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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.”

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