The building housing Das Stue was originally constructed from 1938 to 1940 as the Royal Danish embassy by Johann Emil Schmidt, architect of Berlin's famous KaDeWe department store.
Das Stue’s curved front facade, in fact, echoes the era’s typical tiered, balconied department-store style. In 1943, the building was battered by war, although it survived later attacks until war’s end in the mid-1940s. Denmark reclaimed the structure, overhauled it in 1947, and used portions as a military mission. In 1978, Denmark sold the building to a public housing utility that planned to create apartments, but ultimately allowed the structure to fall into disrepair. The city/state of Berlin took control of it in 1983. Starting in 1986, the German postal system and German Telekom used it as a venue for executive training.
b) Refurbishment and annex to existing buildings
The Das Stue’s mixture of old and new architecture was created by Axthelm Architects from Potsdam. The architects’ former projects include the offices for Conde Nast’s Berlin branch on Unter den Linden and the concert house for the Deutsche Symphony Orchestra. In their design, a modern, trapezoidal addition abuts the landmarked 1930s construction. In the building’s historical portion, traditional detailing and hardware were preserved as much as possible. The modern addition’s far more angular volumes create intriguing sight lines, public spaces flooded with light, nooks perfect for conversation, and, in many of the guest rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the zoo and park.
An unusual architectural feature are the ornate patterns on the outside facades of the build’s new portions. A traditional English wallpaper pattern has been applied to the building’s exterior surfaces with a special “photographic concrete” technique. A subtle shimmer of ivory on white, it transforms the exterior walls into a dance of light and patterns.
The Public Areas
Star interior designer Patricia Urquiola is the mastermind behind the Das Stue’s striking public spaces. Spanish-born and based in Milan, Urquiola is known for mixing materials and colors into surprising yet always harmonious ensembles.
a) The Entrance
A grand, slightly curved grey stone facade greets guests to Das Stue. Just inside, a dramatic entrance is flanked by two sweeping staircases. An corridor-like axis whose sight line runs the length of the hotel leads past first a jaw-dropping crocodile sculpture by Paris-based artist Quentin Garel under a sculpture of hundreds of tiny lights then two discreet concierges and a reception station nestled into the side walls. Past the entrance, the space suddenly expands into a modern architectural addition, where angular volumes frame an open bar, lounge, three dining rooms, and an outdoor terrace with direct and private access to the Berlin Zoo.
b) The Restaurants
Off the lounge is a trio of spaces meant to suit different dining experiences conceptualized by avant-garde Spanish chef Paco Perez. Perez holds four Michelin stars and is best known for the acclaimed Miramar restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava.
Nearest the show kitchen – whose 30 employees are visible through tinted glass – is Das Stue’s fine-dining restaurant, Cinco (“5”, a reference to the five senses). In Cinco, guests enjoy Perez’s avant-garde Mediterranean cuisine – like an oyster and caviar tartar starter, or Iberian suckling pig – under an overhead explosion of copper pots and pans paired with copper lamps by Tom Dixon.
In the adjacent area, an all-day dining area called The Casual, daylight streams into a triangular space from skylights above.
Perez is regularly on-site, bringing fresh seafood from Spain with him each time he arrives in Berlin. His playful take on tapas – tidbits like “Calamar a la Romana”, or “croquets de Jamon Iberico” – shines in an atmosphere that allows for privacy but visually connects to the lounge with vertically slatted room dividers and copper pillars.
A third space, also part of Cinco, is the most separate and formal, with views to the zoo’s ostrich area and oversize white textural tableware by Berlin-based porcelain designer Stefanie Hering. This is an ideal place for private dinners and special events.
A dedicated sommelier, Marian Henss, oversees the hotel’s impressive wine collection, which leans heavily toward outstanding Spanish reds and German and Austrian whites. A special feature of Das Stue’s wine selection is that it is vertical, meaning that Henss has included many vintages of one wine going back as far as ten years.
c) The Lounge and Bar
High-ceilinged and inviting, the lounge shows off many of Patricia Urquiola’s own designs (the fabulous yellow armchair is her “Bohemian armchair,” made for Italian design company Moroso) as well as those of others, like a small copper table that looks like metal dots by Dutch design firm Pols Potten or whimsical leather animals – buffalo, rhinos, and bulls – handmade in the UK by the Omersa company. Juxtapositions and depth of texture appear everywhere: carpets offset traditional wood flooring, and pillars burn bright in copper.
In the hotel’s rear zone is a trapezoidal bar, also in copper, with a drinks menu developed by Michael Frohnwieser (a mixologist whose CV includes stints at the London Savoy and Berlin Ritz-Carlton bars). The credo here is classic bar culture. Some drinks are adaptations of forgotten 1920s and 1930s cocktails; others are inspired by chef Paco Perez’s flavors. Spirits include unusual whiskies and cognacs not otherwise available in the German capital. The bar overlooks the zoo through expansive windows (by night, these are covered by a screen upon which vintage films are projects).
