LOFTY idea s
Despite its expansiveness, The Jaffa isn’t easy to nd. Testament to its designers then, who have restored this landmark 19th-century French hospital into a hotel that is positioned seamlessly within its eponymous locale, a 4000-year-old port city in Israel that is a rabbit warren of cobbled laneways and winding alleys interspersed with hidden artist studios, ea markets and antiquities. On these streets old men huddle over mint tea and the traditional Middle Eastern board game of shesh besh, while in the hotel lobby, its western iteration, also known as backgammon, is of an entirely different kind – solid checker pieces in forest-green and berry points inlayed into a suite of custom, coffee-glossed Emperador stone tables.
After the congestion and dust outside, the hotel’s spaciousness offers both relief and surprise, the reception area out tted with contemporary furniture from Pierre Paulin, Jørgen Kastholm and Shiro Kuramata’s tubular citrus armchairs. There’s also artwork by Damien Hirst and, in the ultimate collision of past and present, remnants of a 13th-century Crusader bastion wall splintering the space. Spearheaded by New York-based Aby Rosen (11 Howard, Seagram Building, Gramercy Park Hotel), the highly anticipated hotel has been more than a decade in the making, overseen by eminent London-based architect John Pawson along with a team of restoration experts headed by local architect Ramy Gill.
“The challenge is always to ensure that people who are entering a place for the rst time feel instinctively at ease and at home. Of course there are practical issues in terms of accommodating a modern program and services when you inherit a historic structure, but this history also anchors the contemporary vision in
a more resonant sense of place. In Jaffa the design had to adapt a number of times in response to archaeological ndings. Where features have been uncovered, these have been incorporated into the nished fabric.”
Each of the 120 guestrooms in the original U-shaped wing varies in form, with six-metre-high vaulted ceilings and arched windows. John wanted to celebrate their individual character so he designed custom mirror boxes “oriented to emphasise the original architecture, allowing the contemporary interventions to recede visually”. In the new, adjoining luxury tower – where 32 private residences are available for purchase – guestrooms are minimalistic, with oating beds and sandycoloured rugs woven from a digital image of local travertine. There are views over the Mediterranean and historic courtyards, with Arabic-style mashrabiya latticework on the windows creating a dappled effect. “Jaffa is monochromatic in character, but this changes dramatically during the golden hour and the blue hour of the evening. Rather than distract the eye with dominant pieces of furniture, we wanted attention to fall on the light ltering through the screens and the way the appearance of the surface of the stone changes over the course of the day.”
When the sun goes down, the hotel’s deconsecrated Chapel glows through stained glass. A religious experience for partygoers, its rosewater-pink atrium and pews have been replaced with chunky mustard Cini Boeri ‘Botolo’ chairs and blue banquettes. A marble bar is the new pulpit and a DJ spins from the balcony with congregants worshipping music of a different kind. Praise be.
For more go to thejaffahotel.com.
“WE WANTED ATTENTION TO FALL ON THE LIGHT FILTERING THROUGH THE SCREENS AND THE WAY THE APPEARANCE OF THE STONE CHANGES OVER THE COURSE OF THE DAY.”