Pnoé Breathing Life, Crete
Greek modernism movement’s influence filters from former hotel to new resort.
Cube Concept has breathed new life into a derelict beachfront hotel to create a resort centred around luxury and wellbeing on the Greek island of Crete. The newly opened, 60-key Pnoé Breathing Life was built around the skeleton of the existing architecture of the former hotel that had been left in ruins for years.
Part of the new Greek-owned MK Hotel Collection, which also includes Sentido Unique Blue, Pnoé is just outside the historic city of Heraklion on the north coast. While Crete is home to many hotels and resorts, Pnoé is one of a new breed of small, contemporary resorts where wellbeing and food are the focus, offering a space for adults to take a break and immerse themselves in an environment designed to rejuvenate on every level.
The trend for wellbeing holidays has taken off over the past few years, as travellers seek destinations that offer authentic experiences alongside spa and beauty treatments. And post-lockdown, the travel world saw a growing desire for adults-only spaces that provided the chance for total relaxation – not only among couples and singles but among parents too. Pnoé means ‘the breath of life’ in Greek – and the hotel has been created as a calming, design-savvy environment in which to enjoy the best Cretan dining experiences alongside island adventures and exceptional wellbeing programmes.
There is a range of 60 suites – all with private pools – that have been designed to reflect the island’s natural beauty, using subdued colour palettes and natural materials, such as wood and stone, throughout. The modernist decor has been purposefully created to encourage guests to clear their minds and recentre themselves. Stepping outside their suites, guests will find tranquil open spaces centred around a stunning swimming pool. Designers have used natural aesthetics to complement the panoramic sea and mountain views of the surrounding Cretan landscape. Each communal area has its own identity, from the warm earthy tones in the fine dining Thymises restaurant, to the lush greenery that adorns the Uranos rooftop bar.
Cube Concept design director Aria Lironi and her team were briefed to create an ‘oasis of calm’ as they transformed the ruins of the former hotel. Built in 1968, the original property was one of the first bungalow hotels with swimming pool in Heraklion. The Greek modernism movement’s influence was apparent in the architecture of the original buildings. That influence, combined with the narratives that were given from the client for the creation of an ambient atmosphere that connects with nature and the environment of Crete, were the driving forces for the design concept of the new hotel. This involved an overall renovation and addition of new buildings.
A large open pergola welcomes guests into the hotel and overlooks the common space with the swimming pool. Modernism elements, such as the round pillars and the marble wall that support the pergola, were incorporated in the design as a tribute to the previous era of the property. Large glass panels that reach the roof, create a reception area to the left of the pergola.
The rest of the hotel is laid out like a large hug around a curved swimming pool. The rooms are located on the west, north and east side of the resort, each one with its own private pool. The materials used in the hotel are mainly local, contributing to the hotel’s sustainability. Colours are earthy, creating a harmony both with the environment and between the materials themselves. All furniture and metal structures were made by local craftspeople.
A central focus at Pnoé is the wellbeing of every guest, whether they want to improve fitness, nurture inner health or simply slow down and reset. Guests will have access to recovery programmes such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Zerobody and Breathwork therapy, alongside a state-of-the-art fitness facility and professional personal trainers. A stimulating workout can be balanced with a visit to the waterfalls of the wet area, the Himalayan salt stones, a wood fired sauna or the impressive ice fall. The hotel also has a beauty salon.
Pnoé exists both in total privacy and as part of a wider community. Visits to landmarks such as Knossos – the Minoan ruins recognised as Europe’s oldest city and home to the legendary minotaur – can be arranged by the hotel team, as well as day trips to the renowned Elafonissi beach. Heraklion has a fascinating history, which can be witnessed in its architecture – from medieval churches to Venetian-era fountains and one of the most important archaeological museums in Europe.
Cretan cuisine has its own distinctive character, drawing on seafood, lamb, herbs and farm-grown vegetables. Pnoé’s focus is on nourishing guests with high quality produce, with local suppliers providing an authentic taste of the island. For those wanting a fine dining experience, Thymises takes guests on a culinary trip through Cretan cuisine with open kitchens inviting a convivial, relaxed atmosphere.
Fresh sushi, snacks and smoothies are available throughout the day next to the central pool, and a bespoke range of cocktails can be enjoyed from the rooftop bar.