A sexy room for movie aficionados
A fabric covered wall hiding a bathroom, a closet and a multimedia system. How all of these create layers of depth and even body-like curves is explained by Gregor Eichinger, the architect and mastermind behind the room. Listen to his ideas and see room 66 for yourself in the following video.
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You'll find the whole interview to read after the pictures of the suite.
The interview in full length
Mr. Eichinger, my first question: Why did you actually decide to collaborate with Altstadt Vienna?
If you occupy yourself with hotels and their history, you notice that there was a distinctive break after World War II. Up to then, they had been representatives of the city you were visiting, while afterwards they had become more like outposts for traveling businessmen from the United States. Something new had crept in, something that globalized hotels internationally in order to meet the needs of their customers. That meant that hotels gradually adopted the standard American amenities, creating essentially nothing more than a home-away-from-home for business travelers in a foreign country. The Altstadt Vienna is the kind of hotel format I love a lot, because it grew out of Vienna itself, it’s rooted in diversity, and it brings the qualities of this city to the forefront. Even though it doesn’t stand in a location with one of the city’s fanciest sightseeing attractions right in front of your nose. To the contrary, in fact, the hotel itself is an attraction in its own right.
What guidelines did the owner and Altstadt Vienna give you?
That is so important. Though I do remember, we did give you one guideline. Anyone acquainted with the Altstadt Vienna knows that it is characterized by its many diverse faces. But precisely because every room is different, having a common thread is also vital. That thread is an interpretation of the Viennese attitude towards life itself. How did you manage to integrate that into this room?
On the one hand through the idea of the emotionality of the surfaces, and that we are actually staging the room so that we can gaze from the bed out into the city. Rather than merely looking from the bed into the room, we wanted to conjure up a feeling much more like in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”. As we look out through this gorgeous window, which is well proportioned and very beautifully tailored to the dimensions of the room. This alone is highly representative of Vienna. In fact, it is so Viennese, the moment you step inside, you immediately know that the city itself is the theme. Not the room. The room provides for your needs, the room sees to it that the acoustics are halfway okay, which is to say we have soft surfaces. The room conceals a few hidden gems, it contains all of the amenities you would expect, though never intruding them into the spotlight. They are there, but they are unobtrusive. The room is also fortunate to have a view of Vienna that represents the city perfectly. You can probe deeper, so to speak, and see many more things, some of which are also related to the city, or to the idea of emotionality.
Since you brought up Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”: This room has a unique feature which allows us to watch films in a different way than we are generally used to at a hotel. Would you mind telling us a little bit more about that?
You can watch the films from the bed. They are projected towards the window. We have made the bed the central piece of furniture, with views in every direction. Actually, it is quite the all-rounder, also when it comes to technology. In our first draft, it was even possible to project the images from the bed in all directions. Eventually that was an idea we pulled back from, since it would have made things too complicated for the guest. While we simplified matters, leaving ourselves with a bench, a TV set and the bed itself, it is still very much the “main feature” of this room.
It’s quite apparent you are a movie buff …
Which movie should a guest watch in this room?
There’s a broad selection. And of course, it depends on your mood and who is with you. There are a few really great films, essentially the Cinema Noir from 1950s Vienna. The absolute classic is, of course, “The Third Man”, but there are also many other choices such as “Rio Bravo” and “The Big Lebowksi”.
You have told us about the furniture and room décor, and about the ambience the room is intended to evoke. Who, would you say, would be the ideal guest. Whom do you see in this room, and how would you like that person to feel?
Naturally, guests should feel comfortable and cozy. I want them to walk in and know that, the moment they close the door behind them, they will immediately be able to gaze into the outside world again. They come from the city and have bonds with the city. I feel that guests who book the total Hotel Altstadt experience would definitely feel comfortable here. Simply based on the idea that Vienna “happens” here and there is such variety. I don’t have a specific guest in mind. I would never say that the guest should be a writer, a married couple, newlyweds, lovers. Everything’s possible. I like the idea that guests who are enjoying a lengthier stay might choose to spend a quiet evening here, they have no other plans, they order a meal, perhaps, and simply watch a great movie together. Yet another one of those meaningful moments you won’t soon forget.
You often stay at hotels yourself. What is important for you, personally, when you spend the night at a hotel?
I want to sense a certain level of attentiveness towards my needs. Something you also see here, for example, with such simple things as the water, and the apples, all just there waiting for me. I wanted to get away from the whole “bed up against the wall” scenario, which has become such a cliché. I feel a true sense of joy whenever I enter a room that has something different about it. Which is the way all of the rooms are at this hotel. In this case, we give the bed a different significance, almost like a vehicle with which you could keep on traveling all the way to the Adriatic, if you chose.
And now, perhaps a somewhat personal question: How does your own style of home décor differ from this room?
Actually, that’s something I wish I had. My personal taste is very much true to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s motto “Stay hungry!” That’s to say, my home lifestyle is very heterogeneous.
Would you like to tell us a little about the materials you used?
The materials are fabrics designed by Herzog & de Meuron for Kvadrat, with a pleasantly haptic quality and unique acoustical properties. We have the wall with handles, the shower, washing facilities, a wardrobe and an intelligent wall, which is internally translucent, meaning that behind the layer of fabric everything is made of glass and the light can flow straight through it. We have a beautiful room, which I like a lot because of its proportions. One of the qualities Vienna brings us from its past. Providing high ceilings that give us plenty of breathing room, along with large windows that allow in plenty of light, even though you are actually in a narrow street.
As a contrast to the fabrics, Makassar wood dominates in the entrance area?
The Makassar represents a highly polished, fantastic counter world, one that is contemporary, that “knows where it’s at”, so to speak. This wood is savvy about blogs and social networks. It is a direct connection to a world that is lived in parallel, virtually, intensively, interlinked. For me, this is the only tie to the international lifestyle, a reference to the world beyond Vienna. It’s something just as we might experience it in New York, Paris or London, right this moment, just like this. We sense that immediately, it’s the selfsame language. Everything else references an elegance that is an iconically Viennese theme.
What is the true protagonist in the room?
The bed stands in the middle of the room and is the universal element of any stay. Its aim is to invite the guest to spend time there, to lie on it even during the daytime. Since we had too little space for an additional sofa etc., the bed assumes that role also, while the stools, which also double as tables, can also multitask. In the center of the room there is basically only fabric and the wall, while the projections are viewed from the bed itself. Everything emanates from the bed and is experienced from the bed. That’s the theme here.
What statement does the form of the wall make?
If you accommodate everything into the wall, you will naturally have a variety of depths. Depths that you need. So as to leave plenty of space free for the bed, the wall curves back from the shower, accommodating the vanity. The wall might potentially have gone straight across, but for me that would have made the rest of the room just too narrow, which is why we find this elegant curve, which perhaps also adds a bit of a physicality. After all, there’s nothing wrong with the room being a little bit sexy.
I avoided that. I avoided saying that.
Why were the door handles positioned comparatively high?
We live in a time when we no longer need to place our hands on architecture. In former days, door handles were one means of doing that, which in turn developed a personal relationship with the very building itself. Nowadays, of course, doors open themselves. But the opening of a door should be a conscious act. If we look back in history, the handles in older buildings were also set higher, so that one had to open doors quite deliberately. The idea here is the same, first it’s striking, secondly it’s unusual. The consequence is that you interact with the room fittings consciously, and thus generate yet another positive memory.
Thank you for the interview.