Under the name IperHotel, the highly anticipated fifth edition of the Elle Decor Grand Hotel was inaugurated on November 26, 2020 (take the tour). Why highly anticipated? Because, for the first time, the magazine’s annual autumnal event goes virtual. This year, the usual rendezvous drawing crowds to Milan’s Palazzo Morando overcomes spatial confines, opening up to the fluidity of the digital realm. Imitating the layout of the historic headquarters of the Museum of Milan and the Costume Moda Immagine collection, the architectural duo of Ludovica + Roberto Palomba was called upon to imagine a hotel consecrated to wellness, to personal security and to sharing, following — but also overcoming — a delicate and difficult moment likely to mark the future of the hospitality industry with creative inventiveness. To learn more, we sat down with Livia Peraldo Matton, Editor in Chief at Elle Decor Italia, to talk about the project and take a virtual tour through this renewed edition.
Elle Decor Grand Hotel returns this year in a completely original form. What can we expect from the new showcase?
This year’s edition will be completely virtual. To recreate the original experience of the Grand Hotel in a physically accessible space, we decided to set the event in Palazzo Morando, maintaining the reference to a location that has hosted the project since 2016. Here, there’s just one difference: navigation, and thus the overall experience, have gone completely virtual. While we’ve kept the content and editorial insight, the focus, as is so often the case in our projects, remains the design of objects that embellish and enrich the space. But an event that aspires to be immersive can’t limit itself solely to this. So, we recreated a series of alternating events and experiences to unfold within the rooms of the IperHotel from November 26, 2020, to January 31, 2021. In particular, there are three lounges dedicated to music, the visual arts, and reading — each of which will host entertainment linked to these three worlds. To inaugurate the cultural calendar of events is first and foremost the 30th anniversary of Elle Decor Italia.
In addition to books and catalogs to flip through and music to listen to, a continuously updated calendar of events will follow. For example, in the lounge dedicated to the visual arts, we’ll see encounters centered around art, cinema and theater. The same thing has also been applied in another area of the Grand Hotel 2020, welcoming the kitchen and restaurant. Ten meters long and positioned at the center of a large hall, the scenic kitchen is a space in which to bring people together. There, a special project born in collaboration with Identità Golose will provide additional learning opportunities, from chats with great chefs to a preview presentation of books dedicated to incredible food.
In the restaurant, this partnership will lead us to meet a series of important chefs from Milan’s hotels, who, for the occasion, will select a dish from their vast repertoires for a special menu dedicated to IperHotel. The launch will take place with Antonio Guida of Seta, the starred restaurant of Milan’s Mandarin Oriental, where, as restrictions are lifted, diners will have the chance to try these experimental selections themselves. The radically innovative experience will also provide opportunities for shopping, thanks to a partnership with Mohd, an important e-commerce site dedicated to design, who will offer our visitors the chance to buy design objects and furniture directly online. For IperHotel, the idea then was to maintain the experimental and experiential spirit that has marked the Elle Decor Grand Hotel project since the very beginning, attempting to push the sense of surprise and engagement that a digital activity can add to simple virtual navigation.
Ludovica + Roberto Palomba are the architects chosen for the fifth edition of Elle Decor Grand Hotel: how did they approach the project?
Elle Decor Grand Hotel was born as a signature project. Since 2016, in fact, it has always been entrusted to a multidisciplinary architecture studio that also features a product design and interior design division. Because creating a hotel is a complete project that includes customizing furnishings selected between the catalogs of leading brands, historic icons and collectible pieces. Palomba Serafini Associati fully reflects the characteristics of the designers that preceded them, from the first hotel in a collaboration between Piero Lissoni and Patricia Urquiola, passing onto the Open House by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel, Invisible Rooms by Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, and last year's edition with Matteo Thun & Partners. This year, Roberto Palomba and Ludovica Serafini found themselves before a double-edged challenge, entrusted first and foremost to interpret the concept proposed. I wanted to address the theme of hospitality in a very delicate moment, reflecting on the post-pandemic world. Considering that surely the relationship between people and hospitality spaces is destined to change, the goal of the project was to work on a space that was welcoming, comfortable, safe, and that wouldn’t reflect all the required attention to make it that way. As you'll see, this aspect was interpreted by the two architects through a rich selection of materials and furnishings, along with the organization of interiors. The second challenge was to craft a substantial virtual project: the great sensibility of Ludovica and Roberto in addressing the digital aspect while fully seizing opportunities presented in the imaginary dimension really helped achieve the best results. Thinking of the Grand Hotel like a living space, they were able to consider the physical area as real, interpreting it through the creative potential of the digital realm and enriching the navigation of a series of experiences that make IperHotel the point of reference to return to even after the first exploration.
