Le Méridien Hamburg
Conveying a ‘cool’ sophistication facing Lake Aussenalster, Le Méridien Hamburg unveils its newly renovated public areas with a redesign of all guestrooms and suites. Hamish Kilburn speaks with JOI-Design to learn more…
In 2011 a 12-foot-tall sculpture called ‘mermaid’ of a woman bathing in Lake Aussenalster caught the attention of both locals and tourists. The concept, in the larger of two lakes formed from the Alter River, was a nod to the city’s liberal culture. Fast forward five years and I quickly get the feeling that life here happens around the ripples of open water. Ideal for sailors, rowing, paddlers and those who simply want to admire the scenery, the lake is an integral part of the city.
Perched bankside of the lake – and arguably capturing the best views of the city with a noticeable lack of high-rise buildings – Le Méridien Hamburg has recently unveiled its newly restored public areas by none other than Hamburg-based JOI-Design. “It’s the best city in the world,” claims Peter Joehnk, co-managing director of JOI-Design.
The design concept was inspired by the myriad of waterways, canals and rivers that define Hamburg’s status as an international trading port. The lounge, or ‘Hub’, is the connecting point of the hotel, much like the local port is for international trade. “We received a brief from the Le Méridien brand to introduce its ‘Hub’ concept, meaning that the lobby should be a place to meet, drink and eat as well as work and relax,” explains Joehnk. “Fortunately, this coincided well with the hotel’s need for a new layout due to future plans for a new adjoining conference centre.” Small clusters of contemporary seating allow guests to relax in comfort within the welcoming lobby.
The same design studio is currently creating the new style of the hotel’s 275 guestrooms and suites. “Generally speaking, the challenge of a renovation is always to create a harmonious flow with what was there before and any elements that might be retained,” says Joehnk. “Since our new design covers the entire ground floor and other areas aren’t directly connected to it, we have been able to ignore the existing and develop a new concept.”
The reception has been completely transformed into a bright, expansive oval space furnished at one end with a pair of prominent timber-clad reception desks. Behind these, a specially commissioned large-scale artwork by UK artist Debbie Smyth is an eye-catching backdrop; thousands of fine metallic threads crisscross the surface to illustrate a map of the world, with select lines emphasised to indicate key international shipping routes of today. “It’s funny, we already worked on a design for this hotel 14 years ago along with Pierre Yves Rochon, and the look and feel were still okay by today’s standards,” adds Joehnk. “But the hotel’s brand had evolved in a different direction and functionally there had been some operational issues, plus the need for restructuring arose as a result of the future extension.”
The spacious Hub lounge is configured to offer a range of possibilities for different types of gatherings and to suit both the modern traveller as well as more traditional expectations of a lobby/lounge. “Our design is obviously contemporary, but it is not ‘cutting-edge chic’,” explains Joehnk. “We created quieter ‘library corners’ where the more conventional guest would more likely feel comfortable.” Generous sofas are paired with elegant lounge chairs, while tables at varying heights are suitable for working, casual meetings or enjoying a light snack. Furniture is contemporary in style, with simple and smart designs in high-quality finishes juxtaposed with quirky occasional pieces. When speaking with Joehnk, it’s clear that duteous time and effort is spent when selecting each piece of furniture. “Our preference is to place orders with companies we are familiar with and which have good references,” explains Joehnk. The seating areas have been individually accessorised with luxurious rugs and decorative light fittings to create inviting spaces in which to relax and socialise. A central feature of the lounge is the new ‘Latitude’ bar, an all-day coffee and snack servery that transitions to wine and aperitifs in the evening; the extensive countertop and display cabinet is perfect for presenting afternoon treats and evening tapas.
Many playful associations with the adjacent lake and nautical history of the region are evident in the new interior scheme. Subtle patterns of diagonal lines, triangles and prism shapes repeat on surfaces and in furniture designs, alluding to the ropes and sails of seagoing vessels. Wood and stone surfaces in warm natural tones and textures contrast with soft furnishings in watery hues of turquoise and aqua, while walls finished in stucco lustro and mother-of-pearl add to an overall ambience of refined luxury. Unique ornamental accessories suggest a collection of interesting objects gathered on travels across the globe.
With this first phase of an extensive refurbishment of the hotel, JOI-Design has created a new design language for the public spaces, one that imbues the hotel with a definitive sense of place and reaffirms it as an inviting destination for people to connect and unwind, whether a local resident or voyagers who have travelled from afar. Further phases of work also designed by the studio involve not only the aforementioned guestrooms, but also the new-build conference facility and the refurbishment of the spa, all with concepts inspired by the beauty of their lakeside setting.