In Tel Aviv, John Pa­w­son has tran­sfor­med a 19th cen­tu­ry ho­spi­tal and con­vent in­to a spec­ta­cu­lar ho­tel. The fai­th­ful mi­ni­ma­li­st has blen­ded Ara­bic, clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­ra­ry sty­les

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«We sti­mu­la­ted an in­tel­li­gent con­ver­sa­tion bet­ween two dif­fe­rent cen­tu­ries, so that the­re’s no­thing for­cing them to­ge­ther. No fa­ke or­na­men­ta­tion, ju­st the be­low-ground spa­ce. Think of is as a cou­ple who are tou­ching ea­ch other un­der the ta­ble whil­st kee­ping straight fa­ces». Ra­my Gill is the Israe­li ar­chi­tect who, in col­la­bo­ra­tion wi­th the En­gli­sh ma­ster of mi­ni­ma­li­sm John Pa­w­son, has har­mo­ni­sed the aban­do­ned struc­tu­re of a 19th cen­tu­ry Fren­ch ho­spi­tal wi­th a com­ple­te­ly new buil­ding. That’s how the Jaf­fa was born, the fir­st pro­per­ty in Tel Aviv ow­ned by the Ame­ri­can group RFR Hol­ding, whi­ch has en­tru­sted it to Mar­riott In­ter­na­tio­nal for their Lu­xu­ry Col­lec­tion: 120 rooms and sui­tes (plus 32 re­si­den­tial apart­men­ts) that do­mi­na­te the ‘Shuk Ha­pi­sh­pi­shim’ (the flea mar­ket) and the har­bour as seen from the pro­mon­to­ry of an­cient Jaf­fa. The thou­sands of years of stra­ti­fi­ca­tion of this pla­ce re­qui­red Pa­w­son to stri­ke a de­li­ca­te equi­li­brium: «pre­ser­ving the me­mo­ry of the buil­ding›s hi­sto­ry and not gi­ving the im­pres­sion of di­sho­nou­ring its pre­vious li­fe, but wi­thout jeo­par­di­sing its cur­rent function and vi­ta­li­ty ei­ther». Aby Ro­sen, the po­wer­ful pro­per­ty ty­coon of RFR ‒ who­se ties to Israel da­te back to his chil­d­hood and the ori­gins of his fa­mi­ly ‒ de­scri­bes the Jaf­fa as his mo­st com­plex and per­so­nal pro­ject. If it’s no won­der that this fi­ve-star ho­tel has al­rea­dy be­co­me an icon of Tel Aviv, that’s thanks in par­ti­cu­lar to the spec­ta­cu­lar lounge bar ‘The Cha­pel’, a new nightli­fe hot spot that still has the ori­gi­nal vaul­ted cei­lings, fre­scoes, and stuc­coed de­tails of the old cha­pel (but from whi­ch the sa­cred sym­bols ha­ve been re­mo­ved) and an al­tar tran­sfor­med in­to a bar coun­ter wi­th a con­so­le for DJ se­ts. In pla­ce of the au­ste­re ma­ho­ga­ny ben­ches is the 70s soft­ness of mu­stard-co­lou­red vel­vet Bo­to­lo stools by Ci­ni Boe­ri, and po­w­der-pink ot­to­mans. Mea­n­whi­le from up abo­ve, next to the ori­gi­nal stai­ned glass win­do­ws, eve­ry wee­kend Frank Si­na­tra, Gre­go­ry Peck and other giant-si­ze 1950s Hol­ly­wood stars en­joy a show that’s de­ci­ded­ly pa­gan. The ma­te­rials that Pa­w­son con­cei­ved for the Jaf­fa are sto­ne, light, and ti­me. «For an ar­chi­tect», he ex­plains, «light and sha­de are key ma­te­rials in their own right. This is par­ti­cu­lar­ly true in Jaf­fa, whe­re the po­wer­ful light th­ro­ws eve­ry­thing in­to a gol­den glow». Wi­th great sen­si­ti­vi­ty, the ar­chi­tect has in­cor­po­ra­ted and exal­ted the lo­cal cul­tu­re, as in the ca­se of the ma­sh­ra­biya, the pro­tec­ti­ve woo­den gril­les that adorn the door­ways and win­do­ws of tra­di­tio­nal buil­dings, and whi­ch are al­so found he­re in the me­tal screens wi­th ara­be­sque mo­tifs and the fi­ne­ly per­fo­ra­ted bal­co­nies. In the mo­der­ni­st lob­by, a frag­ment of an an­cient for­ti­fi­ca­tion erup­ts out of the floor: a pre­sen­ce all the mo­re ex­traor­di­na­ry be­cau­se it is the on­ly sur­vi­ving exam­ple, in the who­le of the Midd­le Ea­st, of a cir­cu­lar ba­stion da­ting from the Cru­sa­der era. It now co­ha­bi­ts wi­th clas­sic de­si­gn pie­ces by Shi­ro Ku­ra­ma­ta and Pier­re Pau­lin, the con­tem­po­ra­ry art of Da­mien Hir­st, and the She­sh Be­sh (back­gam­mon) ta­bles that Pa­w­son him­self de­si­gned as a ho­ma­ge to the tra­di­tio­nal pa­sti­me of Arab mer­chan­ts. In this pla­ce of ex­traor­di­na­ry hi­sto­ri­cal rich­ness, and in the pat­terns, mo­tifs of the area and its cul­tu­ral di­ver­si­ty, but abo­ve all in the 128-squa­re-me­tre King Da­vid sui­te, Pa­w­son has kno­wn how to exalt «the spec­ta­cu­lar pa­no­ra­mic views over the roof­tops of the old to­wn, the va­st ex­pan­se of the bea­ch, and the sky­li­ne of Tel Aviv».

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