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nhow, Berlin, Germany

Issue 61 Jun/Jul 2011 : Retail : Hotel

Architect: NPS Tchoban Voss Lighting Design:

Whilst at the LED Lighting Summit in Berlin, Paul James was blown away by the hotel that hosted the conference.

There’s nothing like a zany hotel to lift the spirits when attending an incredibly technical (but extremely interesting and useful, I hasten to add!) conference on LED technology. So it was when I visited nhow Berlin for the LED Lighting Summit organised by OLED Insider in May. The organisers bagged a bit of a coup securing the venue which opened in November last year realising that, not only did it have excellent conference facilities, but it would also be a definite tipping point in many deciding to attend. This is the second nhow hotel, following the launch of the first in Milan in September 2006, and continues the philosophy of locating in a fashionable district of the city. Located in Friedrichshain, on the banks of the River Spree, the nhow Berlin is flanked on either side by the German headquarters of MTV and Universal. Multi-purpose music venue 02 World, where the world’s biggest artists stop off on tour, is just a short walk away, as are the clubs and bars of Kreuzberg.

In creating the interiors for the hotel, New York based designer Karim Rashid has come up with a typically vibrant Pop Art scheme, which contrasts with the hard angles of the architecture by Sergei Tchoban of NPS Tchoban Voss. 

The envelope of the building is austere, with its overhanging façade and huge glass windows offering views of Jonathan Borofsky’s 30m ‘Molecule Man’ sculpture. The rigorous clinker façade is typical of the industrial warehouse buildings once used by the shipping companies of Berlin’s Osthafen (East Harbour), and more recently occupied by world famous techno clubs such as Berghain and Tresor.

The East and West towers of the hotel take on elements of the adjacent warehouse buildings, with their uneven brick façades. The literal standout feature is the eighth to tenth storey cantilever of the central Upper Tower floating 36m above and protruding 21m over the Spree. Clad in reflective finishes of stainless steel and aluminium, the building’s exterior changes appearance depending on the season and time of day. On the Spree side, the building features a glazed double-skin façade, a 10m wide promenade and more than 1000sqm of sun terraces.

The contrast between this restrained façade and Karim Rashid’s interior scheme is jarring. Described as “a poetical, colourful, almost surreal universe”, the amorphous, mutable shapes and vibrant colour scheme will be familiar to those who have followed Rashid’s work over the past decade, as will the language of ‘technorganics’, ‘infosthetics’ and ‘blobjects’ used by this most voluble of designers to describe his own work.

Rashid’s signature designs are unavoidable throughout the lobby, reception, restaurant, bars and conference areas of the hotel. The check-in desk is one long undulating fibre-glass counter in flouro pink. A random array of lighting elements sits in front of a technicolour screen of intersecting waves. ‘Projections’, the sculptural ceiling of liquid-like plastic, and indirect lighting create a relaxed mood. Ceramic tiles are printed with a lattice style motif, which represents “the digital data that surrounds us, supports us and speaks for us”.

Bar Envy is unmissable: the bar itself is made of gold-lacquered fibreglass and the seating of voluptuous, organic and ergonomic formed couches and lounge chairs flank the bar. Custom made benches correspond with the illuminated ceiling scultpures hanging above them, while transparent curtains with typical Rashid ‘digipop-design’ tint and transform the view of the Spree.

Pastel colours, abundant daylight with the large window surfaces and organic-formed light installations ensure a friendly, lively
mood in the restaurant. Rashid has imbibed this area with sculptural seating groupings and Murano lamps of his own design, offering warm light.

Lighting was supplied by Teknica Lighting Consulting of Madrid, specialists in hotel illumination. The aim of the lighting was to adapt to the dynamic architecture and design requirements, achieving maximum integration without taking anything away from the geometry generated by the interior design using the latest light sources and state-of-the-art devices.

Four light sources are used based on their individual characteristics: halogen for its warm colour temperature, unbeatable chromatic reproduction, highlighting shiny materials, greater contrast between light and shadow and using different angles of opening to create a theatrical effect; fluorescent was used for its energy saving and a soft, comfortable, balanced spread of light for large areas; LEDs for its greater saving on energy consumption and for its flexibility for more decorative effects; finally, electro-luminescent Light Tape, with an average life of 40,000 hours and a consumption of less than 1W per metre, was used for signs and direction guidance.

Lighting in the public areas highlight decorative elements and the qualities of the materials (shine, colour and shape). In the passageways the aim was to help users find their way using floor and wall lights, lighting areas so as to create areas in shadow and accents with single bright lights to guide guests through the different public areas.
Ceiling sculptures dominate the lobby, bar and restaurant with each installation integrating one or all of the four light sources to best highlight its form.


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