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Poetry in Motion

IVG Immobilien AG, the owner of the sprawling $1.5-billion Squaire mixed-use development at Frankfurt Airport, had a futuristic glass and steel design for its building. Certainly, from an engineering perspective, the nine-story, 462,000-sq.-ft. building is a marvel of modern design, considering it was erected on a platform above Frankfurt’s high-speed ICE railway station, secured in place by 86 pillars.

So when it came to the interior design of the two hotels in the complex—a 249-room, full-service Hilton sitting adjacent to a 334-room, upper-end, focused-service Hilton Garden Inn—IVG Immobilien executives expected interiors that would be no less striking and contemporary.

Meanwhile, for Hilton Worldwide, parent of both Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Garden Inn, the Hilton-HGI pairing was a milestone in itself, the company’s first dual-brand project in Europe. Consequently, expectations ran high within Hilton Worldwide as well that the interior design of the core Hilton-brand hotel, in particular, would be distinctive. Both hotels opened in March.

Selected to create the interior design of both the guestrooms and public spaces of the Hilton, as well as the public spaces of the HGI, was JOI-Design, GMbH, which is based in Hamburg, Germany. The design of the HGI guestrooms would be an adaptation of the brand’s basic prototype.

Given that Frankfurt Airport is Europe’s second largest, and that The Squaire is part of an even more extensive transportation network that includes freeway connections in addition to train connections, JOI-Design took speed as its cue. The firm’s managing directors, Peter Joehnk and Corinna Kretschmar-Joehnk, were drawn to the idea of motion and stillness and the contrast between the two as a starting point for the project’s design concept.

“The subject of motion versus rest and speed versus deceleration became central to the design. It can be seen most spectacularly in the pair of golden wings that help define the Hilton’s soaring lobby space. We saw them as reminiscent of both the wings of airplanes and of large birds,” Joehnk explained. They’re intended to restore a sense of human scale in the midst of the “vast architectural facade.”

Likewise, artwork in both the Hilton’s guestrooms and public areas is meant to explore the contrast of motion and stillness. For example, pictures in the guestroom corridors depict elements of nature captured with a dynamic motion blur. “The theme of blurred activity is also carried into the Hilton’s executive lounge, where sequential fields of color along the back wall are meant to convey the experience of viewing scenery that is passing by at a high speed,” said Joehnk, who founded JOI-Design in 1984.

Dynamic patterns can also be found in other aspects of the hotel’s decor, including some of the carpeting. In a nod to The Squaire’s own dramatic form, the JOI-Design team created the bold contours of the freestanding 5,568-sq.-ft. Globe Ballroom, which Joehnk described as a “building-within-a-building.”

The curved horizontal wall slats used behind the banquettes in the lobby lounge and bar, and in the seating in the executive lounge, were another bold choice cited by Joehnk. “But the slats were also intended to create a sense of calm, where guests and visitors could relax,” he said of the cocoon-like structures. 

Also, as a contrast to the bold shapes and scale of the building, the designers chose a color palette that leaned towards warm and tranquil—mostly beige, brown and red for the soft furnishings; gray, silver, black and white for the more architectural elements.

“In general, though, we kept the entire palette light and serene, since as a modern airport hotel, you want to provide guests with a place to unwind from their hectic travels,” he said.

JOI-Design’s other recent hospitality projects range from a Le Meridien in Stuttgart, Germany, to a Four Points by Sheraton in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. The firm had previously worked for Hilton Worldwide on the Hilton Vienna Danube in Vienna, Austria.

With the Hilton now launched, Kretschmar-Joehnk was asked what were one or two design elements of the hotel that made her particularly proud. “First, would be the golden wings in the lobby. They were inspired by the shape of the building and, I like to think, extend protectively over the lobby area’s reception and bar areas,” she said, adding that they’ve become a “kind of symbol for the harmonious contrast between cool architecture and warm, welcoming interiors.”

Kretschmar-Joehnk’s second favorite stroke of design is the Globe Ballroom. The ballroom’s exterior is completely clad in silver-plated glass mosaics, so it’s hard to deny that the structure has a decorative dimension. “But despite that, as a building-within-a-building, I like to think it makes a powerful architectural statement, while avoiding the stereotype that interior design serves only a decorative purpose,” she said.

For Larry Traxler, Hilton Worldwide SVP of global design services, The Squaire project in Frankfurt offered important design lessons for the company as it moves forward with additional dual-brand projects in Europe. In fact, a dual-brand, full-service Hilton paired with a focused-service Hampton by Hilton is scheduled to open later this year in Bursa, Turkey.

From a design perspective, it’s important that the design reflect either overtly or more subtly the special characteristics of its location, Traxler explained. “The vision for the Frankfurt project was to create a modern business traveler’s hotel that was stylish and soothing yet, at the same time, a reflection of the modern energy of The Squaire,” he said.

“The attention to architecture and interior design at both hotels was really inspired by the high-tech Frankfurt Airport, the high-speed railway station below, and lastly, the iconic architecture of The Squaire itself.”