The Orient Jerusalem by Isrotel Collection
Who better than the talented designers at Hirsch Bedner Associates to encapsulate the spirit and history of Jerusalem in a five-star manner? Features Editor Tonje has a look at how heritage and tradition meets modernism and innovation in this oriental gem…
Located on a historic site that once belonged to the German Templar Society, Jerusalem’s newest five-star hotel, The Orient Jerusalem by Isrotel Collection, has opened up in two distinctive 19th Century Templar buildings and a contemporary nine-storey building. The marriage between old and new, and between East and West, is in line with the character of the German Colony in Western Jerusalem; historically rich and increasingly cosmopolitan.
Isrotel is Israel’s leading hotel chain and The Orient will be the group’s debut in the capital as well as the latest addition to the group’s Exclusive Collection. The urban resort embodies the neighbourhood’s rich heritage while incorporating contemporary appointments, seamlessly blending high-quality stone, wood, tile, and glass.
Celebrating Jerusalem’s sacred culture, HBA took design inspiration from the Templar settlers, who originally used the buildings as schools. The complex underwent years of meticulous renovation by restoration architect Eyal Ziv in collaboration with the hotel’s principal architects, Yehuda, Dov and Yoel Feigin of Feigin Architects.
The vision for the hotel design was also gathered from the Templar’s excellent carpentry and blacksmith skills and traditions, which can still be experienced today at the bustling local streets, colourful marketplaces and eclectic mix of all-things artistic. Golden hues of Jerusalem stone and the earthy olive groves on the fringes of the city provided a colour palette for materials and designs.
Sarah Williams, senior designer at HBA, said: “The experience of designing the interiors for The Orient was particularly captivating. [Jerusalem] is a city of cultures so entwined and rich in traditional craftsmanship, and we made sure that this inheritance touched every space.”
The hotel offers, in addition to its guestrooms, several bars and restaurants, a museum, a boutique spa, a ballroom and event spaces, and an elegant rooftop pool and bar.
The lobby is accessed through a beautiful glass pavilion that faces the hotel’s Jerusalem-style courtyard. The high glazed, tapestry-lined ceiling evokes a stately opulence upon arrival and lets in tonnes of natural light – it’s also decorated with gently gathered drapery. Glass and Jerusalem stone make up the atrium in a pure but impactful manner, while the rough-cut stone elevations of the lobby are allayed by illuminated strips of mosaic-patterned tiles.
The reception desk is formed like an arc and behind it there are three elegant wrought iron and glass display cabinets showcasing collections of artwork from the neighbourhood. A handcrafted chandelier cascades through the central oval stairwell and is suspended above a reflection pool two floors below.
As a tribute to the Templars, the hotel has created a small interactive museum on site that allows guests to fully connect with the neighbourhood’s remarkable heritage. The museum features a unique selection of authentic artefacts from the Templar era collected from their former colonies throughout Israel. Isrotel is also committed to advancing Israeli art and culture, and have therefore put the Orient Jerusalem Contemporary Art Collection on display throughout the hotel.
The Orient offers a total of 250 guestrooms, which are spread across the Templar buildings and the new-builds. The 39 rooms in the Templar Buildings are unique in their architectural form and detailing, and they combine luxury with local handcrafted authenticity. The blue and ivory palette represents the ‘tekhelet’ blue recalling the biblical blue of Judaism and the encaustic floor tiles are similar to those found in the original buildings during the restoration. Standout design elements include crafted wrought iron bedframes and blue leather chaise lounges at the foot of the beds.
Overall, the rooms have earth tones and regal colour palettes with the occasional juxtaposition of colours through fabric details in burnt sienna and azure. Clearly taking inspiration from local colours, materials and craft traditions, the design team has still maintained a contemporary look.
In the bathrooms, intricate tile work and metallic finishes allude to the traditional mosaic-lined bathhouses of old Jerusalem and the large windows allows lots of delightful natural light in. Aged metal basins and mixer taps as well as the traditional free-standing copper-clad tubs all nod to the building’s and the town’s history.
The spacious guestrooms and suites in the new building reference local heritage and craftsmanship too, but are distinctly more contemporary. For instance, studded headboards hint at the old doors of the city, the lamps are artisanal and the table tops are of olive wood, maintaining the local culture, while sliding glass panels add the modern feel. There is a refined balance between natural stone, olive wood, wrought iron and plush, woven fabrics across the entire room and each room has its own private balcony.
The 24 suites provide an elevated experience, the Presidential Suite in particular. It combines a bedroom, bathroom and dining room along with a lounge that features a fully glazed, dual aspect outdoor terrace that provides uninterrupted views of Jerusalem.
Drinking and dining
The Kahn Bar and Lounge on the lobby level has atmospheric double-height space decorated with reflective and textural surfaces. The main wall is an artful composition of framed verre églomisé mirrors mounted on a tactile cork backdrop. Feature screens on each side of the bar have been specially designed to recall traditional local wrought iron work while the central can access cosy balconies.
At the Smadar Dining Room and Courtyard Terrace, natural, warm tones and cool white marble tops balance the impressive space. Jerusalem stone walls carry through from the exterior façade to meet etched mirror-clad walls and semi-transparent etched glass screens, posing a thrilling play of reflectivity, transparency and opacity. The live cooking station has a beautiful mosaic floor, while olive wood from the nearby groves forms a striking composition of suspended panels.
The Rooftop Pool and Orient Bar crowns the building on the 10th floor, offering not only spectacular views, but a glamorous bar in electric blue and white tiles and ceramic tables discovered by the designers at a local market.
At the heart of the spa sits the indoor lap pool and looks as if the cavernous space has trapped the very source of ‘Jerusalem Gold’ between its faceted ceiling and Jerusalem stone walls. There is a striking rough-hewn lava stone feature wall with a dazzling waterfall and golden crystalline structure of the ceiling. The treatment rooms are calm and simply designed, contrasting the volcanic opulence of the public area. Warm timber floors, stone features, and a light projection wall ensure the calm ambience.
It requires skill to present an areas heritage in a neutral and elegant way, and I think HBA has done a terrific job with it. A perfect personification of Jerusalem’s past and present, The Orient Jerusalem by Isrotel Collection is indeed a new architectural icon for the city.