Andreea Anca gets the inside the Lánchíd 19 hotel
Like countless torurist and residents of Budapest, I was intrigued by the striking green boksz that shimmers by day and glows by night beside the Danube. So it was with some anticipaton that I stepped though the sliding doors and into the airy reception where a man in a bright orange shirt handed me key-card to one of the top-floor suites and showed me to the glass elevator.
Stepping out ont he seventh floor, I crossed the suspended glass bridge to the other side of the corridor and slid the key-card int he door marked „L3”. With a click the door opened upon one of the most spectacular rooms of the four-star Lánchíd 19-the first memeber of the Design Hotel chain in Hungary, positioned right at the foot of Buda Castle.
I walked into a sleek, futuristic room flooded with natural light. Facing me was a floor-to-ceiling window with a magnificant view of the castle palace. The impressive Habsburg construction seemed like decorative wallpaper enlivened surreally by tourist walking up the old road to Buda’s biggest landmark.
Taking bath int he evening was not without its thrills either as the glass wall extended to the bathroom area, offering a similary impressive view from there. Seeing the castle in its full splendor from inside a modern bathtub-jacuzzi was a rare privilege but came with the uneasy thought that i might also be seen by the people wandering by beyond my window. Buta t the press of a button (unfortunately placed by the enterance and not within easy reach from the tub). I had the instant option to drop a metal blind over that splendid „live” postcard.
The location of my temporary lodging could not be better as the 45 rooms and three suites (the latter with their own large terrace and a private garden) in Lánchíd 19 provide the most stunning views that Budapest has to offer, with some looking over the castle and others viewing the Danube, its briges and the other side of town. It lies almost opposite the Gresham Palace Four Seasonsn Hotel waving a contemporary salute not only to that historical landmark and epitome of traditonal luxury but to all the 19th century constructions that surrond it.
I became interested in learning more about the hotel when i’d heard that young local professionals (the groups are known as Szövetség 39 and NextTab) were entrusted with the complicated technology and artistic design of what looks like a spectacular glass mural facade illuminated at night and whose panels magically movie in tandem with the wind and the flowing river.
Another team of young creative minds mobilized by Dóra Fónagy and Anna Dávidházy from DEFO was commissioned to do the artwork in each room and to create for the hotel an identity faithful to contemporary design. It is one of very few big business project sin Budapest that invoive young artist and I wanted to see what had come out of this group-breaking initive and meet some of the people that made this experiment-with all the risks involved-materialize.
„When i was young „i always wanted to work in a hotel” said Csaba Valkó one of Lánchíd 19’s owners. „I liked traveling and loved the buzzing atmosphere of hotels but i’d never actually dreamed of owning one „the property developer” said with modest smile. Valkó’s mainasset was perhaps his capital, along with his open-minded appoach.
„I didn’t know what kind of hotel it should be but a friend mentioned the Design Hotel chain and got in touch with them” he said. Initially the €7.8m construstion qualified as a Design Hotel because of the innovative plans of its two main architects, Péter Sugár and László Benzúr Jr, which took into careful consideration the building’s natural and historical surroundings. The chain has 150 hotels spread around the world and although these are also all committed to „individuality, progessive architecture and design concepts of sustainability and an authentic connection to location” as stated on www.designhotels.com.
Lánchíd 19 was going to be modern in outlook with lots of open space and glass surfaces but respecting the parameters established by its neigboring mainly 19th century, construcions. The hotel also claims to initiate an unprecedented „conversation” with the river. The 10 glass bridges marked with water prints (which in reality are close-ups of the finger prints of the owners and the architects) that lead to the back rooms as well as the dynamic mural, are perhabs some of the strong elements involved in that conversation.By the time the hotel was almost finished and before much thought was given to decorating the interior DEFO approached the owners of Lánchíd 19 with a though, creative concept.
Fónagy, a well-established interior designer with a background in architecture put forward an idea for decorating the interiors that was going to be radically different from the paintings and drawings usually hanging ont he walls of hotel rooms. The artwork was uniquely designed and inspired by the chairs, which ae the centepiece of each room. These are no odinary pieces of furniture bu big-shot designer items that the 10 students from Budapest’s MOME University of Arts and Design coming from different discipines used as inspiration for their creations. „The hotel stands on two feet: it is part of an international chain and has to fit into the club „ said Fónagy.
„At the same time the hotel shoul be different and it can do that by being true to its Hungarian-ness int he best sense of the word. This was important because otherwise it would have just looked like one of the crowd, characteriess and boring.” The open-backed Pacific chair (by George G. Sowden, from design firm Segis) for instance, reminded the design of one room of a photographic slide. The result was magnified image of several negative frames depicting typical images from Hungarian family life, like a child’s birthday party and nostalgic scenes from Budapest’s circus.
„You can’t get these sort of experiences anywhere else but there. „This is why i love these students’ work, because they could think in contemporary terms while being themselves, being able to project their intrinsic Hungarian lives,” said Fónagy talking about this unusual and creative interpretation pf design. The black Maui chair inspired an attractively simple drawing of a musical score above th ebed, while the footsteps on the wall above th ebed in one room represent not some scary story, but a dance lesson.
There is also the Chess room and the Ball Garne room, and the Bug Invasion room, which looks more funny than its name might suugest. „People come from everywhere around the world. Humor, jokes and storytelling is an international language and a very personal thing that brought charachter to the rooms.” Explained Fónagy. While the process of decorating other parts of the hotel is still on-going, she hopes that Lánchíd 19 will also function as a cultural center of sorts, hosting exhibitions and design-related events, like the desgn conference that took place there late last month.
„There is more to this hotel than how the rooms look. I feel we gave it a strong design identity, and I’m very glad about that,” said Fónagy. The glass floor of the area behind the reception desk reveals a room downstairs, where the remains of a meieval water tower were found during excavation work. „Because of it we could not build a garage, and were eight months late with the work, but i on’t regret it” said Valkó, proud of this historical fin din the foundations of what he hopes will become a local icon of contemporary architecture and design. ”We made sacrifices and took risks to built this hotel. We are living proof that it is possible to realize new and good things with Hungarian architects and designers.”
Andreea Anca stayed at the Lánchíd 19 as a guest of the hotel (www.lanchi19hotel.hu). For more design and architectures stories, see page S12.