The hotel room as ideal room to live in and the meaning of the space in between. That and many other insights about Adolf Krischanitz's understanding of architecture and hotel design can be found in the interview we conducted with him. Listen to the ideas of the established Austrian architect and experience the room 64 in the following video. As the interview is in German, you can read the whole text version below.
Why did you actually decide to work with Altstadt Vienna?
Collaborating with Hotel Altstadt Vienna is interesting because it is such an innovative hotel concept. The aspect that former apartments were adapted into hotel rooms gives the whole project a very casual, almost accidental touch. As if it were all by chance. I find that very appealing. After all, there is nothing worse than those rituals you often encounter in a hotel, some of which can be quite irritating.
What guidelines did the owner and Altstadt Vienna give you?
Our cooperation was relatively free-spirited. Naturally, because I have stayed in a lot of hotels, and continue to do so, I know what the requirements of a hotel room are. That said, the owner gave me every freedom I could wish for. I believe that, generally when you work for a corporate hotel operator or a hotel chain, you are practically a prisoner restrained by so many demands that are non-negotiable. Here, the situation is quite the opposite.
The Altstadt Vienna asks designers to present their own personal interpretation of the Viennese attitude towards life in the form of a room design. How is that expressed in your room?
That comes to expression – and frankly, it doesn’t take that much conscious effort – to the extent that I am an architect who also involves himself with furniture, and I even actually design some of my own. The furniture I use flows into the overall design aesthetic. And as a Viennese architect, because you have the essence of Vienna essentially already pumping through your veins, you barely even have to give that aspect a second thought. Add to that the fact that, for me, a hotel room is very much an ideal space. I could even imagine myself living permanently in a hotel. There’s something about a hotel’s attitude towards life that I find really appealing.
You often stay at hotels. When you do, what is most important for you?
I might actually formulate it the other way round: In a private home, it is important for me to have things that are similar to what I might find in a hotel. For example, I often go out to eat breakfast somewhere, because I prefer doing that than being forced to prepare something of my own early in the day. That’s precisely how it is with the apartments I create.
For example, there are some people who incorporate certain aspects into a room or space which they feel are particularly important. For me, it is important that a space is able to more or less fulfil all functions autonomously. A hotel room is very similar. It is important to have a closet in which you can hang up your clothes. It is also potentially appealing to have a washbasin in virtually every room, since that seems to be appropriate. A WC shouldn’t be too far away, and maybe even right next to the bedroom. In other words, there are many aspects that I have transposed from the hotel to regular homes. So, you can see things almost from the opposite point of view. Though as I have said, of course there are certain aspects that are important to me.
For me personally, it’s important that I don’t necessarily have to lie in bed in order to watch television. From my perspective, that’s one of the dreaded aspects of hotel living, having to lie in bed to watch TV. This one can also be swiveled, so you can watch it somewhere else. Later you can lie down to sleep. For me, that is a pretty important piece of functionality. But there are also others. For example, here we have created a number of overlapping features. WC, shower, closets etc. have thus been placed along the corridor, so that spaces that might normally be wasted can also be used and are not excluded. Things that are important to me in an apartment, and therefore also in a hotel. In that sense, I don’t really see too much of a difference.
What story do the design, the furniture, the materials of the room have to tell us?
Some furniture we bought, some I designed myself. Some aspects of the room furnishings have more of an object character, such as the wardrobe or this piece of furniture with the television, which can be rotated, or there is the table at the window, which you could probably work at very well if you wished to. An armchair, other items, and a valet stand where you can hang some clothes. That is a relatively important convenience, either something that is completely missing in many hotel rooms, or at least something that looks rather pitiful. But it also has the potential to be an interesting feature.
Or how about the built-in radio, also absent in most hotel rooms since they have become so fixated on televisions. And at the same time, you want to lie down or sleep. Something we have all dealt with, right? We lie in front of the television and fall asleep. Not really what we would generally define as active use. Actually, more of a harmful side effect. It is far better if you consciously decide either to sit down and watch television, or, on the other hand, lie down in order to go to sleep, etc. The diversification of functions and, above all, the overlapping of functions is very much consistent with the concept of a closet. For example, it is not by chance that the WC and the shower and the washbasin and the cabinets are built into what are essentially closets. They are rooms, of course, but above all closets. The functionality is overlapping and diversified simultaneously, in part because they are separated by the hallway or a wall.
How do you want your guest to feel in “your” room? And who is the “right” guest for “your” room?
I would imagine that, in most hotels or hotel chains, looking at the negative example, there is generally a corporate identity, with one room looking very much like another. Maybe one is blue and the other green. For me, those kinds of things are horrifying. I once lived in a dormitory, where everything alternated between two colors. The very thought that I automatically knew that the next room would be blue, the other one across the way also, and yet another was certain to be orange, was enough to make me sick to the stomach. Those are major mistakes.
