24 May 2022

Identity Swap – hotels with hidden pasts

Let’s face it, there are some parts of our personal histories that we brag about, and some that we most definitely do not! But when it comes to buildings, it would seem that there’s nothing too murky or quirky that doesn’t add to its architectural glamour. 

 To prove our point, first up we present to you The Liberty Hotel in Boston Massachusetts. Once home to a less salubrious clientele of murderers and a rag tag collection of crooks, the former Charles Street Jail now attracts a more elegant customer. Originally built in 1851, the granite giant was transformed by a team of architects and designers who collaborated to create a 298-room hotel.   

The whole renovation pays homage to the building’s history, retaining iron barred windows and barriers (unlocked, in case you’re wondering), whilst simultaneously infusing it with a contemporary vibrancy that gives a respectful nod to New England crafts, such as crewel work-inspired carpets. If you’re in the neighbourhood and fancy a fascinating and ID-inspiring nosy-around, the Liberty offers tours every Wednesday at 2pm. Contact reception to book.   

Next up is a fascinating project masterminded by Japanese architectural genius Tadao Ando. To the delight of Kyoto residents, he recently transformed the Japanese city’s former Nintendo HQ into a boutique hotel beauty. The Marufukuro Hotel opened on 1st April of this year, after Pritzker Prize-winning Ando renovated the building that had remained empty since 1959. He allowed the façade to retain the hallmarks of its history, including the Yamauchi Nintendo entrance plaques and window grilles which were patterned with details from the playing cards that the company manufactured at the time. Inside was a different story – Ando set to work creating an 18-bedroom sanctuary complete with a bar, spa, restaurant and gym, whilst carefully preserving wow-some 1930s features including a wonderful art-deco tiled fireplace and original lighting. 

 We’re heading back Stateside now, where we’re not-so-roughing it in a trailer park. El Cosmico is the desert-inspired love child of hotelier Liz Lambert and design firm Lake | Flato and Jack Sanders of Design Build Adventure, who reimagined restored vintage trailers as a no-tell motel with a difference. Accompanied by tents, yurts and tepees, this bohemian, nomadic experience in Marfa, Texas, is complemented by an eclectic mix of US flags, native American-inspired weaves, and desert hues with a sandy backdrop and uninterrupted desert skyline. 

Not a desert dweller? Then allow us to escort you to Europe – Ghent, to be precise, the famously stunning city in Belgium. This is home to ‘1898 The Post’, a 38-room hotel housed behind the striking neo-Gothic façade of a former post office. Originally completed in 1911 for the 1913 World Exhibition, lead designer on the project Geraldine Dohogne took her inspiration from the original beauty of the building’s interior features. 

She explains: “I decided to keep all existing elements of the building I could, such as the windows, old wooden doors, staircases and blue stones. I then decided to work with old techniques and source lots of antiques from that period in the area of the project.” The result is a Hollywood filmset of yesteryear, featuring rich fabrics in velvet, linen and fine cottons, with a palette of dark greens, charcoals, umbers and the palest of greys. The rooms are also personalised with monikers such as ‘stamp’, ‘envelope’ and ‘postcard’, making the whole hotel experience a love letter to its past. 

These are just a few of the remarkable projects that have inspired the cream of ID to give the fading gems of the past a dazzling future. If you feel the same way as we do about it, get in touch with our brilliant ID team, headed up by Phil Boshier. We’d love to talk to you. 


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