Alon Baranowitz & Irene Kronenberg, Co-Founders Baranowitz+Kronenberg
Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg speak to Can Faik about current projects, their stunning work on W Amsterdam, and what’s next for their highly established design studio…
Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg are the co-founders of award-winning international architecture practice, Baranowitz + Kronenberg, based in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv. The studio’s diverse international portfolio spans from hotels, nightclubs and restaurants to furniture design and private residences
Tell me about your roles at Baranowitz + Kronenberg
We do not share any common fortes which means we work together well.
Irene graduated as interior designer and is blessed with a bird’s eye view; constantly zooming out and able to foresee the unforeseen and set the office in the right direction. She is a natural psychologist with a unique sensibility for understanding people and human situations, a virtue when designing for people. Anything sensorial; textures, materials, colours goes under her scrutinizing eyes and elevated to the next level.
Alon runs the creative side of our office; initiating design strategies, spatial concepts and then zooming in and breathing life and meaning into it all. He is a great fan of building details, construction methods and materials and constantly looking for the new and the next.
What five words would you use to describe Baranowitz + Kronenberg?
Contextual, anthropological, audacious, inventive, timeless.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
We entered the hospitality world in 2002, designing the public spaces of the Park Plaza Nottingham which made it on to the front cover of a magazine. The rest is history…
What makes Baranowitz + Kronenberg different to other design companies?
The ability to entice and attract people with narrative-driven design, which captures and celebrates the essence of time, place and local communities.
How and why did you get into the interior design Industry?
Design is everywhere, like nature. One can not categorize nature. We are fascinated by its compelling and multifaceted character. Hence, we perceive our work through a holistic lens which spans a very wide spectrum of modes of expression; interior design, architecture, product, textile and graphic design, music and art are part of whatever we are involved with.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
Trend is a tricky notion especially when hospitality is concerned. Trend applies better to fleeting moments, seasons and a disruptive mind set. Hospitality moves much slower and tends to linger in its safe zone. However, we can not ignore the influence of the sharing economy, which has shaken the industry and will continue to do so with more extreme platforms of experience. AI, sensorial design, the loss of space ownership, the growing number of modern nomads and the shift in working force from employees to freelancers will all have their share in redefining hospitality as we know it.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
Considering the above, they are paramount. At the end of the day memorable moments are all about people, people connecting, exchanging, exploring or just being alone together. Public spaces are our city squares of sorts, platforms of expression where we can feel and take part in the heartbeats of the city.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Baranowitz + Kronenberg stand out from the rest?
All of our projects are made to measure. We create mini worlds/events in which local consumers/dwellers/performers are cast in a world-class design narrative in which the quotidian self is momentarily suspended in local and translocal histories and experiences.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
Indeed, as the world is densifying more and more whilst becoming smaller and smaller, the need for travelling and accommodation solutions is growing exponentially.
How would you define your ‘hotel style’?
We really don’t have a style. Each project is a one-off. To each its own language and vocabulary which we study, explore and reinterpret so that the end users could easily make them their own.
What does design mean to you?
Design is poetry materialised. It can change your day, your life and give you a sense of purpose and a life worth living.
What do you want in a hotel room?
To feel that someone was thinking about my needs.
What has been your favourite project to date?
W Amsterdam, a true city within a city.
What’s next for Baranowitz + Kronenberg?
Keep inspiring people and start new journeys on a daily basis.
What would be your dream hotel project?
One which goes beyond hospitality and introduces a new reality where hotels become an eco-system that is synergetic with the needs of mega cities in the 21st century.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
Hotel design will need to broaden its horizon and take a much more active role in the life of cities. The densifying of cities, the implications of this, and the shift in the character of the workforce worldwide, position hotels at a central point where they could capitalize on this moment. Considering their potential infrastructure, central location and facilities, they could become forerunners of change and help communities and cities to thrive.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
Go east and south; Africa, India, Japan, Vietnam… etc.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
Naoshima Island, Japan. Formentera Island, Spain. Algarve pristine beaches, Portugal.
Let’s finish with the issue of work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
Considering the cliché which goes: ‘find your passion, make it your profession and you will never work a single day in your life…” well, cliché or not, we are there.
Our daughters who are already grown up now and have embarked on their lives didn’t always approve of this mind set… They were growing up side by side with their ‘baby brother’, which was our work and always very much present and requiring high maintenance… They learned to accept him.