New five-star hotel explodes modern into Baroque
Five-star hotels seem to be popping up here faster than you can order room service. Kempinski is a well-known brand, with luxury properties around the world, including Moscow, Istanbul and St. Moritz, an exclusive resort town in Switzerland. The company likes to bill itself as a “collection of individuals,” meaning it isn’t so much a chain but rather each property reflects the unique local culture and character of its respective country, which is exactly what designers have done here in Prague: taking a Baroque building and putting a distinctively modern spin on it.
Lightness, softness, calmness – there’s nothing brash or flashy about the new Kempinski in Prague. The hotel boasts a variety of hidden touches, and, before you even enter, you are confronted with one of the best ones. The entry door is a historic piece: a half-arch door made with a mix of wrought iron and glass components. Entering the building, you are confronted with a long lit entryway that, especially in the midst of summer, is practically begging you to walk its path to the massive garden out back. The 1,800-square-meter garden is a hotel highlight, already popular with locals. Laid out in a fairly checkerboard pattern, there are a variety of seating areas scattered about to accommodate larger groups or more intimate meetings. Modest landscaping of grass, bushes and trees, a children’s corner, plus an herb garden, used by the executive chef, are easily blended with the simple rattan furnishings and oversize sun umbrellas. An interesting décor item, seen throughout the hotel and in the garden, is the use of massive lamps. Designed like common desk lamps, these lights have more than quadrupled in size to become huge floor lamps. A genuine sandstone Baroque fountain entertains on the back wall. Turning around, you get a lovely view of the hotel, complete with sweeping staircase up the back.
Back inside, there are touches of the building’s Baroque history to be glimpsed. Originally built as separate residences in the 15th century, the buildings were melded together and renovated into a Baroque palace 200 years later. This was thanks to Count Felix Vršovec Sekerka of Sedčice. Remnants of his work can still be found around the property. Look above the entrance from the garden into the hotel and you’ll see Vršovec’s coat of arms. There’s some original Baroque stucco decoration in the hotel’s bar, Two Steps, and, of course, there’s the magnificent garden fountain.
A number of counts occupied the space, including František Věžník of Věžník, whose name was given to the building, Věžníkovský Palace. It was later sold to the Lobkowicz family, who, in turn, sold it on to a healthcare company at the beginning of the 20th century. It remained a healthcare facility until it was bought in 1996 by Ballymore Properties, which turned it into the Kempinski Hybernská.
The hotel’s first floor has a much more interesting layout and look than most hotels’ public spaces. For instance, the reception area is separated from the lobby. Upon entering the hotel, you are met with a long white hallway and a door on the left and one on the right. The left leads to Le Grill, the hotel restaurant, while the right leads to the check-in desk. Here also, you’ll find the original Baroque staircase. Strong and square, it only reaches the third floor. The landings are large and airy, and, strangely enough, there are white plaster models of headless men hanging about. The art throughout the hotel is an impressive collection of mainly abstract pieces, supplied by a London gallery.
The second floor holds the hotel’s meeting rooms and a surprisingly classy workout room. The gym’s doors are huge wood-and-glass structures that open into a marble walled room, complete with a skylight and massive ceiling lamps to spotlight your workout. Big framed mirrors ensure you see every drop of sweat.
The lobby is spacious and bright. Suspended from the skylight is an amazing chandelier, designed for the hotel by Czech glass company Lasvit. Shades of burnt orange, beige and gold complete the warm, if perhaps a bit sterile, space. The adjacent Two Steps bar has been nicely designed. The space is made to look a lot bigger than it actually is, thanks to a mirrored back wall. Vaulted, curved ceilings, Baroque moldings and the centrally situated bar offer a classy, inviting look. There’s a winter garden off the side for those who long for some green, and, during the summer months, this opens to the hotel’s back garden.
Le Grill is a slight departure from the hotel’s beige color scheme, decorated instead in a classic gray tone. Shades of the hue adorn the chairs, marble tables and side-swept curtains. One wall is covered with red upholstered paper, and the overhead lights are designed almost as if individual suns are beaming down upon the diners.
The final feel of the Kempinski is that nothing in particular catches your eye, but you have the distinct sense that everything is in its rightful place.