Posted in Projects on 27 February, 2023

Too high, too far, too avante garde, too nouveau, naysayers said when long-time friends and collaborators, Laurent Taïeb and Philippe Starck came together to imagine the aptly named TOO Hotel atop Jean Nouvel’s Tours DUO. Reaching beyond the confines of tradition, the hotel reinvents the Parisian hotel scene. Jess Miles travels to TOO Hotel to experience what the future feels like in Paris.  

Drawing new-wave Parisians and travellers to the 13th arrondissement, is the Laurent Taïeb Group’s most innovative project to date, TOO Hotel. Imagined to disrupt notions of luxury in Parisian hospitality, TOO offers an accessible design-led hotel concept anticipating the hotel industry of tomorrow under Accor’s MGallery brand. Set across the 14th to 27th floors of the city’s newest landmark the Tours DUO by renowned futurist architect Jean Nouvel, and internally artistically directed by none other than Philippe Starck, the hotel really is the perfect French storm.

Whilst French hospitality entrepreneur Laurent Taïeb is no stranger to bringing boundary-pushing spaces to Paris—Le café du Trésor, Lo Sushi, Bon, Kong, and more recently Hotel Madame Rêve—this one hits differently. The reason is quite simple. Are you wondering where the 13th arrondissement is? I was too, until I arrived at the hotel just 25 minutes after disembarking the Eurostar at Gare du Nord station. Granted, travelling Business Premier meant beating the crowds to the taxi queue out front, but still, it’s a rather seamless journey for a capital city.

With whispers heralding the area Paris’ nouveau ‘Downtown’, the area is notably void of the café strewn streets onlookers expect to see in the city of love, nor does it possess any of the decadent Haussmannian façades it’s so famed for. Instead, it’s refreshingly uncluttered, brutalist yet ultra-modern, and somewhat evocative of an urban utopia. Previously an industrial zone tucked away behind the eastern banks of the Seine, the district has undergone a radical regeneration and is now host to a diverse crowd. Start-up incubators, cultural venues, and housing for future-forward young families sit side by side with international businesses—Le Monde, the international newspaper, to name just one, houses its headquarters here. Wide thoroughfares are layered with footbridges and narrow streets, whilst any bare wall space is a blank canvas for the thriving street art scene that’s established itself here. Due to the redevelopment over the years, the area has become an ever-changing architectural playground, with each ambitious new building attempting to outshine its neighbour.

Not competing with its surrounds, but rather a symbol of the shifts in this eastern pocket of Paris, TOO Hotel sits sky-high atop one of the towers of the Tours DUO. The two towers, striking and angular—which Nouvel describes as talking to each other “like two perfectly balanced dancers striving for harmony with their surroundings,”—are an architectural feat not only for their aesthetic but also for their dizzying heights. Whilst it had never occurred to me—until I was atop the only one—that the Parisian cityscape was completely absent of skyscrapers, the Tours Duo redefines its skyline to usher in a new era of Paris. Managing to slip through a loophole in the age-old system that prevents new developments being built taller than the buildings of the historic centre, Nouvel’s skyscrapers are now the third tallest buildings in the city only after the ever-iconic Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower.

Entering the ground floor, the lobby makes no mistake of showing how proud it is of its feat. Starck’s design choices say it loud and clear—you are not in a classically Parisian building, you are within a skyscraper born in the modernity of its time. Concrete walls are left raw bearing the marks of the building’s construction, whilst fine copper drapes delicately fall from the vast ceiling over the entrance. Embracing new materials and original forms, Starck’s vision for the lobby was to leave traces of the foundations, the metalwork, the manpower, to echo the industrial character of the area whilst embodying this pivotal moment in time as Paris shifts and murmurs. As you check in, the atmosphere is softened by the sumptuous scents of Le Labo, tan leather seating, raw wood stools, and a marble reception desk distinctively laced with elegant veining.

Anticipating your stop in the elevator ride upward is novel, as you fantasise about what Paris looks like from a viewpoint you’ve never experienced before. Failing miserably to disappoint, all 139 guestrooms and suites offer a sky view, exhibiting an exceptional panorama of the city. Comfortably off kilter, windows poke out at all angles, making room for spacious ledges wide enough for you perch, lay, and lean—or lunge as Starck’s provocatively shaped dumbbells and attached exercise regime placed there may suggest. A fun touch the dumbbells may be, perhaps more appropriately rested on the window ledge of each room is a pair of binoculars, encouraging you to sit a while, pause, and get lost in the view.