Every room should have some kind of personal touch. In that regard alone, I find the concept of Hotel Altstadt Vienna very, very good. I can’t imagine anything better than having each room go in its own distinctive direction, a direction determined by a different architect in each case. On the other hand, however, it’s important to have individual items standardized to improve functionality. After all, there is no sense at all in having some kind of container that is so idiosyncratic that you barely know how to operate or use it. In other words, something can certainly have a personal touch to it, but it should still have certain standard aspects to it.
How does your own taste in home décor differ from how you designed this room?
In principle, not very much. As I said, I see the hotel room as an idealized form of living. I can even imagine that, when I get older, a serviced hotel might be an appealing alternative for me. Having various forms of retreat, being able to configure and use them as one will. And on the other hand, having standard functions that work similar to those in a hotel.
In that regard, my personal style of living isn’t so much different. As said, if I have an apartment with three or four rooms, each room will, to a certain degree, have a little bit of a hotel-room character to it, because I also want to use the space flexibly. That means, if guests come over etc., the room is easily used, yet without intruding too severely into the overall concept. For me, a hotel is a manifestation of urban living, though absolutely a lifestyle form that is transferrable to many other things. Karl Kraus once said, a person needs only a certain level of comfort and quality. You are either comfortable in yourself, or not. And there is nothing worse than if warmth is affected or attempted, since it is actually nothing of the sort because it is one-dimensional and artificial. Incidentally, the art here is also very interesting.
So, what can you tell us about the art in this room?
A young artist created this picture, a sketch, for us and transformed it into a wallpaper. For me, this kind of challenge was quite intriguing. Wallpaper becomes a part of the wall. The fact that the wallpaper can’t be removed simply, but rather melds with the wall, is a compelling aspect. Seen in this way, it has a twofold character. It is indeed part of the architecture. Even though only made out of paper and a loose component, at least originally, through pasting it is completely incorporated with wall itself.
What is your favorite element/object in the room?
For me, the room itself is not the element, but rather that which comes in between. Everything in between is important and essential. That’s why there is an intervening space, this space between the artwork and the wooden wall. In the middle there is a space, for media, and then there is the window and the door. For me, the room unfurls between. So I can’t say I have a favorite element. For example, the interplay between the wooden wall and the field of flowers: This field is an artefact that was drawn, enlarged and applied to the wallpaper. Giving it an almost industrial touch. Across from that is the wooden wall, a “knotty oak”, which really is a natural product. It is an oak with the nubs of branches consciously left on, and comprised of different veneers. It is also important that both things are opposite one another, representing a kind of twofold definition of nature. On the one side there is the wooden wall, even though with an industrially manufactured veneer still a visible manifestation of nature, and on the other an artefact, an artistic interpretation of a field of flowers. This has no color. It would certainly have been possible to work it in color, but I consciously didn’t wish to do that. It was important to me that it was abstract yet recognizable.
That was perhaps my greatest concern, insuring that people could see that it was indeed a sketch. You can still clearly see that, and it is vital to its success. That’s a common thread in many elements of this room. That also applies to the veneer, which we took a long time to find. It has such a matter-of-fact-ness about it, it’s free and open, yet it doesn’t come across as overly “country” or staid in the slightest. That would have been a crazy thing to do. Rather, it is a kind of treatment,while still somewhat of an interpretation of nature. Relatively important in this case.
One object in your room stands out...
...the floating bench. That’s actually a design I made for Wittmann a long time ago. Firstly, I wanted a bench that is comfortable and, in terms of depth, requires relatively little space, since it is hung from the wall. This floating bench has the added advantage that it has no feet. Which means you can also wipe underneath it, yet another factor that is important for a hotel if purely for hygienic reasons.
What do the two lamps have to tell us?
These lamps are relatively old designs. I originally made them, I believe, for a hotel or a kind of training center for Swiss RE in Zurich. The design has held up very well, produced and sold regularly ever since. In this case, they are an ideal complement to the room. For me, pulling together things that you have made yourself, and things which you have purchased, such as the two tables by Jasper Morrison, the bedside cabinet etc., is very important. They have to mesh to some extent, but not too much. It is also essential that each piece is clearly idiosyncratic.
The wardrobe has the potential to be memorable. What is the point of the lattice in the wardrobe?
In a normal wardrobe, you are basically dealing with a cabinet in which you have to put coat hangers. In this particular case, I can essentially hang them from the top wherever I want. Which gives you a lot more flexibility. That’s the idea behind it.
Your final thoughts?
It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. I hope we created what you had imagined. But from my perspective, it has turned out quite beautifully.
Thank you for the interview!