Built in the 1950s by the architects Paul Schwebes and Hans Schoszberger, the so-called Bikini House was the architectural expression of a new attitude to life hallmarked by dynamism, freedom, optimism and consumerism. This architecture – twinned with the building’s unique location – also gives Bikini Berlin its identity for the future. With its 149 rooms, the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin will form part of the building complex when it moves into the detached Kleines Hochhaus – the smaller of two high-rises – by the so-called Elephant Gate of Berlin Zoo. It is the young hotel group’s first property in the German capital. “We always wanted to open a hotel in Berlin,” says a delighted Christoph Hoffmann, CEO of 25hours. “Now we’ve found the best home we could imagine between the Memorial Church and Kurfürstendamm on the one hand and the green oasis of Tiergarten park and Berlin Zoo on the other.” The location and the architecture also inspired the interior design by Studio Aisslinger. The team headed up by designer Werner Aisslinger has developed a holistic design concept straddling nature and culture with the working title “Urban Jungle”. Half of the 149 rooms look out over Berlin Zoo’s ape house and elephant enclosure. They have a warmer design scheme featuring natural materials and colours. The other half have a stunning view of West Berlin’s landmarks. These rooms have a somewhat rougher, more urban feel inspired by Berlin’s edgier, creative side. Guests staying in Jungle and Urban L rooms have personal use of a Schindelhauer bike to explore the city at their leisure – a real highlight. Rooms in all six categories boast the standard 25hours features customers love: ultra comfortable beds, air-conditioning, a TV, a minibar, an iPod docking station, sustainable toiletries and free Wi-Fi. The 25hours cooperation partners are also on board once again: MINI for an exhilarating experience behind the wheel, frontlineshop for cool 25hours outfits, and Two Wheels Good for all those who like to cycle in style. As at the other 25hours hotels, local sources of inspiration play a key role in Berlin. The kiosk is being designed in conjunction with the publishing house Gestalten Verlag and the Freunde von Freunden network offers guests individual access to their Berlin as food, cultural and shopping guides.
On the third floor, the loft-like foyer containing the hotel’s reception, kiosk, in-house bakery and numerous corners has a relaxed, communicative atmosphere. This storey also houses the three meeting rooms for up to 100 people. The ninth floor contains the Jungle Sauna with a dry sauna and rest area. Perched above everything else, the tenth storey is a lively marketplace. It boasts a breathtaking 360-degree view and plenty of other attractions morning, noon and night: the NENI Berlin restaurant serving eclectic East Mediterranean cuisine and the Monkey Bar with its fireside corner and spectacular rooftop terrace. The various lovingly designed spaces provide a retreat from the urban jungle and offer individuality, flexibility, aesthetic appeal, inspiration and sustainability. 25hours creates an integrated platform where locals and guests can mingle and chat. The hotel’s outstanding location is another boon: the famous Kurfürstendamm avenue is just around the corner, the Tiergarten park is less than 100 metres away, the Zoologischer Garten suburban rail station is just under 200 metres away, and the Brandenburg Gate is three kilometres from the hotel.
Werner Aisslinger and the 25hours team have developed a multifaceted design concept with the working title “Urban Jungle” for the group’s first hotel in Berlin. Aisslinger focuses primarily on product design. Born in Nördlingen (Germany) in 1964, the designer likes to experiment with new materials and technologies. His work can be found in several museums’ collections. Over the last three decades, Studio Aisslinger has developed designs, products and concepts for brands such as Adidas, DeSede, Cappellini, Foscarini, FSB, Moroso, Vitra and Zanotta. 25hours still has plenty of work lined up for him: he is also involved in designing the second 25hours hotel in Zurich, which will open in 2016.
