The public areas of the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest have undergone a remarkable transformation by MKV Design, the hotel's first major refurbishment since it first opened in 1992.
Designed originally by the renowned Hungarian architect, Mr Jozsef Finta, and named after the Renaissance King Matthias Corvinus who established Budapest as a European centre of art and culture, it was the first internationally branded hotel to be established in the city after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and a significant symbol of Budapest's re-emergence on the European stage. However, over the years, the interiors had come to need new life and distinction in a way that would meet the expectations of luxury hotel guests in the first quarter of the 21st Century. MKV Design's courageous vision for the public areas firmly places the hotel in the present, enhancing the dramatic scale of the interior yet also creating a sequence of unique spaces that are inviting and exciting for overseas guests and local people alike.
The lobby with its soaring nine metre volume up to a glazed roof has become a glowing expanse that amplifies its scale and harmonises the existing shapes and levels. Its light now shines beguilingly through the glazed front façade, and the space flows from the main porte cochère to reception, offering views through the cafe and restaurant to the second entrance on the opposite side of the building.
The two dominant columns have been over-clad to become magnificent sculptural forms, "contained" within a back-lit arch which frames the hotel beyond. New elements pick up on the circular glazed roof - for example, the patina of the marble flooring, the shaping of the portal walls and a circular seating area in the heart of the lobby. From here, guests catch glimpses of other parts of the ground floor reflected in glass and mirrored panels designed to play upon their curiosity and draw them further into the hotel. Reception takes the form of elegant padded leather desks, increased in number from two to four; when the extra desks are not needed, they slide into a full-height timber wall treatment.
Key to the designers' re-planning of the lobby was the replacement of the staircase leading up to the first floor function and meeting rooms. A modern interpretation of the conventional grand staircase is now one of the first elements that greets guests upon arrival - a magnificent staircase which curves around the edge of the lobby and is as much a work of art as functional stairway. Constructed in an elegant brown stone against a glazed-over Crystalux wall, its decorative and perforated metal balustrade, reminiscent of the Art Nouveau styling for which Budapest is famed, sweeps up and wraps around the first floor where it looks over the lobby atrium.
MKV has captured space for a ground floor bar with its own street entrance. Blue Fox The Bar is intimate and clubby in ambience with its dark walnut timber floor and tables together with richly toned upholstery to the seating. Lighting is low and discreet, supplemented by the play of reflections from mirrored nooks and columns. The deep glow of the cobalt blue acrylic bar surround, inset with mesh and suggestive of a soda siphon, completes the sophisticated vibe of the space.
Located within the central atrium, The Living Room is a modern interpretation of Budapest's traditional coffee house culture. This is a deeply comfortable area and a quiet contrast to the theatricality of the lobby, where guests are invited to take time out of their day to sink into comfortable sofas or high-back armchairs, read books and relax near the fire. A stand-out feature is the new patisserie counter distinguished by a back-lit coloured glass panel behind as well as by its display of tempting cakes and the aroma of warming pastries emanating from its oven. A soft colour palette in shades of orange, pink, yellow and green brings warmth to the space and feminises the rich timber envelope.
The restaurant, re-named ÉS Bisztro ('es' is Hungarian for 'and'), is where the designers' concept taps into the international trend for creating a dining experience that hints of locale and tradition yet is firmly rooted in a modern context. It is both farmhouse kitchen and stylish urban restaurant, traditional and modern, a breakfast room and a party venue, fun-loving and grown-up, 'Kanal es Villa' - spoon and fork. Guests can enjoy a contemporary, informal and relaxed experience reflecting the quality food offering and complementing the hotel's fine dining restaurant.
The floor is of rustic timber with modern tessellated tiles defining buffet areas, simple white tiles clad the walls and the hanging metal ceiling lights are a modern take on traditional central European cafe lighting. The centrepiece bevelled mirror screen, custom-designed in three curved parts, glimpses and plays with reflections of people as they pass; patterned tin ceiling tiles also catch a hint of movement below.
A large space as is necessary at breakfast time, the restaurant has been carefully planned to divide into three areas during less busy times and the mirrored screen obscures the restaurant beyond from street view. The front of the restaurant now has a greater connection to the terrace and street outside than with the hotel behind, and from the street appears as an urban street cafe rather than hotel diner, offering an altogether more attractive proposition for passers-by on the boutique-lined Fashion Street.
The Promenade is another striking intervention by MKV Design. What was previously only a circulation space is now reinvented as a destination in its own right - a chic and welcoming lounge where guests will go to see and be seen. The atmosphere changes completely between morning, when the Promenade has the quality of a conservatory bathed in the direct sunlight that shines through the atrium's glazed roof, and the evening when the space becomes full of mood and the design is shown to dramatic effect.
Seating areas are beautifully defined by inset mosaic "rugs" which fan out to meet the curve of the space, and lighting is low and atmospheric. The colour palette is natural and timeless: tan leather sofas, warm walnut panelling to the columns and ceiling, bronze tables and alcoves clad in honey-toned, deep-stitched Alcantara softly washed by down-lighters. It is here that guests can now absorb the most complete connection with the experience of the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus; although an internal space, by following the curve of the circular skylight, the Promenade offers glimpses of both entrances and all the spaces in-between as well as the sky above.
"Our aim has been to impart a renewed personality to the hotel," commented Maria Vafiadis. "By working with the scale and volume of the existing building, it has been possible to celebrate its form while creating spaces that responds to the varying desires of guests through day and evening, on business or at leisure, leaving a unique and lasting impression upon them all."