Silken Hotels, an expanding group based on catering to the guest as a new concept. Silken Hotels is a group founded in 1995 with exclusively national capital. It runs 19 hotels throughout Spain and has the capacity of accommodating more than 5,700 people and hiring over 900 employees. Its philosophy has always been to please the client offering the very best hotel service, optimum installations and the highest quality attention to the client with an important human touch. Currently the chain is financed by the Catalan company Escampa and the Basque Hotel Group Urvasco, this last one with a slightly higher participation. In the year 2001 Silken Hotels had a turn over of 64,31 million euros, a 47% increase over the previous year. For 2002, an increase of 30% is estimated. Their hotels are architecturally unique. Each one has its own personality. Together, they form a state-ofthe-arts offer to satisfy the clientâ€™s needs. Hotels that offer maximum comfort and the most attentive personal treatment be it for people on business trips or for pleasure. Their goal: that the visitor feels better than at home.
An emblematic project within a growing framework. The Gran Hotel Domine in Bilbao, facing the Guggenheim Museum, is the Silken Hotels’ first five-star and the chain’s leading insignia. Integrally designed by Mariscal, this project has become Spain’s first hundred percent “designer hotel” and has involved a 19 million euro investment. This hotel chain currently continues with its expansion plan, and so far this year has opened a four-star hotel in Madrid (Silken Hotel Puerta Madrid) and another one in Sevilla (second stage of the Al-Andalus Hotel, whose top floor is decorated by the designers Victorio and Luccino). Aside from the five-star Gran Hotel Domine in Bilbao, the group has 15 four-star hotels in the following locations: Barcelona (Silken Gran Hotel Havana); Madrid (Silken Puerta de Castilla and Silken Puerta Madrid); Bilbao (Silken Indautxu); San Sebastian (Silken Amara Plaza); Vitoria (Silken Ciudad de Vitoria); Playa de Aro (Silken Park Hotel San Jorge), Aviles (Silken Villa de Aviles); Sevilla (Silken Al-Andalus); Oviedo (Silken Monumental Naranco); Ciudad Real (Silken Alfonso X); Zaragoza (Silken Reino de Aragón); León (Silken Luís de León), Valladolid (Silken Juan de Austria) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Silken Atlántida). Along with these, there are 3 three-star hotels, one in Barcelona, (Silken San Gervasio), one in Les Escaldes – Andorra – (Silken Eurotel) and another one in Salamanca (Silken Rona Dalba). In 2003, new Silken Hotels will be opening in Madrid (Silken Puerto America, the second five-star hotel of the chain), in Valencia (Silken Puerta Valencia, four-star), in Santander (Silken Hotel Coliseum, fourstar), in Barcelona (three-star) and in Zaragoza (Hotel del Coso, three-star). Silken Hotels do not discard the possibility of more hotels opening in various large cities in Spain, which could become public knowledge before the end of 2002.
The concept In designing a project for a hotel that overlooks the Guggenheim, one must keep in mind this highly dynamic neighbour. It is necessary to see oneself in it like looking into a mirror, and balance what it has meant in terms of reviving a city like Bilbao. The idea of a façade made of mirrors, which the museum is reflected in, came from looking into that mirror. That bright, changing and somewhat distorted picture of the Guggenheim’s profile, visible right on the façade, says a lot and is perhaps the guest’s first surprise upon arriving at the hotel. The other façade, by Lersundi, also blends in with its neighbour across the street, a building that is architecturally orderly and basic, and it communicates with the neighbouring buildings in a slightly belligerent tone in response to their neoclassic and over-elaborated aesthetics. In order to keep this neighbourhood alive, the project is influenced by the Guggenheim’s activities and aims to be a space that not only offers the comfort expected of a luxury hotel but also an example of the 20th century’s best design work, which has been so prolific in creating household objects and furniture. At this point, in the early 21st century, it is already possible to embrace the entire previous century and it is attractive to combine currents and trends far distanced in time, space and origins. The inside of the hotel includes a selection of designer items functionally laid out, and the sum of all of them produces that surge of emotion that comes over one when contemplating beautiful things. With the added incentive that they can be used and enjoyed. As well as this journey across the world of excellent design, there are a series of interventions which make the GHBD a unique hotel, a hotel with an all-encompassing concept of design, where everything, from the staff’s uniforms to the colours of the carpeting, the web-site, the silverware and dishes, the corporate image, the stationary and the sheets has been designed or chosen under Javier Mariscal’s criteria. It is an example of the term “integral design” in its fullest sense. The interior designer Fernando Salas has collaborated closely with the Estudio Mariscal in elaborating and designing the project, on the drawing table and at all the stages of its development. The architect from Bilbao, Iñaki Aurrecoetxea, was responsible for the initial project and directing the construction. The various spaces in the hotel: bedrooms, cafeteria, cocktail lounge, restaurant, reading corner, the hall, the lounges, the atrium and the terrace have been designed as independent spaces with individual personalities. They are integrated in the hotel as a whole but don’t blend into each other. This also permits the more public spaces to be open to the locals and not only for the hotel guests. Thus the guest benefits from staying at a hotel that is full of life, as is the case at other emblematic hotels, where there is “always something going on”. We also feel this benefits Bilbao, since, like the Guggenheim, in its own way, of course, the GHDB wants to be a reference for the residents of the city, it intends to become involved in
