Hotel Josef: An Oasis of Functionalist Design in the Heart of Historic Prague

Saying that the Hotel Josef is “cool” would not paint an accurate picture of the atmosphere created at this design hotel in Old Town. Quite the opposite of what one might expect from a clean, uncluttered space designed in this functionalist style, the hotel Josef in fact radiates warmth and calm. Upon entering, the visitor immediately feels welcome and at ease.

The abundance of natural light, open spaces and unbroken lines offer the visitors’ eyes some respite from the overload of visual stimulation often experienced on the streets of Prague. “Prague is like a museum of architectural styles. There are so many different impressions made on you.” says Milena Findeis, Marketing and PR manager for the hotel, “After a day here, your head is full. Your eyes need a rest. The hotel calms and clears your mind.”

The interior is absent of decoration, save for the framed butterflies and displayed bottles in the lobby bar, which add a splash of colour to the dominant white and neutral tones. “There are no distractions. Everything here has a purpose. It is useful but beautiful.” says Milena. Josef may be a perfectly tranquil retreat from the stresses and strains placed on
your senses by the world outside, but the hotel was never intended to be luxurious. “We do not think of it as a luxury hotel. It has been created for those with an interest and appreciation for this kind of functionalist design.” There is nothing flashy or ostentatious here. The reserved and simple manner in which the hotel has been designed is admirable. The superior aesthetic quality speaks for itself, quietly eschewing notions of luxury. This notable lack of pretentiousness contributes to the warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The idea of Josef was dreamt up by Austrians Rudolf and Christine Ploberger, who wished to create a design hotel which would captivate visitors with its charm and sophisticated design, whilst reflecting the architectural traditions of the Czech capital. In order to realise this vision they enlisted the help of renowned Zlin-born designer Eva Jiřičná.

Jiřičná designed the hotel from the ground up, and was responsible for every detail, from the carefully selected Thonet chairs and tables and Baleri armchairs to the Phillippe Starck light fittings. Eva personally designed the beds and desks in the guests’ bedrooms, and in a flash of inspiration, gave the bathrooms in 35 rooms glass walls with frosting in the WC and shower areas. Glass and steel are by far the most prolific materials used in the overall design of the hotel, and Eva also made use of a particular type of limestone for tiling. Her attention to detail is stunning, and one theme which you’ll find throughout the hotel is that which evokes the idea of being on a ship. Some of the hotel’s doors actually feature real ships’ portholes, and on the sun terrace at the top of the building you could be leaning on a ships’ railing, whilst in the work centre, you feel a sense of being inside a cabin, as if you were a captain surveying all of the hotel’s activity below.

The 109 guest bedrooms are divided between two structures – the “pink” and “orange” houses, which are seamlessly connected by a glass walkway. There is little difference in the interior design of these two buildings, other than the colour of the room numbers, which are positioned low on the wall. An inset spotlight illuminates them from below. The bedrooms are average-sized for a typical four star hotel, but the positioning of mirrors opposite full-length windows, lack of wall art and ubiquitous use of glass open up the rooms, giving them a certain feeling of “largeness”. Natural colours – beige, moss and white – soothe the eye, whilst a splash of orange warms and brightens each room. The bathroom sink is simply a circle of glass set upon limestone tiling. Many rooms have an incredible view of Prague’s historic streets and spires. The sight of this sudden array of architectural styles before you, and the realisation that you are, in fact, in the heart of the city can shock the senses after spending time within the hotel’s calm interior. Each room features soundproofing, and because of the thick curtains it is possible to make each room completely dark at any time of day.

Jiřičná designed the hotel based on her own travelling experiences. “Eva has travelled extensively, and when staying in hotels in the past, as a woman she was often given the smaller rooms without much natural light coming in,” Milena told me, “She designed hotel Josef as she herself would like a hotel to be.” and Josef certainly has no shortage of light – some spaces such as the lobby and breakfast room feel as if they were almost outdoors, due to the floor-to-ceiling glass flooding the rooms with light. In the lobby, this is complemented by subtle front-panel lighting.

The visitor will note how every element of the overall design fits together. “There has to be a strategy, small things have to fit.” Milena explained, “The term “design” is often so misused. Design here is more about atmosphere and what you feel. It’s about creating a kind of harmony”. This sense of harmony carries you throughout the hotel. Everything is designed in order to optimise transparency and light to create space.

Perhaps the most striking design feature of the hotel is one of Eva’s personal favourite elements, a visually stunning yet unobtrusive steel and glass spiral staircase, which curves down from the lobby to the hotel’s business facilities. Even the most minute of details, however, has been given equal importance here. Every item, from the coat hangers to the menu cards, has been selected with great care in order that it should fit the tone perfectly.

The overall interior design captures a feeling of lightness and purity, incorporating elements of Bohemian crystal, drawing inspiration from the city’s famed Cubist and Functionalist architectural styles, combined effortlessly in Josef’s bold, contemporary, yet elegant design.

Written for and published by LAB Magazine
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This entry was published on June 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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