HBA London, part of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), a global leader in hospitality design, has recently completed the interiors of one of Jerusalem’s newest and most exceptional hotels, The Orient Jerusalem by Isrotel Exclusive Collection.
Beginning with the cherished Song of Jerusalem, a timeless love song to the city, and inspired by the extraordinary layers of history, culture and artistry as well as the sheer beauty of the indigenous stone which bathes the city in a golden hue, the designers have brought together old and new influences in a hotel that uniquely belongs not only in the city but within its specific location.
The Orient sits at the entrance to Jerusalem’s historically rich and increasingly cosmopolitan German Colony district and combines two exquisite 19th Century Templar houses, which have been restored and reinvented as a collection of luxury guestrooms, with a modern nine-storey building crowned by an elegant rooftop pool and bar.
Inge Moore, who, as the former Principal of HBA London, created the original concept, explains: “Jerusalem is an amazing city for a designer to work in. Everything is embraced by the golden tint of the stone, interspersed with the green of foliage and plants and with bright punches of colour in the fruits, markets, textiles and ancient decoration. Over the centuries, Jerusalem has been a melting pot of peoples, each bringing their stories and crafts and leaving a great legacy of artisanal resourcefulness. We were particularly blessed with this project because we not only had the city to draw on, but the influences of the German Colony’s Swabian architecture.”
Artwork plays a key part throughout the hotel, emphasising Isrotel’s belief in the essential role that art has in creating spaces full of powerful associations and beauty. Like the interior design, the inspiration for the artwork was Jerusalem’s history and the land, reimagined into contemporary expression. The result is a collection of sculptures, watercolours, prints and etchings by acclaimed and emerging Israeli artists as well as by the students of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design who undertook a year-long project to each create a sculpture relating to the city and the hotel. Artwork at The Orient really feels like it belongs, in a fresh way.
Sarah Williams, Senior Project Designer of HBA London, says: “Building the narrative for the hotel was a fascinating journey of discovery through old Jerusalem, the German Colony and, indeed, the two Templar buildings themselves. While the new building is clearly modern in form, the many references to cultural and artistic inheritance mean that the old and the new hold together in a meaningful and memorable guest experience.”
The journey begins within a grand atrium of glass and Jerusalem stone. The purity of the design is imposing and everything looks hand-crafted. A high glazed ceiling lets in an abundance of natural light and is dressed with gently gathered drapery that lends elegance to the space while also shielding guests from the midday sun and softening the acoustics. Illuminated mosaic tiles, the design of which was taken from encaustic tiles found in the Templar buildings, course across the floor and walls, articulating the large space; the reception desk is of bronze and a chandelier with hand-blown local glass cascades through the central stairwell, suspended above a reflection pool two floors below, to captivate guests on arrival.
The Khan Bar and Lounge
The grand lounge bar is the beating heart of the hotel and has become a favourite hotspot for hotel residents and locals alike. Flowing from the entrance lobby, it is an atmospheric double-height space that is a symphony of reflective and textural surfaces. The bar itself is clad in a richly grained green marble, the pattern of which has been translated into the wall covering. A composition of framed verre églomisé mirrors, together with antiqued mirror to the back of the bar, play with movement and reflections within the space.
Plush banquet seating, elegant leather covered armchairs and local lace chandeliers soften the geometric patterning and beaten metal features, while screens on each side of the bar recall the many layered views to be found in the streets of Jerusalem. Through soaring arched windows, guests can access cosy balconies overlooking the delightful outdoor courtyard below.
The Smadar Dining Room and Courtyard Terrace
This impressive space was made possible by substantial excavation creating a triple-height dining room with the courtyard outside. Jerusalem stone walls carry through from the exterior facade to meet silvered mirror-clad walls and glass screens etched with the pattern of the old encaustic tiles, together posing a play of reflectivity, transparency and opacity that is the experience of Jerusalem. Olive wood adds to the energy of the space and forms a striking assembly of suspended panels with acoustic insulation, which manage the volume of sound in this imposing room. Extensive arrays of local delicacies are displayed on monolithic stone counters in the main display kitchen, while a private dining area offers a more exclusive banqueting experience.
The dining room flows out into the courtyard – an al fresco area designed to accommodate guests throughout day and evening. From here, guests can take in the architecture of both the new and old hotel buildings, relaxing in comfortable armchairs, listening to the gentle sounds of a water fountain and taking pleasure in the scents of herbs and plants around them.
Carmel Forest Spa
Light, water and stone work in perfect harmony. It is as if the cavernous space around the pool has trapped the very source of “Jerusalem Gold” between its faceted ceiling and Jerusalem stone walls. The grand design statements of the rough-hewn lava stone feature wall with its cascading waterfall and the golden crystalline structure of the ceiling capture elements of the volcanic. Shimmering bronze chain-link is suspended along a glazed wall to obscure the gym.
In contrast to this grandeur, the seven treatment rooms, including a couple’s treatment suite, are simple and calming. They combine warm timber floors with a stone envelope and a light projection wall to create spaces where the focus is all on guest wellbeing.
Rooftop pool bar
The rooftop pool and bar tops out the new building at 10th level. Guests can take full advantage of the spectacular 360 degree views over the old city walls whilst lounging in cabanas and pergolas by the poolside, or sipping cocktails in the glamourous, electric blue and white tiled bar, which has been decked out with artisan ceramic tables discovered by the designers in a local market. At night, the experience becomes especially magical, lit by numerous lanterns and fire podiums under the twinkling stars.
Guestrooms – Templar
The rooms in the Templar buildings are each unique in their architectural form and detailing, representing, in effect, 39 individual projects for the designers. Within these delightfully idiosyncratic spaces, the guestrooms combine luxury with elements of local handicraft to bring the authenticity of these heritage buildings to life. The blue and ivory palette is both beautiful and meaningful. These are the colours of the national flag and the “tekhelet” blue recalls the biblical blue of Judaism which, when combined with ivory tones, captures the spirit of Jerusalem. Encaustic floor tiles that flow from the bedroom into the bathrooms are similar to those found in the original buildings during restoration. Crafted wrought iron bedframes are focal points in the bedrooms with a blue leather chaise longue at the foot of each bed adding a touch of opulence.
Locally crafted, antique-style mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinetry enhances the residential feel whilst the neutral palette, tiling and use of stone emphasise the simple beauty of the old architecture. Many of the bathrooms feature a large window through which light streams in, illuminating the fittings that include aged metal basins and mixer taps, as well as a traditional free-standing copper-clad tub.
Guestrooms – new building
The 205 guestrooms and suites in the new building reference local heritage and craftsmanship but within the context of a contemporary background. Studded headboards hint at the old doors of the city, lamps are artisanal, and table tops are of olive wood. The naturally warm tones of the textural woven fabrics of the drapery and upholstery are instrumental in creating a sense of tranquil luxury. Sliding panels between bedroom and bathroom open up to allow guests to appreciate the balance of natural stone, olive wood, wrought iron and plush woven fabrics across the entire space.
The 24 suites bring even further materiality and detailing as well as the addition of a spacious sitting room with deep, comfortable sofas and, in some cases, a dining area or a terrace allowing outdoor lounging and dining. The 118 sq metre Presidential Suite enjoys a deep, fully glazed dual aspect outdoor terrace. Indoor and out, guests have uninterrupted views across the panorama of Jerusalem.
Constantina Tsoutsikou, Creative Director of HBA London, said: “We approach every project with an open and curious mind. Our designers love to immerse themselves not just in the history and traditions of a place, but also the contemporary local culture, borrowing from both old and new to craft exceptional spaces that uniquely belong to their location.”