What do people consider today when choosing a hotel?
Great hospitality and a careful attention to guests — physically, spatially, and personally — are aspects that worked before and will work even after the pandemic. A wide range of experiences is great for certain kinds of hotels, while for others, chosen for their simple straightforward services, other factors win out, including the possibility to have living areas that extend outdoors, in contact with nature, and the ability to recreate situations of complete wellness far from large metropolises and cities. The hotels that work then, are those experimenting with their own style and establishing a precise identity capable of laying out a clear dialogue with their clients. What we imagine in the near future, is that people will seek out natural materials, greenery, and easily sanitized surfaces when considering their next escape. There will also inevitably be more attention placed on a series of details that the pandemic has accustomed us to. Then, perhaps, we’ll relax, but hotels will still need to offer their guests comfort and reassurance.
Since its debut, Elle Decor Grand Hotel has forged a strong connection with Milan. Will that hold true for this digital edition as well?
With IperHotel, the references to Milan and Palazzo Morando remain clear. After all, Elle Decor Grand Hotel was born following Expo 2015, in a moment when the city — long a destination for business — made great leaps towards embracing tourism, which we hope will return soon. So for us at Elle Decor Italia, it’s become a place to experiment with new hotel concepts that have always been in our interest. A strong connection with Milan can be seen in the lounge, for example, where in the space dedicated to the visual arts, visitors can admire works that belong to Milan’s museums and institutions, supporting this idea to localize the hotel through contextual cultural references. The same thing goes for the chefs involved — all of which hail from famous Milanese hotels. The idea was to play with this connection to the city that, inevitably, remains in the background. There are two reasons for this: first, because Grand Hotel is a project intensely linked to the local territory, and second, because we want to relaunch the Lombard capital within the collective imaginary. After all, with today’s digital tools, we can bring people to Milan from all over the world, making enormous leaps where physicality cedes to the virtual, allowing visitors to feel like they're in Milan even while living in Shanghai, Tokyo and Melbourne.
Hospitality has always been a central field of exploration for Elle Decor Italia, investigated under various forms. Could you talk a bit about the convention you’re planning soon?
It will be a large-scale digital convention for which we’ll engage associations and institutional figures in the hotel industry, along with architects and designers. We’ll all be seated around a table — metaphorically, of course — to explore the future situation together, and to understand what solutions might help to relaunch a sector that, for a country like ours, is obviously fundamental. Unfortunately, today the situation is dramatic. Hotels have been harshly penalized by the pandemic and what’s been hypothesized is a progressive but rather slow recovery. While we wait for normality to return across the board, tourism will have a more local flavor to it. To give new life to the industry along with new stimuli and new ideas for discussion, we thought it would be important to speak of hotels and to engage the key associations within the field.
Why was this project so important for you?
Elle Decor is a publication that speaks, among other topics, of architecture, product design, interiors, art, fashion, and technology: the hotel is a place that captures all of these aspects. What the magazine has hoped to monitor over the years is the change in habits and lifestyles of people, both in the public and private dimension. Hotels perfectly incarnate the evolution of living in public spaces and thus lends themselves perfectly to evolutionary projects. Engaging great designers and asking them to imagine a hotel at a smaller scale for us has been a way to understand how a challenge of this kind can addressed, as well as the possible responses that can be found in the definitive design. This year, the digital approach considers the hotel as a living safe space: a place for reflection that welcomes discussion and debate between creatives to broaden the horizon of design.
From an idea by Elle Decor Italia
Design: Ludovica+Roberto Palomba
Digital Design: 150UP
Styling: Simona Silenzi Studio
Graphic Design: Designwork
Exhibition Design Coordination: Marina Cinciripini
Texts and Editing: Caterina Lunghi
Design Shopping Experience Partner: MOHD
Institutional Partner: Confindustria Alberghi
Amini Carpets, Artemide, C&C Milano, Fenix® Innovative Materials for Interior Design, Frigo2000|High performance Kitchen, Ginori 1735, Ideal Standard, Marazzi, MGS, Nardi, OLuce, Sub-Zero Wolf, Tubes Radiatori
Food Experience: Identità Golose