Unconventional in layout, playfully the room asks you to let go of everything you might expect—a bed centred in the middle of the room is shifted slightly off centre, and the lighting is ambient yet otherworldly. The starkness of linear shapes and minimalist curation are offset with the tactility of the surfaces. Headboards are finished in finely woven raffia, walls are sealed with raw silk, and a cloud like sofa is surrounded by an array of stools in contrasting materials of stone, wood, and steel. Soft underfoot, the carpet’s colour palette reflects the dusky clouds pictured in the hotel’s branding. Behind mirrored walls, panels shift to reveal a clean and crisp bathroom which looks spectacular dressed in the warm afternoon light ricocheting to and fro off the mirrors and chrome finishings. Its ethereal, and it makes perfect nonsensical sense when you discover that Starck’s vision was to create a dreamlike space caught somewhere between earth and sky.

A few stops higher in the elevator, and I find myself at the TOO Chill Spa, brought to the hotel in partnership with conscious skincare brand, Ulé. Featuring three treatment rooms, a fully glass-walled gym, a custom-made secret cedarwood sauna, and a 10-seater outdoor jacuzzi set on the tree-lined 17th floor terrace overlooking the river Seine, TOO Chill’s clever layout means it can offer all you could want albeit in a compact space. Awaiting my express facial, I absorb the unusual design choices made for a spa. Zingy yellow drenched floors meet pecan toned wood panelling which disguise hidden doors, whilst up above the otherworldly aura continues by way of randomly positioned space-age pendant lights. Its outlandish, yet invigoratingly refreshing, and left me thinking that zingy yellow floors are the thing I never knew I needed in my life.

Post treatment, I’m in a coolly euphoric state only befitting of the hotel’s aesthetic. Easily, I could while away the hours in my room, robe on and towel on head as I watch the sun set across the Parisian vista from my unique vantage point. Grounding the idea of luxury, comfort is key at TOO. If your type of luxury is ordering a takeout to the solace of your guestroom, then you’re in luck as TOO won’t snub your vibe. Partnering with UberEATS, they have a delivery system with four restaurants in the area. With ‘room service’ outsourced, guests are still able to enjoy delicious food in-room, but without the room rates being hiked up to cover the in-house service. As tempting as it all sounds, I have company to keep and a reservation upstairs at TOO Restaurant awaiting. A quick refresh and a dash of red lipstick later, I head up for the main event.

Whilst the unexpected design quirks are becoming quite expected within this review, I can assure you that in person, each one beats the next. If you thought the guestrooms and the spa were evocative, the restaurant is transcendent. Designed to stimulate the senses, the menu by Benjamin Six offers a choice of world cuisine with intriguing modern twists. Dishes were delicious and varied, but from an experiential perspective, the space itself steals the show. Emerging from the lift you’re greeted at the desk tucked to the side of a narrow walkway. Hearing a muddle of clinking of glasses and lively chatter against a hum of kookily ethereal tones, gives you an idea of what is around the corner, but not quite. Hosted in what can only be described as a theatrical gold-ceilinged glass cube, the restaurant floats 100 metres above the ground. Sharply ornate furniture complete jagged but somehow perfectly balanced scattered seating arrangements, up lit by illuminated flagstones embedded in the floor. What is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the space is the extravagant panelling and artistic frescos by Pierre Monestier, which create a dominating backdrop depicting a curious variety of oversized fantastical beings. An entirely unique space, it seems that this is where all of Starck’s fantasies have come to life.

Before hitting the hay, a nightcap on the rooftop calls. High from the vibes of the restaurant, there’s no chance of coming down once up at the TOO TacTac Skybar. Waxed concrete, metallic paint and beaten tin set the tone as you walk in to the beat of a hedonistic DJ set. On to the arched walls a rolling projection of eden-esque moving images hypnotises—a blinking eye, a slow-motion dog lick, drone footage of a forest canopy. What is perhaps the most startling aspect of the bar, is its outdoor terrace. With nothing above, and no surrounding buildings matching the height you are at by a long stretch, its undeniably the best rooftop in Paris. Floor to no-ceiling glass walls encase the terrace, shielding you from the wind whilst allowing you to experience the unrivalled panorama from head to toe. Feeling on top of the world, I could have planted myself on the terrace until first light despite it being the middle of winter. Watching the beam of light on top of the Eiffel Tower slowly spinning 360 into the black of night is exceptionally spectacular. From the dreamy heights of TOO Hotel, you’ll see and experience a version of Paris that’s alive in a way you would have never seen it before. The sky really is the limit for this new hotel, as is only fitting.

Operator: MGallery brand by Accor
Developer: Laurent Taïeb Group
Architecture: Jean Novel
Interior Design: Philippe Starck
Keys: 139


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