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Friday, June 14, 2024

Rotterdam reinvention by RPW Design

RPW Design has completed the renovation of Hilton Rotterdam, bringing the interiors of this 50-year-old modernist architectural icon into the 21st century.



Built in 1963 by one of the foremost architects of the post-war modernism in the Netherlands, Hugh Maaskant, Hilton Rotterdam was one of the first upscale hotels to welcome visitors to the city centre. Its exterior exemplifies the glamour, sophistication and forward-looking excitement of the Dutch society of the 50s and 60s, a time when Rotterdam began to reinvent itself as a modern, vibrant and multicultural metropolis.

Fifty years on, this Grand Lady of Rotterdam has been given a new lease of life after a €36 million two-phase refurbishment of the entire hotel, including its 254 guestrooms and suites, meeting space and all public areas.

Jan Wilson, RPW Design commented, “Our aim was to create a seamless and sophisticated language of style that subtly reinforces the location and period, although with a contemporary touch in every detail and material”.

“We approached the design with a fresh eye, simplified the interiors and brought back the styling of post-war modernism to remind everyone about all the good things of that particularly optimistic period. While staying true to the architecture, our priority was to create an interior with comfort in mind and in line with today’s luxury expectations.”

One of the most significant changes was to re-site the main entrance, which has moved from one side of the building to the other, not only for practical reasons but for a greater sense of arrival. The new entrance features a visible five-metre-wide canopy and new porte cochère, whilst the old entrance facing the main square has been retained for pedestrians.

The lobby, now more spacious, has been designed around the original grand sculptural staircase, which has been restored and complimented with new timber and bronze finishes. A light feature descending alongside the staircase and a source of fluorescent light concealed in the ceiling further above add a dramatic, luxury touch to the space.


Offering a high-end, residential environment, the lobby comprises a new, stylish coffee/tea lounge and furniture pieces arranged in small seating groups enhanced with bespoke rugs, a feature fireplace and a calming palette evocative of Rotterdam’s light colours and patterns.

Other sources of inspiration which have given the hotel a strong and relevant design identity include the city’s architecture, its port – one of the world’s busiest, and the lace-making and artistic traditions of the Netherlands.

“We looked at the colours, shapes, textures, and the scale and proportions of the environment, and applied them to the interiors. The scale and pattern of the Flemish brickwork formed the basis of the design of a striking mirrored wall in the hotel’s new restaurant, while decorative lace features echo the surroundings and help to achieve a homely feel in the guestrooms”, said Jan.

Unexpectedly for a brand hotel guestroom, RPW Design has introduced statement free standing furniture pieces inspired by Rotterdam’s architectural influences, moving away from fitted hotel furniture to a style that gives a sense of being in one’s own home. The proportion used and balance of materials – two fifths of wood paneling and three fifths of painted walls, as well as the composition of colours (steel blue, pale grey and a punch of burnt orange), were influenced by Mondrian abstract paintings.

The new Stadshal Bar & Restaurant, with a separate street entrance and increased capacity, has been transformed to offer an all-day dining venue for both visitors and locals. The brief was to create a vibrant and lively space that would feel identifiably different from the main hotel lobby.

With a menu of brasserie- style European dishes, the new scheme is inspired by the timeless authenticity of Grand Dining Halls throughout the world. Decorative screens and different sources of light divide the space up to create intimate seating areas, some of which are furnished with sofa chairs for a more informal experience. Brimming with natural light, the restaurant has been given an eye-catching appearance with a contemporary lighting scheme and mirror features.


Jan concluded: “Hilton Rotterdam has managed to break the mould of the standard Hilton hotel through a unique design intrinsic to its location, while retaining the high quality its customers have come to expect.”

“It was a great pleasure to work with Hilton’s Director of Projects, Chris Webb, who is extremely passionate about design and who has supported us from day one to produce a design that breaks many boundaries so radically, albeit within the constraints of a global brand”. 

Chris Webb, Senior Director – Interior Design, Hilton Worldwide, added: “As a Landmark Project for Hilton Worldwide, the hotel has set new standards for the brand with a forward-thinking design reflective of its location and respectful of the architectural heritage of the property, which we hope will not only enhance the guest experience, but also make Rotterdam proud.”



Photography courtesy of Jim Ellam/ Venuez.




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