watch—or out of the way if they don't. Seating includes 1950's-style upholstered swivel chairs.
Collaborating on the guest rooms and overseeing the lobby has indisputably raised Tesdorpf's profile and led to new jobs. He's now working on six interiors projects: four residential and two retail. "It used to be half architecture and half interior design. Now it's almost entirely interior design," he says of his workload.
Ku'damm 101's lobby has similarly yielded new work for Vogt + Weizenegger. "Right now, we're developing a concept for a super-economical guest room for a large hotel chain," Vogt says. "When we've solved that one, we'll be ready to do a whole hotel."