Getting to Know Jan Kleihues (Part III)
It’s time for the third and final part of my interview with Jan Kleihues, the local architect responsible for the Hotel Concorde Berlin’s award-winning design. In part I and part II I showed you around his stylish office, located inside a former rubbish transfer station on the banks of the River Spree, and discussed the Hotel Concorde Berlin’s unique exterior. So now it’s time to take at the hotel from the inside, and learn about some of Kleihues’ other projects and hidden talents…
As I mentioned before, designing the Hotel Concorde Berlin presented Jan Kleihues with a unique opportunity. Most hotels of this size have to conform to the corporate identity of the chain, so the architect is only charged with designing the outside. The design of the inside and outside often have little to do with one another. The Concorde Hotels and Resorts group, which boasts a total of 23 luxury houses all over the world, celebrates the variety and individuality of its hotels, whilst maintaining a strong identity. Kleihues incorporated many of the ideas and motifs which characterise the building’s façade into his designs for the interior, creating a sense of unity.
For example, the strict geometry of the outside, which was chosen to contrast with the wild, natural character of the stone, is continued as you step inside with the bold horizontal grooves of the main reception desk (see picture above), whilst the three-dimensional meander, which forms the upper edge of the desk, continues to wind its way throughout the entire house (see shelf above).
The lobby is my favourite place in the hotel, and if you’re wondering why, then draw your eyes away from the sculptural centerpiece by Dietrich Klinge and look up at the ceiling. It’s made up of thousands of tiny silver tiles and since the hotel opened around seven years ago, they’ve had plenty of time to come into their own – in fact, even more so than originally planned. Kleihues tells me that the tiles oxidised more than intended, but that, if he were to do it all again, he wouldn’t change a thing. The mix of patinas gives it a wild look, or, as Kleihues puts it: “The ceiling is alive!” The colours and patterns will continue to develop and “grow” with the hotel.
Kleihues even designed much of the furniture in the hotel, including a beautiful series of armchairs and sofas, which are featured throughout the rooms and communal spaces in various sizes, colours and materials. The range, entitled Elton, was designed by Kleihues especially for the Hotel Concorde Berlin in cooperation with the Walter Knoll company. They have this to say of the series, which can be purchased at various design outlets: “With its well-balanced proportions and interplay of volumes, the Elton series is reminiscent of art deco elegance.“
Kleihues also designed a lamp series for the hotel, as well as some sleek-looking doorhandles, which were produced by Valli e Valli: “They follow the form of the hand,” he explains, as he demonstrates the smooth curves of a demonstration handle in his office.
Jan Kleihues, whose father Josef P. Kleihues was also a famous architect who left his mark on Berlin, has worked on many other projects besides the Hotel Concorde Berlin. You can visit the Kleihues+Kleihues architect’s office website here to find out more about their work, but for now I will leave you with two projects which caught my interest. The first is his luxury designer glasses range for ic! berlin, a cool Berlin-based label who are worth checking out. The second, is his plans for the headquarters of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Agency, which is in the process of relocating to Berlin. Kleihues’ designs won the competition and the building is due to be completed by 2014. Understandably, he couldn’t tell me much about the plans, but one thing’s for sure: with so much variety and creative scope, Jan Kleihues never has a dull day in the office.