Venetians established a string of fortified ports along the Adriatic coast to protect their trade routes to Byzantium; today, those harbors are full of gleaming pleasure boats. The sleek white decks of a luxury yacht inspired 3LHD’s design for the Lone, Croatia’s first design hotel, located in a forest preserve near the Istrian town of Rovinj. The Y-plan building recalls the 1950s in its tapered planes: a vision for the dawn of the jet age that Eero Saarinen would have applauded. But, for all its exuberance of form, it’s as rigorous in its organization as the rational cellular blocks of the post-war years that are scattered along the Dalmatian coast. That decade marked the end of a golden age of travel when grand hotels were built for a privileged few. Now, tour groups shuffle from their buses into vast caravanseries as formulaic and uninspiring as shopping malls. Luxury is equated with ersatz historicism, while progressive designers focus on boutique hotels, remodeling cramped interiors to provide an overpriced statement of hipness. The Hotel Lone is a glorious exception to this decline, perhaps because it was commissioned by a tobacco company uncontaminated by the conventional wisdom of a chain. It’s sited on a slope to maximize views of nature, cleverly blocking off the two vintage modern hotels that flank it. Everything is laid out on a generous scale, from the forecourt to the six-story skylit atrium that links the expansive reception area to the two public floors below and three upper levels of guest rooms. The architectural language is consistent throughout, and the curved balustrades around the atrium echo those on the exterior. The architects collaborated with artists and designers to showcase the best of Croatian creativity. Ivana Franke designed Room for Running Ghosts, a tensegrity construction of aluminum tubes that hovers within the atrium. Numen/For Use designed or selected the furniture and their new pieces will be made available to the public. Silvio Vujicic created the guest-room graphics: backlit cotton panels printed with designs that were inspired by C15 frescoes of draperies. A meticulous attention to detail and an overarching control of materials and palette makes the Hotel Lone a total work of art, as dynamic as it is original. To achieve this in a 250-room hotel with three restaurants, a spa and a conference center is a rare achievement, and it demonstrates the potential of 3LHD to make their mark beyond Croatia.
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