Space Station

13th January 2010 (Last Updated January 13th, 2010 18:30)

Poland enjoyed something of an architectural renaissance before the economic downturn but the recent opening of the Park Inn Krakow, shows that the Polish appetite for bold, challenging designs still remains. Jürgen Mayer, project director, tells Christopher Kanal about the thinking behind this brave, futuristic design.

Space Station

The new Park Inn hotel in Krakow, Poland, designed by one of Europe’s most progressive and intelligent architects, has recently been completed. Designed by leading German practice J. MAYER H, with interiors by JOIDesign in partnership with Ovotz Design Lab, the 152-room SOF opened in October 2009.

The Park Inn, the first to open in Poland, is located in an emerging cultural hub between the Old Town, Wawel Castel and the Jewish Quarter. The hotel sits in front of the Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, which will soon be accompanied by a nearby Cultural Centre.

The Park Inn has a 1,000m² conference centre that can host up to 600 delegates in a total of five meeting spaces, including a 348m² ballroom. But despite its generous facilities, the most striking element of the new hotel is its space-age exterior of black, white and aluminium stripes, separated by dark glass windows that afford impressive panoramic views of the city.

Project lift off

The Park Inn Krakow is the first realised hotel project undertaken by J. MAYER H and, due to its huge impact, it is unlikely to be the last.

“I like hotels because they are a strange mix of extreme privacy and a public place,” says Jürgen Mayer, owner of J. MAYER H. “It’s an interesting negotiation between creating a home away from home and at the same time providing an active public space.”

“I like hotels because they are a strange mix of extreme privacy and a public place.”

Mayer thrives on pushing the possibilities of design, and creating interactive buildings that provoke individual responses from those using them. His practice’s highly original designs include projects such as the Townhall Scharnhauser Park Ostfildern (2002), the Office Complex

An der Alster in Hamburg (2007) and the Dupli Casa private residence (2008) near Ludwigsburg. Mayer, who describes his firm’s unique style as “beyond the blob”, was undaunted by this undertaking – despite not having completed a hotel project before.

“We have done hotel designs but this is the first one that got built,” explains Mayer.

“It came through a lecture I gave in Krakow around 2003. A young developer, GD&K Group, came to me interested in collaborating on that site with my office.”

The original brief called for Mayer to design an office building. This was then changed to a hotel project. “The first move was to try create the hotel from the building we had before – but that did not work out,” says Mayer. “So we redesigned it and came up with this proposal, which was much more interesting for the location.”

A new landmark

The Park Inn project was an interesting diversion from Mayer’s other projects, which included public buildings, apartments and design installations. The hotel does reference the practice’s first building, the landmark Townhall Scharnhauser Park Ostfildern, which won the Mies Van Der Rohe Emerging Architect Award 2003. With its horizontal stripes, the hotel deals with what Mayer describes as the “the graphic exterior that wraps the content of the organisational layout”. Just like the townhall, the hotel seeks to create a new identity for the location. “Where the hotel is sitting right now is kind of a problematic area in Krakow,” he says. “It just sits outside the beautiful town.”

Mayer did not work directly with Rezidor Group on the project. His practice collaborated with Ovotz Design Lab and by the end of the project were design consultants. “They did all the drawings in Poland and the negotiations with different companies,” he says.

While J. MAYER H. was responsible for designing the exterior, the interior work was limited to a small part of the lobby area. “In the lobby, our design lab tried to make a smooth transition from the outside to a standard Park Inn hotel interior,” Mayer says.

All the rooms use the standard Park Inn design, a paradigm of their hotels everywhere. Given Mayer’s reputation it was perhaps a missed opportunity to do something new and original inside but outside, the building certainly does provoke a reaction. “I kind of like this ambivalence about familiarity and being able to do something new and different,” says Mayer.