Driving Force pix
Two European architecture firms and 21 international artists switched gear at Copenhagen's Hotel Fox, a walk-in publicity stunt for Volkswagen
Andreas Tzortzis -- Interior Design, 8/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
On vacation in Egypt last October, Kirsten Brøchner-Mortensen and her family were summoned by a strange phone call. A German events agency was inquiring about the possibility of transforming the family's three-star Park Hotel in Copenhagen into a giant installation involving 21 international illustrators, graphic designers, and urban artists. The property would then be promoted as part of a massive three-week PR launch for Volkswagen's Fox, the caller said. Oh, and the agency needed an answer that week.
The Brøchner-Mortensens responded by inviting their caller, a representative of Hamburg-based Eventlabs, to come up to Copenhagen for a talk. "We showed them who we wanted to work on the project and what our vision was," says the agency's art coordinator, Kim Pörksen. "But we couldn't show them what it would look like in the end—because we didn't know ourselves." By April, they did. The hotel progressed from a nondescript early 20th-century building near the Tivoli theme park to a visual playground for some of the world's brightest young artists, overseen 'by architecture firms Büro für Form und Ereignis and 2arkitekter. Pörksen's idea to use hospitality-design outsiders for the reinvented Hotel Fox drew heavily on French anthropologist Marc Augé's theory that average chain hotels had become anonymous "non-places." The Fox would be the antidote, a place where guests would feel a strong connection to a unique location—not to mention a zippy two-door car.
BFE principals Lars Debbert and Kai Ratschko and 2arkitekter principals Anders Sælan and Oliver Grundahl handled the backbone of the renovation, untangling the maze of corridors and painting almost everything white. With a wall between reception and a breakfast room knocked down, the lobby became a wide-open space with a nightclub vibe. Blue, beige, and pink foam lounge chairs near the entrance welcome overnight guests and the cocktail drinkers stopping by the lobby's Milk & Honey bar, and everybody has to cross the white epoxy floor, Debbert says, "like a catwalk." Upstairs, renovation basics entailed redoing three quarters of the bathrooms—plundering Denmark's stockpile of Italian mosaic tiles in the process. Toilets by Philippe Starck and sets of rubber showerheads and hand ' showers by Giulio Gianturco are virtually the only nods to the boutique-hotel genre.
In most of the 61 guest rooms, the architects supplied only white-painted walls and a custom white-lacquered MDF all-in-one piece of furniture incorporating a bed, table, drawers, and seating. "That left the maximum area free for creativity," Pörksen explains. Artists from Brazilian graffiti master Speto to Danish typographers E-Types could cut loose—drawing and painting on hard surfaces or printing and hand-stitching bedspreads and curtains. "The reason ordinary hotels are so boring is because they have to accommodate the tastes of everyone who might stay in them," says Australian illustrator Rilla Alexander. "This is the opposite."
Rinzen, the design collective she founded with her husband, Steve, took on four guest rooms. In the Sleep Seasons room, the Alexanders got rid of the bed altogether—pitching a tent over a fluffy futon instead—and covered the walls with a storybook forest; the couple replaced the bedside lamp with a vintage electric lantern, set on the floor. A room called Mori, which means forest in Japanese, features illustrator Kinpro's custom wallpaper, printed with branches and birds, and built-in oak screens with backlit cutouts of flowers and a samurai. In Lifelines, a room by Australian design collective Pandarosa, a black-and-white horticultural motif spreads over the walls and ceiling like postmodern ivy. Others embrace kitsch: a "boxing ring" theme with a punching bag, a "baby's" room with a giant soft mobile over the bed.
Although the VW campaign has ended at the hotel, the installations are staying as-is, and a sign announcing the Hotel Fox remains up. So do bookings.