“If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” may be true of many hotels, but not 25hours. In line with this ethos, the new hotel in Berlin really engages with its location. Werner Aisslinger underlines this approach: “Our project isn’t a UFO – it is interwoven with the city.” To breathe life into this link, the team started by looking at the bigger picture. São Paulo and the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer first drew the creative team’s attention to the presence of an urban jungle. A reference like Niemeyer’s famous Copan Building represents a microcosm in the heart of the Brazilian megacity. “The idea of creating a city within a city was important to us,” says 25hours CEO Christoph Hoffmann, summarising as follows: “We drew our inspiration from São Paulo so that we could tell our own story here in Berlin.” Henning Weiss, Head of Operations at 25hours, explains the thinking: “Nature meets culture. The zoo and Tiergarten park on one side; the city with all its hubbub on the other. We translated this duality in 25hours’ special style.”
For Werner Aisslinger, it is clear that: “an idea like ‘Urban Jungle’ must not be implemented too simplistically or overtly. But it mustn’t be done too pompously and intellectually either.” After all, its discordance makes Berlin what it is – its improvised, unpredictable side, and sometimes its tired, turbulent side. He draws on his own personal experience of hotels too. “I like hotels,” he comments before going on to elaborate: “But I prefer the old places because they reflect their surroundings. A bit laissez-faire and a bit vintage, but never too tarted up.” He has little interest in overdesigned hotels. “I look at them out of interest, but I can’t enjoy it,” he admits and says quite clearly: “Anyone who is still designing hotels with the richness factor is out of touch. These days, guests look behind the scenes too and like to know where things come from and why they are the way they are.”
That is precisely why it was important to the team from 25hours and the designer to incorporate Berlin influences and the site’s heritage during the hotel’s concept phase as well as drawing on inspiration from São Paulo. Local colour included the club culture in City West with the popular nightspot Linientreu on Budapester Straße. The club – almost certainly the last original 80s disco – lasted for 26 years until the lease ran out because the Bikini House was being renovated. The legendary Dschungel on Nürnberger Straße was another source of inspiration. Opened in 1978, it was a meeting place for artists, those seeking to promote themselves, and party animals from the divided city and the rest of the world. Prince and Boy George spent their nights in Berlin here. High-profile regulars included the musicians Nick Cave, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. The British rock star even immortalised the Dschungel in his 2013 song “Where Are We Now?” with the lyrics: “Sitting in the Dschungel on Nürnberger Straße.” When the Dschungel closed in 1993, Berlin did not just lose a legendary disco – a very special take on life disappeared with it. 25hours and Werner Aisslinger see themselves as collecting different attitudes to life which relate to the location’s heritage. “That is both a pledge and a challenge,” says Aisslinger and admits: “I’m interested in the notion of thinking ahead and evolving. That’s why the project with 25hours is such a good fit: we are both creatively driven.” Aisslinger, who has made Berlin his home, also appreciates the opportunity that the hotel gives him to showcase his work in his own city by means of such a high-profile project. Nevertheless, he is keen to ensure that his studio does not steal the show. “I work on the principle of creating a collage, and if we want to let Berlin live in the hotel, it goes without saying that we need to get other people from Berlin involved.” This attitude tallies with the 25hours philosophy: local influences play a major role at all of the group’s hotels. However, while each area’s heritage has primarily been alluded to in the past, the idea is to intensify local links now by bringing partners and other players on board. 25hours CEO Christoph Hoffmann is a big fan of Aisslinger’s open approach. “Although he is a famous designer, Werner Aisslinger is the kind of person who values other people’s input,” he says. “The final work of art as a whole and his team always take centre stage.”
Aisslinger’s expanded project team is nothing if not progressive. He has worked with some of his current partners before, like Sybille Oellerich. The Berlin-based stylist is responsible for details in the 25hours Bikini Berlin project. Her main focus is the restaurant area on the tenth floor. As the creative finisher, she is like a hunter-gatherer, collecting countless objets d’art and supplementing Werner Aisslinger’s design with quirky details. On the third floor, the Berlin duo Bless is creating a chill-out corner with hammocks. Bless is the brainchild of the two designers Ines Kaag and Désirée Heiss. Bless is not just about one aspect of design. The pair’s orbit is real life and their motivation is everyday usability. Gestalten Verlag is also represented on the third floor, where it curates the 25hours Bikini Berlin kiosk. The international publisher of design books is known for inspirational titles in the fields of design, photography, illustration, typography and contemporary art.
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