Intourist Hotel, Baku

Posted in Projects on 15 March, 2016

Boutique in quality and scale, the interiors of the Intourist Hotel bestow a sense of exclusive pleasure. It might be a lovely family home and the guests personal friends of the owner. It also has a special cachet which derives from fond memories of Baku’s first Intourist Hotel which opened in 1934 and, indeed, the hotel architects, ReardonSmith, have designed a building styled to look very similar to the old icon. However, this 21st Century successor has a narrative that is clearly its own; allusions to the heyday of the earlier hotel infuse the interior design, but never overwhelm it.

The ground floor spaces have been carefully planned to provide a series of different opportunities for guests to relax, work, socialise and dine, all within a relatively small footprint. The spaces flow naturally from the entrance lobby, leading guests into the next area with intriguing glimpses and carefully composed views. Three elegant reception desks finished in silver metallic high gloss lacquer sit in front of decorative timber screens styled by MKV to suggest a mid-20th Century design. These screens, coupled with full height sheers, recur through the ground floor and together with a magnificent cascade of ceiling pendants that swirls through the public areas like an unfurling sail, hold the spaces together and lead the guest on through each experience.

The corridor leading to the lounge is given additional purpose by doubling as a library with book-lined glass shelves allowing light through into the cosy reading room on each side. Here, elegant curved sofas echo the fretwork patina of the screens while the design of the rug picks up on the geometry of much of the detailing.

The corridor frames a wood-burning fire beyond, contained within a wall of magnificent green forest marble which forms a fabulous backdrop to the lounge which is replete with collections of original contemporary furniture. On the other side, the marble wall serves to enclose the bar, creating the next space in the guest journey.

The antiqued brass of the bar glimmers under shafts of lighting slicing through dark walnut timber and white lacquer boxes suspended from the ceiling in a crafted design by MKV which “cuts through” the marble wall from the lounge, serving to obscure the A/C at the same time.  The hint of a sea-going raft is apparent in these boxes, an idea picked up in a printed canvas, set into a porthole-shaped frame over the bar, which depicts an ancient ship as might once have set sail from the seafaring nation of Azerbaijan. The timber flooring is composed of hexagonal panels in M.C. Escher fashion and a striking zig-zag table traverses the bar space.

The restaurant is the final space in the sequence of public areas – a long room with several structural columns. MKV has overcome the potential hardness of the space by cladding the columns with mirror and decorating them with sheers and fretwork screens, several of which can slide together to close off part of the restaurant and create an intimate evening destination.

Guestrooms are modern and streamlined. Hidden lighting washes the room in soft light; a feature wall with crystal embossed wallpaper adds a further touch of glamour. All the suites overlook the Caspian Sea and benefit from particularly generous wet rooms clad in Arabescato marble.

Photography: Michael Franke

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