Das Stue is also cooperating with local nightlife impresario Till Harter, who opened the popular underground Bar Tausend in the mid-2000s and will be hosting a series of cocktail nights here. Live music, including torch singers and instrumentalists, will be featured some nights. The bar has already become one of Berlin’s most elegant meeting points.
d) The Spa and Pool
Accessible through a discreet hallway off the front lobby is a 260 square-meter wellness area – a tranquil oasis with a lap pool and sauna, as well as three private treatment rooms offering products and treatments by Susanne Kaufmann.
Kaufmann has established her name amongst European spa aficionados with her “Organic Treats” lines – treatments, lotions, and oils created with botanicals from the mountains of Austria, where Kaufmann was born and raised.
e) The Library
In the historical front building, each level has an expansive landing (an anteroom between the staircase and guestroom corridor) whose detailing reveals the building’s grand history. Elegant original parquet floors, French doors, restored hardware and tons of light are contrasted with Urquiola’s eye-catching, comfortable seating arrangements – making this a staircase-turned-three-story library featuring an array of books from Taschen Verlag on the topics of art, architecture, creative culture, and (befitting a zoo) animals.
f) The Bel Etage
Opening in February 2013 is the Bel Etage – traditionally the most dignified rooms in any house or villa. At Das Stue, the Bel Etage is a beautiful set of high-ceilinged, opulently appointed rooms on the front building’s first floor, consisting of four adjoining suites plus a central meeting room adding up to 390 square meters. These can be connected for an array of private or public uses; the central space has access to a expansive stone terrace directly over the hotel entrance.
Das Stue has 80 guest rooms and suites in five categories, ranging in size from 27 to 70 square meters. They were designed by the Spanish architectural office LVG arquitectura s.l.p. and incorporate custom elements like a wooden canopy structure over beds in the suites.
The rooms also feature modern accents that differ from room to room, like bedside tables by Hay or a one-off furniture designs, like an inviting chaise longue.
Tones are mostly muted for clarity and comfort, with occasional accents like hand-selected textiles, adding splashed of colour. Each room has a dark oak parquet floor and a rain shower; some have oversize bathtubs. Bathroom amenities are by diptyque Paris. The guest rooms have a full HD entertainment system by Apple, which incorporates Internet access and a flat-screen TV. There is also a docking station for iPads and iPhones.
The photographs on the guest-room walls come from a private photography collection. Many of the rooms in the new building have panoramic views through floor-to-ceiling windows (which makes even the standard rooms seem huge), and 11 of the rooms have private balconies or terraces. And most importantly, wi-fi is free in the rooms and throughout the hotel.
Unusual art is important at Das Stue, and the pieces on view throughout the hotel range from historical to downright whimsical.
The first thing guests encounter is a striking oversize crocodile-head sculpture by Paris-based artist Quentin Garel. On the surrounding walls and in the reception area (as well as throughout other public spaces) are stunning black-and-white vintage fashion photography and portraiture by some of photography’s seminal figures, like Richard Avedon, Horst, Irving Penn, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. These images are part of a private collection held by one of the owners, who prefers to remain anonymous.
Scattered throughout the other public spaces are artworks and objects that playfully remind guests that Das Stue is adjacent to Berlin’s zoo. In the lobby are a large giraffe and two gorillas made of painted chicken net, by Milan-based artist Benedetta Mori.
Leather stuffed animals by Omersa act as poufs, footrests, or mere decoration. And throughout the indentations in the walls of the guest room corridors, Urquiola has inserted multicolored textile birds handmade by artist Abigail Brown. In the guest rooms are colorful modern photographs of primarily natural subjects (a horse’s mane, a tropical bird) that also originate from a private collection.
Das Stue’s staff uniforms were designed by Dandy of The Grotesque, a bespoke line by Israeli-born, Berlin-based fashion designer Itamar Zechoval. Zechoval’s designs are custom-tailored creations in Italian fabrics – perfect for modern-day dandies, and impeccable on Das Stue employees.
Das Stue (Drakestraße 1, 10787 Berlin, Germany) is tucked into a lush corner of the city’s embassy district, bordering the southern edge of Tiergarten Park and situated adjacent to Berlin’s Zoological Garden, home to more different animal species than any other zoo in Europe. Das Stue’s new building, in fact, directly faces the zoo’s ostriches and Przewalski horses. Guests with rooms on the hotel’s zoo-side upper floors get an even more expansive view of the grounds; a completely unique hotel experience in Berlin.
The district’s history is long and checkered. Most buildings here precede World War II, but few survived its ravages unscathed. During the Cold War, when Germany’s government was situated in Bonn, many of the villas fell into disrepair or were used for other purposes. Only since the return of the government to Berlin in 1999 have these buildings been refurbished as embassies (the hotel shares an exterior wall with the Spanish embassy) or new institutions like Das Stue. It’s the reactivation of a powerful and stately historical neighborhood whose verdant streets are peaceful, yet are just steps from the buzz of Berlin’s two city centers.
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