Design vision: Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg of Baranowitz + Kronenberg
Celebrated duo Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg of Baranowitz + Kronenberg discuss the importance of storytelling in hotel design for our latest TOPHOTELDESIGN exclusive.
After co-founding interior design and architecture studio Baranowitz + Kronenberg in 1999, Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg have helped deliver a remarkable portfolio of hotel projects around the world. The practice is known for transforming historic landmarks and challenging spaces into instant design classics that are truly welcoming and draw on the stories of the past.
What does your role at the company involve?
We do not share any common fortes, which means we work well together.
We like to consider ourselves as anthropologists of sorts, we focus on never being judgmental or having preconceived ideas or personal preferences for how things should be. This mindset allows us to infuse ourselves seamlessly in any culture and get the very essence of it, turning it into a platform from which we develop our stories.
Could you tell us about your career to date?
We have no formula or style; we find the essence of place and walk together. We create mini worlds in which people are cast in compelling narratives that celebrate the essence of our time and the human desire for originality and authenticity.
What key hotel projects have you worked on down the years?
Among our projects are the Sir Joan Hotel and W hotel in Ibiza, the Sir Albert and W hotel and spa in Amsterdam, and the Sir Victor Hotel in Barcelona.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
The W hotel in Amsterdam stands out in that regard, changing Spuistraat forever. It invigorated the entire neighbourhood and local community, cementing its presence in the collective memory of Amsterdam.
This is a fascinating project where two historical landmarks, a former telephone exchange building and a private bank, were given a second life. Keeping their identity and validity while infusing them with completely fresh programmes brought about a cultural and a social synergy of value beyond logic.
This level of synergy is what we look for wherever we are and achieving this took a lot of effort. Working with landmarks or ‘conversing with the landmarks’, we learned to respect each other and leave room for each other – a true relationship of sorts.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Every project brings new challenges with it, so it’s hard to note a specific one as our biggest. That said, a truly big challenge is to be able to create spaces that foresee the unforeseen, that are timeless and ever-relevant and inspiring.
How would you sum up your design philosophy?
We are storytellers. Drawing implicity and on the sensuous connection between life, selves, history, memory, craftsmanship and experience, the choices we make in every act of design embody this connection in a fresh way. Contextual awareness is key for us. It helps us to not only keep local history relevant but also serve the needs of global cities of the 21st century.
We are in constant dialogue with the present, the future and the past to build stages for cosmopolitan lifestyles and modern shifting selves. There is no formula that we use on a daily basis, everything we do is made-to-measure and hand-stitched.
What would your dream hotel look like?
Any project has the potential to become a dream if one fights hard enough. We are living our dream projects every day.
Who do you admire most in the industry?
Louis Kahn, whose works are as intriguing and inspiring as a Rothko painting. We never thought buildings could transcend people into a higher realm of consciousness. Mystical, contemplative and bold.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming talent looking to make a name for themselves?
Treat every project like a masterclass of architecture. Observe, listen, converse with as many people as possible. Study the history of the building, the history of the city and the culture, art, geography, economy and politics.
Out of those you pick the contextual insights that might serve you later, and with the essence of everything, you come up with the story. This way, you design for people and create a timeless, open-ended and memorable experience for them. At the end of the day, it’s all about people and their wellbeing.
What are your main hobbies outside work?
Music, reading and being off the grid as much as our dreams allow.
For more info about the firm, and to view an extensive gallery of hi-res images, check out the Baranowitz + Kronenberg page on the TOPHOTELDESIGN website.
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ABOUT THE DESIGNER
Baranowitz + Kronenberg is the interior design and architecture studio of Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz based in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv.