Crossroads Of The World
High above the Bosporus, Europe and Asia flow together at the Park Hyatt Istanbul by GKV
Elena Kornbluth -- Interior Design, 1/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
As a boy growing up in New York, Randy Gerner listened enthralled as his grandfather told tales of Istanbul, where he was stationed during the First World War. "He'd talk about the sultan. . .and his wives. . .and his huge palace," Gerner remembers. In school, the budding architect learned about Justinian building Hagia Sophia: the enormous dome, the legendary column with the hole in it. "You put your thumb in the hole and rotate your hand 360 degrees, and it brings you good luck," Gerner says. "I almost always make a pilgrimage when I'm in Istanbul, and I think to myself, How many hundreds of thousands if not millions of people have done this? Walking into a building that's pretty much the same as it was 1,400 years ago—that sends chills up and down my spine."
The spine of a full-grown man can have some serious kinks in it after the night flight to Istanbul, a trip that Gerner has been making every few months since Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects, became the favorite firm of the Dogus Group, the Turkish conglomerate behind not only Garanti Bank but also franchises of Gucci and Emporio Armani and dealerships for cars from Skoda to Lamborghini. "After 10 hours on the plane, I go to the hotel, sit in a hot bath, and meditate to prepare myself for my first meeting," he says. That routine floated immediately to mind when Dogus asked him to design a small, luxurious "spa hotel" at the Maçka Palas, a 1922 apartment building surrounded by the designer boutiques and chic cafés of the Nisantasi district. What, he wondered, could make a traveler's bathing experience even more satisfying? His answer: Color-therapy lighting—now on tap in the no-holds-barred wet-rooms of his Park Hyatt Istanbul–Maçka Palas.
A de facto residence for the Italian embassy, across the street, before Atatürk moved the capital to Ankara, the Maçka Palas was already extremely familiar to Gerner. He'd restored its Italianate facade and gutted the 105,600-square-foot interior in 1996, so Dogus could move the headquarters of its Körfezbank there. Then the merger of this small bank with Garanti Bank left the grand landmark vacant.
Directly behind, on a side street, was a two-story structure that Gerner had built for Dogus as a car showroom. His brain wave for Park Hyatt was to make this ancillary building the front door—completely redefining the project. "The entrance is not in the historic building, where you might expect it to be," he explains. "The hotel was meant to be discreet, not a destination piece of architecture." Indeed, the entry's low facade of limestone, fritted glass, and stainless steel couldn't possibly be more different from the many-columned Ottoman splendor of Istanbul's longest-reigning luxury hotel, the 19th-century Çiragan Palace Kempinski.
When the translucent doors of the Park Hyatt's vestibule slide back to reveal a skylit lobby, it's clear that Gerner wasn't going for the disco-harem vibe of the new W Istanbul either. "East meeting West and yesterday meeting today, those were our themes," he says, pointing out the elevator tower straight ahead. It's completely tiled in beige and white squares that form a floral supergraphic abstracted from traditional Iznik ceramics.
Directly above the lobby is a wine-dark steak house named the Prime. Every other trendy restaurant in Istanbul may be a faux bistro, but this one serves up healthy portions of Americana. Even the ceiling is bead-board, possibly never seen in Turkey before. Along a wall, individual magnums are displayed in boxes with glass fronts that slide out for presentation. Opposite, small hurricane lamps glow in the openings of high dividers between booths. "There's this desire in Istanbul to be public but private," Gerner says. "You see which member of parliament is sitting there, but you can walk by and pretend you didn't." Because Turks would rather eat outside when they can, the Prime opens to the smaller building's roof terrace, complete with a lap pool fit for a pasha.
Bathing, Eastern and Western, likewise dominates the main building's 85 standard rooms and five penthouse suites. Besides Gerner's meditation-enhancing color therapy, the bathrooms offer soaking tubs, rain showers, steam baths, and "hammam corners" with built-in basins and heated stools in gray-veined white marble. "Most Americans are nervous about going to a hammam, because we don't know culturally how to deal with it," he says. "If you have one in your own room, you can experience it in the privacy you're used to." He enclosed almost all the wet-rooms in channel glass, so they're the first thing guests notice when they arrive.
They step back into the past when they continue through an archway, into the sleeping area. Here, Gerner installed salvaged hickory floorboards, applied tinted, textured plaster to the walls, restored ceiling moldings, and hung chandeliers based on a 19th-century gas fixture found in a bazaar in the Old City. Atmospheric 1950's photographs show the Golden Horn, the Asian shoreline, or the minarets of the Süleymaniye Mosque—all of which might be on a Park Hyatt guest's tourist agenda. After a long soak in the tub.
Project Team Bryan Bennett (Project Interior Designer); Beril Demircioglu (Project Architect); Riana Pizzi: Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects. Bodart: Architect of Record. Özer Ali Önkal: Field Architect. Johnson Light Studio: Lighting Consultant. Trafo-Mimarlar: Landscaping Consultant. Altinsoy: Structural Engineer. Genel Mühendislik: Mechanical Engineer. As Mobilya Dekorasyon; Elegan Group: Woodwork, Custom Furniture. Aykar Teknoloji: Electrical Contractor. Landscaping Contractor: Cembotanik. General Contractor: Tekin Insaat. Product Sources from front through Garden Life: Furniture (Terraces). Erco: Recessed Ceiling Fixtures (Spa, Lounge, Wine Bar). Koyunlu: Custom Carpet (Lobby, Lounge). Fersa Aydinlatma: Recessed Ceiling, Floor Fixtures, Track Lighting (Lobby), Stair Lights, Chandeliers, Lamps (Lounge), Lamps (Guest Room), Sconces (Guest Rooms, Suite), Pendant Fixture (Suite), Lamps (Spa). Novum Structures: Custom Skylight (Lobby), Custom Canopy (Main Terrace). Duravit: Tub (Bathroom). Dornbracht: Tub Fittings. Glashütte Lamberts Waldsassen: Partition Panels. Sabco: Floor Tile. MDC Wallcoverings: Wall Covering (Suite). Ebony and Co: Flooring. Terzani: Globe Fixtures (Main Terrace). Through Depe: Awning Fabric. Throughout Granit Center: Stone Supplier.
Photography by Eric Laignel.