Paris evokes many emotions. It is here that novel ideas about art and culture constantly surface. It is not surprising therefore to see an eco-lodge with a refreshingly new design and way of functioning materialise here.
Hi Matic, an urban eco-lodging facility lies in Rue Charonne, a stone’s throw away from Bastille. Architect Matali Crasset collaborated with Patrick Elouarghi and Philippe Chatelet to create this 42 room hotel. It is perfectly suited to this culturally active area, pulsating with new restaurants, organic shops, store concepts and specialised book retailers. The neighbourhood reverberates with the collective energy of young professionals who seek to meet and exchange ideas here.
The outer traditional façade gives way to a bright cheery modern interior. In a sense, the hotel bridges the new and the old. It embraces a novel ideology – there is an absence of staff like in any traditional hotel and all processes are automated.
One can book online and checking in and out is automated too. But, this is not to say that there is no human touch at all. “We have kept the exact same number of staff members, but have asked them to be implicated differently and not just be the people that give you a key card and welcome you when you arrive. They can thus advise the clients and interact with them more effectively this way,” says the architect.
It is important to keep this in mind in the context of the design since the hotel is conceptualised in such a manner that all “mundane” tasks are handled by machines and the space intensifies interactions amongst people.
Even as one enters the hotel, examples of modern technology are seen integrated in the design. There is charming music spilling out from a radio, access to hand-held devices and interfaces in common areas is provided both for entertainment, interaction and information.
They also have the “ParHI Link” which is updated by chosen experts for their proficiency in music, art and cooking; through this they share their consummate experience of the city.
Yet, the old world charm (and purpose) of communal spaces is given full prominence in the design. A giant map of Paris is present in the lobby. The huge windows on the exterior façade open up the hotel to the city and yet serve to insulate the inhabitants from the fast paced world outside. The guests can relax here, and watch the city in all her splendour, before venturing out.
The hotel boasts of shared spaces where the guests can interact with one another and share tips and stories of their experiences in the city. These spaces are creatively set up in the lobby and the restaurant. At the restaurant are automatic dispensers that provide an extensive organic breakfast each day which the guests can enjoy freely with merely each other for company.
Reflecting the increasing consciousness towards ecological building, the hotel uses wood, rubber and natural paints liberally. The rooms are spread across five floors and modelled like cabins with wooden cabanas present within. The colourful interiors help inject a certain vibrancy. There is nothing on the walls and the furniture within gives the guest an opportunity to explore and experiment. It is almost like leaving a child in a room where he can manipulate the space around him!
The idea of designing the wooden cabana within the room is also one that has made more than a mere cosmetic difference to the area. It has, undeniably, induced a whole new experience.
This arrangement allows the guest to experience a lot of freedom and informality during his stay. And, all this with perfect utilisation of space to boot!
One of the striking things about the design is that this new structure is actually built and designed within the framework of an already existing one. Crasset did not break anything in the structure! “The budget to renovate was 1.5 million euros and that was a challenge. Technologically, to implement an automated check-in/check-out kiosk that could work within the existing reservation system needed serious consideration,” says the architect.
“We have come up with new ways to welcome you and to allow you to live together in a hotel,” says the architect. This “renovated” structure is indeed an example of how design can influence interaction and a creation of an entirely different experience for the end user.
Text By Dhanishta Shah
Photographs Simon Bouisson