Ritz Carlton Geneva
The prestigious Ritz Carlton Hotel de la Paix in Geneva is proof that honouring the past is key to a successful renovation.
We don’t envy any team tasked with remodelling a property like Geneva’s Hotel de la Paix, even if, in this instance, they had a budget of 23.5 million USD. The hotel has been a beloved landmark on the city’s lakeside promenade since its opening in 1867, with a façade that has occupied a position of prominence for generations of holidaymakers taking in the view, strolling across the Rhône on the Pont du Mont Blanc. The hotel’s interior Rococo crown mouldings and stately Empire style furnishings have played host to heads of states, UN special envoys, royals, celebrities and even Mahatma Gandhi and his goat. But when General Manager Guillaume Benezech and The Ritz-carlton team took over the property in the autumn of 2015, the lobby’s deep reds and yellows felt heavy, musty, and well, old. Representing the Ritz-carlton’s first foray into Switzerlan d, joining a wave of new luxury offerings in the Alpine nation, the team had to tread especially carefully around the question of how to modernise a landmark property without bulldozing the elements that made it a landmark in the first place. One illustration of the team’s response to this can be found in the Fiskebar restaurant, part of a property adjoining the original hotel, which was added in 1907. The restaurant itself is achingly au courant both in concept and execution. The Copenhagen fish market theme is ripped from hospitality news headlines, while a multigenerational crowd who look like Patek Philippe models wash down truffled cashews with champagne as they wait for a spot at Chef Alessio Corda’s communal tables, fashioned from reclaimed wood. But there are subtle nods to the hotel’s history in the Instagram-ready restaurant and adjoining bar, as there are throughout the property. Decades of built up paint has been scraped off to reveal the original colour from the early 20th century, a gorgeous sepia tone with a fresco finish. The colour on the walls is offset by mid-century sofas and armchairs upholstered in sunset and sapphire-toned velvet, placed on original wood parquet floors. Behind the antique wooden bar are original cameo paintings of elegant Genevois engaged in Ritz-carlton appropriate activities like walking their pint-sized dogs, or taking afternoon tea. Indeed, Benezech and his team have skilfully highlighted the hotel’s most striking original elements, like the black-and-white checkerboard marble floors that exist in the lobby and on each