Hotel Experience - Journey from the Lobby to your Room
Location: Budapest, Photo: Danyi Balázs, Project year: 2019
Publications: octogon 176 /archello

Programme: boutique hotel in the historic city centre of Budapest
A real-estate of 600m2 located in the historic city centre of Budapest – just a few steps from Elisabeth bridge – was planned to be transformed into a boutique hotel with 17 rooms. Though the property was part of a historic apartment block’s first floor, it could operate independently from the rest of the building as it had an adjoining entrance hall at street level supplemented with a mezzanine as well. In addition to fulfilling the functional and quality requirements, a unique identity had to be developed that reflects particularly to the situation of being in a hotel.

Challenge: towards the essence of the hotel room
The main challenges of the project were to define the meaning of being in a hotel; to find out its difference from staying at home; and ultimately to conceive the essence of owning a room temporarily that belongs to no one. What does it mean to be in a hotel? How is it different from staying at home? What is the essence of owning a room temporarily that belongs to no one? When we travel we disconnect ourselves from our everyday life and we enter into a state of being ”alien”. This is what D.J. van Lennep writes in his essay The Hotelroom from 1969 on the phenomenology of being in a hotel: ”I am here in a completely different mode of existence. I am free from part of my social obligations. I am a stranger, a "number" in a numbered room.” However this uprootedness does not come with tension or mental discomfort: on the contrary, anonymity is liberating. As hotel guests we can experience ourselves in complete privacy: we are not influenced and restricted by social impulses. In our room we can be completely alone, we can realize our deepest wishes and imaginations we would not dare at home. Thus the hotel room should be regarded as the ultimate private space. What architectural tools should be employed to enhance the hotel experience that comprises of the feeling of being out of the world and completely alone away from the accustomed routines? 

Project: a journey to another space
During the design process we focused on the perspective of the hotel guest and her pathway from the entrance of the resort till her bed in the hotel room. We imagined this journey as a multilayered voyeur: from public, social life till complete privacy; from the everyday urban realm to an extraordinary placeless place, where accustomed points of orientation are subverted; from exterior daylight to the darkness of the interior; from open spaces with generous dimensions and raw surfaces to closed, intimate ones with delicate detailing. We searched for tools that were aimed to make the experience of this complex shift articulated. One of these was the use of lights: at the lobby and the public areas of the hotel numerous light bulbs were installed complementing natural light, however as we reach the corridor leading to the hotel rooms the intensity of illumination gradually decreases. Inside the room there is only indirect lighting oriented toward the walls and the ceiling that aims to make the privacy and the identity of the hotel room as ”inner space” perceivable. There is a gradual change in the use of the covering materials as well: while the public areas including the lobby and the foyer are covered with stone and raw concrete on the ground and the walls are left unplastered expressing hardness, the rooms inside show softness with the intense use of textile surfaces covering the whole facade wall and the custom made furniture. Decorative paint with velvety fabric is used on the remaining walls of the rooms creating a detailed visible texture. The use of mirrors and reflective materials both in horizontal and vertical surfaces contribute to the subversion of usual orientation: they blur the physical borders of the spaces and make them virtually infinite. They are posited deliberately in situations where perception is easily derailed. This effect supports the notion of creating a world with its own ”physics” completely isolated from the exterior.