Bilbao’s society.We do not forget that this is a five-star or “luxury” establishment, as they are usually described. Involving Javier Mariscal in a project of these characteristics implies accepting his personal appreciation of “luxury”. And for Mariscal true luxury is not the brightness of gold plate, but the golden brightness of a summer evening sky. This is the luxury of this hotel, the luxury of beauty, not presumption, the luxury of details and surprises. Certainly a contemporary concept of luxury, avoiding ostentation and inviting enjoyment. And with its visitors in mind, the public that will be staying here, the project has taken into account that nowadays what is important is that the hotel satisfy the expectations of executives who miss their homes as well as those of the travelers who are escaping from theirs
The GHDB has 131 bedrooms and 14 suites, spread out over the five floors of the building. There is one suite on each floor, and the other ten are on the fifth floor, 6 of which look out on the Guggenheim. Special care has been taken in that inside each room there is some detail that makes it personal and distinguishes it from the rest. Each floor has its own colour code: ochers, stone tones, greens, blues and reds. Respecting this code, the colour of the carpeting changes on each floor as it does in the rooms, including two shades of the color. The upholstery of the Gran Hotel armchair – which is in every room – as well as the bedspread, is in tone with the carpeting. To ensure good bedside reading, Mariscal has designed the Domine lamp, as well as the bed headboard, made of fabric. A transparent glass plate communicates the bedroom with the bathroom, which includes a bathtub designed by Philippe Starck, taps and other plumbing appliances by Vola, designed by Arne Jacobsen and a stool by Alvar Aalto. Great care has been taken in choosing the bed-ware, made of natural materials. The sheets are made of Egyptian cotton, the bedspread, made of a combination of wool and cashmere, has been designed by the Estudio Mariscal in the form of light traveling blankets. A series of different pillows are offered so that the guest can chose the most suitable. Each bedroom has an interactive television with access to Internet as well as a CD player. The idea is that comfort, functionality and aesthetics combine and create the perfect balance.
The atrium. Cypress fossil. In his appreciation of Bilbao, Mariscal has perceived “a city of excesses and contrasts”, which is what has inspired the design of the Cypress Fossil, a sculpture where the ancient quality of stone is wrapped in a delicate wire mesh. The hard and coarse quality of the stones is enveloped by the femininity and sensitivity of the mesh. The work as a whole seems excessive, as does the city in many ways. The cypress consists of 14 modules weighing some 6 tons each. Assembled, they form a structure that is 26 meters tall, two and a half meters in diameter and weighs 90 tons, which, located in the patio is as tall as the building, from the ground to the skylight that crowns the terrace. This piece creates an inner landscape for the interior rooms, making up for their lack of outside views. The cypress is one of the elements that make the GHDB unique. It was made at Pere Casasnovas’ sculpture studio in Barcelona.
The hall. This is the most public part of the hotel. Unlike other areas, all guests and visitors pass through it. Actually, it is a private street with a marble floor on which one walks comfortably after entering through the revolving door that leads into the hotel, to then enjoy the restaurant, the shop, the cafeteria, the bar… It is like an arcade which crosses the hotel, with a view of the museum from Lersundi’s entrance and in the middle if this view is the atrium flooded with light. In addition, as a reference point, the Cypress Fossil is located here. The hall includes the reception desk, where the client is given the key to his room and from then on is no longer a stranger but a guest. It is also at the reception desk where the guest first senses the excellent service, efficiency and friendliness offered at this hotel. Facing the reception desk, is a large red sofa in the shape of an enormous eight, designed by Javier Mariscal and produced by the company Moroso, providing this reception area and meeting point with a personality of its own. The hall is a strategic place, and it has been designed as such.
The interior design of Metropol Le Café is an homage to the Bauhaus and all those designers from the 20s in the 20th century who had an optimistic view of the future, set their hopes in progress and created “adequate, useful and beautiful” objects. The pieces, designed by Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Courbouisier and Marcel Beuer are still in style after almost a century and continue inhabiting contemporary interiors. Le Café Metropol is impregnated with that spirit, expressed in black and white using stainless steel as a material that reflects the faith in modern technology that moved those designers. The reflection in the mirror that covers one of its walls adds the note of colour. The Metropol has glass walls, making it an open lookout space onto the urban landscape, on the esplanade where museum visitors stroll, with the flowery Puppy in the foreground. A closed café that is open, however, to the landscape and aspires to be a prolongation of that square where all different nationalities cross their paths, tourists looking for cultural distractions and locals alike. The Metropol’s doors establish a dialogue with what goes on outside.
