One Night in Paris
At L/B's Hotel Everland, contemporary art comes with room service
Seth Sherwood -- Interior Design, 4/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
From glittery five-star palaces to sketchy rock-bottom flophouses, hotels around the world basically conform to the same mold: a building with a lobby, a reception area, and floors of rooms filled with beds and televisions. Travelers make reservations, arrive, and unpack in a predictable rhythm. Few of them, it's safe to say, check into a Four Seasons or a Motel 6 for a deep philosophical reason or with the hope of challenging received ideas about art, public spaces, or the hospitality industry.
For those rare travelers seeking a mix of bold design, exquisite comfort, and cerebral stimulation, the Hotel Everland answers the call. Conceived by artists Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann, who work together as L/B, the Everland playfully demolishes nearly every convention of the hotel business. There's no lobby, no reception desk, no fixed location, and only one guest room, a trailer-size structure. It currently resides in Paris—on the roof of the Palais de Tokyo, the envelope-pushing contemporary-art museum.
Intentionally lacking curtains or blinds of any kind, the Everland "welcomes the city to come in and be part of the room," Lang explains. And that's just one of the traditional boundaries that the project playfully blurs. Its colorful, curvaceous interior—largely carpeted—is one long, flowing 365-square-foot space where nearly every edge is rounded and smooth. The lounge, featuring beige upholstered banquettes, slides seamlessly into a plush blue sleeping area, which then merges into an even bluer mosaic-tiled bathroom outfitted with fluffy monogrammed towels and Kiehl's aloe vera and oatmeal body lotion. "You can jump from the bed into the tub," Lang adds. "You can sit down almost anywhere."
The futuristic effect suggests the year 3000 as imagined during the Lyndon Johnson administration. "We really adore the design of the 1960's and 1970's because of its utopian point of view," Baumann says. Time-capsule touches include a decades-old record player, and vintage LPs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, and Serge Gainsbourg provide the sound track. Baumann describes the combination as the perfect antidote to today's standardized hotels: "Even in quite expensive ones, you often have this imaginative poverty."
Setting a new standard for originality is the Everland's reservation policy. Unlike the 24-hour staffs and Web sites for most hotels, this online booking system opens at a random time each day and stays open only until the room is taken. More unusual still, anyone lucky enough to log on during the magic window is obliged to reserve for exactly 60 days ahead, and the stay is limited to a single night. (People hoping to visit Paris after December 31, moreover, will find themselves disappointed. The Everland is leaving the Palais de Tokyo, and the next destination has yet to be announced.)
While would-be guests may find the system rather challenging—truly redefining the term transient hotel—Lang and Baumann consider the ephemerality fundamental as well as fun. "We like the idea that you don't travel to the hotel. The hotel travels, and you follow it," Baumann says. "It's a project with a limited duration, like an exhibition."
And therein lies the ultimate question. Is the Everland a hotel with ambitions to be a work of art? Or an artwork masquerading as tourist accommodations? Furthermore, if it's a work of art, are you, the overnight guest, a mere observer? Or somehow one of the creators? The more time you spend inside, the more such distinctions break down and flow into one another, like the zones of the interior itself. Through the window, the massive and illuminated Eiffel Tower—an inhabited structure that's also an aesthetic masterwork—reflects the questions back at you.
True, at 333 euros a night, 444 on weekends, these intellectual and aesthetic puzzles don't come cheap. If they become too much to handle, the Everland offers a form of solace: a minibar fully stocked with Kronenbourg and Veuve Clicquot.