The objective was to create a hotel where one could breathe a free and fun atmosphere with a disruptive touch, which would invite different types of the public to enjoy the public areas of the hotel.
The design of the AXEL Hotel on Atocha Street in Madrid superposes a series of historic references forming a complex and explosive tandem.
One of the starting points is the privileged location of the AXEL Hotel in the very midst of Madrid’s literary neighborhood, today the epicenter of the city’s most cosmopolitan environment.
Another starting point is the palatial 19th-century building in which the hotel is located, where its noble rooms still conserve elements of great patrimonial interest, lavishly decorated ceilings, intense colours on the walls and baroque decorative details.
An important role in the design choices was also played by some of Madrid’s most traditional and popular characteristics as well as some of the most well-known visual elements such as those related to the bullfight, the “mantilla” or the gypsy esthetic in
And finally, closing this strange tandem is the explosive philosophy behind the AXEL Hotel chain, whose hotels are designed for the LGBTQ community creating free spaces where sexual diversity is welcome and promoted and where diversion is a priority.
From the beginning, the design team was interested in creating an amusing dialogue among all these starting points and historic periods so important and antagonistic in the history of Madrid and to which Atocha Street has been a privileged witness.
The principal objective was to create a hotel which exuded an atmosphere of liberty and diversion with a certain disruptive touch which invited a varied clientele to enter the public areas of the hotel to enjoy the gastronomic offer.
In order to achieve this atmosphere, the most important strategy in the design is the use of colour, an element which accompanies us throughout all the areas of the hotel and which is applied with a different character and material nature in each zone.
The Hotel: The Common Areas and Noble Rooms
Posters, brightly lit with cinematographic and musical references to the “Movida Madrileña” together with mannequins and other flashy elements invade the entrance way to the hotel and its reception area, welcoming the guest to a carefree and festive
The introduction of texts, words, and phrases in the form of bright lights and neon makes reference to the literary past of the neighborhood, but with more popular messages and winks/insinuations. It is precisely in the courtyard of the building where
this “popular literature” takes on the importance and climbs up the patio walls like an echo of the theatrical voices of the “Comedy Playhouses” of the Golden Century.
Located on the first floor were the original noble rooms of immense patrimonial value and containing a great variety of finishes and colours. The common denominator which exists in all of them is the golden decorative detail on the walls, ceilings, and handicrafts.
The new distribution has converted some of these rooms to public lounges and others to suites, emphasizing in both cases the common denominator, gold, which will be the colour of all the new pieces of furniture in these spaces.
The Hotel: The New Rooms
In the design of the rooms once again there is a mixture of some of the visual references previously mentioned, but with the new objective of creating a space which invites one to both rest and play.
The design mixes visual references to the esthetic of the bullfight and the “mantilla” with a sexy touch.
Two large curtains are the outstanding decorative elements, one fuchsia, the colour of the bullfighter’s cape, and the other of a translucent black texture like a “mantilla”. Together they surround the bed and allow the room to be transformed according to
the time of day or, why not, the mood. A neon light with clear or suggestive messages regarding popular culture completes this playful setting.
For those who are looking for a place to rest, thanks to its elegant intense blue and noble woods, the room offers a quiet and peaceful respite from the noisy “Literary Neighborhood”.
Hotel Axel has a Food & Beverage offer which follows its philosophy, where a free and fun atmosphere invites the public to enjoy the public areas of the hotel.
The Restaurant: Las Chicas, Los Chicos y Los Maniquis (The Girls, The Boys and the Mannequins)
What was originally the entrance to the building for the horse-drawn carriages is today the entrance to the hotel and divides the most public part of the restaurant into two rooms. Both spaces are designed under the same concept: a carefree atmosphere with a distinctly colourful character employing large graphic elements of colour with references to the “Movida Madrileña” and the visual universe created by Almodovar, the well-known Spanish movie director.
The name of the restaurant “Las Chicas, Los Chicos y Los Maniquies” was precisely the title of one of the songs which accompanied the” Movida Madrileña” and whose lyrics are still part of our popular culture today.
The main characters of this colourful universe are the two large red bars presiding over the two rooms. All morning they function as buffet tables for breakfast and a snack and beer bars—in the purest Madrid style—during the remainder of the day.
Another important element of the popular culture of Madrid is the classic neighborhood stores with their large window advertisements, attractive names and incredible offers. Sashes, hats and elaborate mannequins fill some of the scarce shop windows still left in this part of the city. Strange as it may seem, Atocha Street has managed to keep intact some of its more classic shops, to which the design wanted to pay sincere homage filling the space with large luminous posters with attractive commercial names.
In the lower part of the hotel, the restaurant has three small interconnected dining rooms where, once again, colour is the indisputable principal element. Each room achieves its own personality by use of a single colour: red, greenish and pink. Their walls covered in textiles, as well as the chromatic choices, seek to reference the noble rooms of 19th-century palatial homes.
The Nightclub: Bala Perdida Club
Hidden in the underground of the Madrilenian neighborhood “Barrio de Las Letras” (today a neuralgic point of the city), under a refurbished palace of the eighteenth century where Hotel Axel Madrid is located, two vaulted spaces built in brick were found. It is in this provocative and secret location, where the Bala Perdida (Lost Bullet) Club is located.
The architects had two main design premises. On the one hand, the singularity of the existing space, with two subterranean dark vaults built in brick, as antique caves or cellars. On the other hand, the proposed venue, a nightclub that should have the versatility to work as a snack and cocktail bar, where a fast mutation would happen at some point of the night and the general scenery would quickly switch from a warm atmosphere into a lysergic dance floor.
This need for transformation and that kind of clandestine atmosphere made them think of a space with a close relation to the mystery where they could not omit the magic and the optical illusions.
The key aspect of the project was the use of two protagonist elements.
First, the mirrors, which were placed on both ends of each vault, producing an optical illusion known as the “endless mirror”. When facing two mirrors, the reflection of one on the other makes the reflected image, the image of the vault, become infinite. These effects make the vaults turn into endless tunnels.
The other highlight is the changing lighting. Therefore, light and colour are the main protagonists of the project.
At the axis of the two vaults, the designers proposed two longitudinal, dynamic led lamps cast among the suspended acoustic panels that change speed and colour depending on the different scenes at the venue. Also, the drink-bar works as a lamp itself, providing a warm fire toned light that serves as a basis for the playful lights in the surfaces of the vaults.
Location: Calle de Atocha, 49 — 28012, Madrid
Client: HI Partners, Hoteles Axel
Floor Area: 3600 m²
Interior Design by EL EQUIPO CREATIVO
Completed: August 2017
Photographer: Adrià Goula
EL EQUIPO CREATIVO
The architects Oliver Franz Schmidt, Natali Canas del Pozo, and Lucas Echeveste Lacy form EL EQUIPO CREATIVO, a studio based in Barcelona and specialized in the interior design of gastronomic, commercial, brand and hospitality spaces. Since 2010, they have worked for some of the most prestigious chefs in the world, like Ferran and Albert Adrià, and their designs include four Michelin star restaurants. Their projects have been recognized in more than 25 international design awards, for example, Hotel Axel Madrid was nominated for Best Hotel Design Europe at the prestigious International Hotel & Property Awards 2018 and the Las Chicas, Los Chicos y Los Maniquís Restaurant has recently won the FX Awards as Best Restaurant 2018 and the Frame Awards 2019 as Best Use of Colour.
FRAME magazine has featured them among the 20 most influential contemporary designers in the world and in 2017 they have been awarded Firm of the Year at the American Architecture Prize.