The cocktail lounge. If there was one thing the sixties had it was light and colour, leaving the greys and formalities behind. Freedom is the key word for that period, and freedom is always bright and luminous. Red and white are the colours that evoke the passion and pureness that were necessary to believe in the ideals that took shape in the sixties. London, Paris and New York became cultural epicenters. The Beatles revolutionized the musical world, Courrèges the fashion world and Pesce, Saamiren and Panton, among others, the world of design. Since Spalsh & Crash is inspired in those times, this space has been designed to express oneself freely while having a drink and enjoying the nightlife. It intends to be “an in place”, the place to go, to see and be seen. Spalsh & Crash begins physically in the hotel Hall, the floor serves as a transition, changing from marble to stainless steel, and footsteps no longer sound the same. The pillars change from prisms to rounded forms; the hall’s flat ceiling becomes a bubbling ceiling. This transition is a metaphor for the transformation we all experience deep down inside when we enter a cocktail bar: formalities are forgotten and we become predisposed to behaving more spontaneously, with the freedom that the environment and the physical space propitiate.
A minimalist and austere decoration, pure forms transmitting the concept of the importance of basic essentials, and natural materials such as stone and oak. The concept of interior design of the restaurant Beltz the Black could be described as a Basque interpretation of minimalist art, a form of minimalism that does not neglect the comfort that is essential to a restaurant. The Beltz table, designed by Fernando Salas, the Miranda chairs by Dalter, the dishes by Villeroy & Boch, the Grand Prix silverware by Achille Castiglioni, the lighting by Iguzzini and small details such as the saltshaker designed by Mariscal or the ashtray by Marianne Brandt, all ensure impeccable and tasteful tableware. Moreover, the taste for basics, for what is authentic, expressed by the set design is transmitted to the gastronomy, where the raw materials are the true leading figures. In this region eating is serious business and superfluity is not admitted, this is why the gastronomy at Beltz the Black is based on very solid pillars, forged with intelligence and imagination, so that eating here is a true pleasure. In order for all of this to be perfect, our service is formed at the Escuela Superior de Hostelería of Bilbao; there is a select and extensive cellar and a choice of cigars for those who wish to embroider an excellent meal with this treat. Beltz the Black, under the direction of Ramón Berriozabal, winner of the National Gastronomy Award, hopes to become included in the list of Bilbao’s great restaurants.
The reading corner.
An area where the furnishings follow the general tendency of organic and voluptuous forms that are so well expressed by the pieces by Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Earnes, Carlo Molino, Ghery, Noguchi, Jacobsen, Bertoia, Castiglioni, Carles Riart, Ron Arad and Patricia Urquiola that we have chosen for this Tranquilo Txoko Corner. The sinuous wall, made of beech wood, is homage to the architect Alvar Aalto and provides the corner with special warmth. Within the Domine, this is the space that pays most tribute to 20th century design. Far from giving off an impression of being an exhibition of designer objects, it integrates them in an environment that expresses the best that can be offered by designer furniture: tastefulness, comfort, beauty as well as formal and technical solutions. And above all, a desire to look at them and make use of them. A fireplace that is lit in winter adds warmth to the room and makes it even cozier. A library of books related to design, architecture and interior design as well as a selection of magazines on these subjects has been created for the Tranquilo Txoko Corner. This is a relaxing corner, the guestâ€™s most private corner, to enjoy a while of reading and research on the world of design or to simply leaf through the daily press. And, needless to say, a strategic place from which to contemplate the intense life that goes on in the hotel.
The Business Center, a small office at disposal of the guest, is connected to the private area, its neighbour the Tranquilo Txoko Corner, by the glass front wall, permitting the tranquility of the Txoko to seep in and at the same time establish a division. It is also a transition area before reaching the Altas Reuniones space; it is an intermediate zone, an extension of both ambits, pleasure and business. The Business Center is conceived with the idea of modern pleasure, to connect to Internet, check e-mail or communicate through the web. The floor marks this transition towards the true office, Altas Reuniones, which has been designed to be a very private area, closed off, equipped with an office that can be autonomous and permits extensive meetings. Its decoration is sober but welcoming, elegant, with dark furniture in wengue wood. The front wall is made of natural green stone from Brazil, which intends to reflect the solidity of a space that has been conceived to encourage concentration and decision-making.
A large, versatile area, that goes from being a diaphanous surface to small, intimate spaces thanks to a sophisticated system of screens. The carpeting, in an attractive range of reds and designed by Mariscal, adds the touch of color. An area designed for celebrations where warmth, comfort and tastefulness come together to create that ideal place to celebrate something important. The lounges havenâ€™t only been conceived for family celebrations but also for presentations of books or commercial products, company meetings and conventions. Its technical features and its access to modern technology ensure unique conditions for this type of events.
The lookout terrace. The guest can enjoy a large terrace where the dome that culminates the atrium is located. This dome is a skylight made of transparent glass that lets daylight into the building and is a source of light for the rooms that face the atrium. A copper trellis designed by Mariscal surrounds the glass dome and provides shelter for those who want a rest from the heights, furnished with comfortable loungers from which the guest can enjoy this privileged lookout on the Guggenheim Museum, the mountain and the estuary as well as appreciating the geography of a place where modernization has not prevented the natural landscape from surging with strength where the urbanized areas end. The world is perceived with serene distance from the heights and open air of the Buenavistas Terrace.
The gym. stress at bay.
A small, glassed-in area where the traveler can keep in shape and the executive keep his