Hospitality

Beauty sleep?

When Patricia Urquiola was tasked with creating the first new hotel on Lake Como for years, she knew she had to get it right. She tells Magali Robathan how Il Sereno took shape


Read on turning pages | Download PDF | sign up to CLAD

Opened in August 2016 but with its official opening this season, Il Sereno Lago di Como is a contemporary hotel designed by Patricia Urquiola on the banks of Italy’s Lake Como.

Built on top of an old arched stone boathouse, the 30 room property is the first hotel to be built on the shores of Lake Como in Italy for decades, according to hospitality group Sereno Hotels.

Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola was involved with all aspects of the design at Il Sereno, including the architecture, interiors, furniture design, and the design of the staff uniform and private boats used to transport guests.

The hotel’s location is a popular beauty spot, drawing tourists with its dramatic vistas of the southern Italian Alps and idyllic small towns. George Clooney, Madonna and Donatella Versace have all bought properties on the lake.

Il Sereno Lago is an all-suite hotel, with each of the 30 guest rooms coming with its own furnished terrace and lake views. It features a private beach, an infinity pool, vertical botanical gardens by French botanist Patrick Blanc and a restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Andrea Berton.

One of the focal points of the hotel is a dramatic stairwell designed by Urquiola. Made from natural materials, including walnut, the steps are encased in bronze and are designed to appear as if they are floating.

The use of wood is intended to complement the stone and marble walls found throughout the hotel, including in the Ristorante Berton – which uses the same local stone used in the façade of the hotel for the restaurant tables.

Other amenities include a 60ft lakefront freshwater infinity pool, a small beach with direct access to the lake, and gardens featuring hidden passageways leading to the nearby Villa Pliniana, where Sereno Hotels recently opened another property on Lake Como.

Urquiola collaborated with Patrick Blanc on Il Sereno Lago’s green spaces. Blanc has created three distinct pieces in one setting; two vertical gardens and one green sculpture.

The most striking, ‘Le Mirroir Vert du Lac’, features more than 2,000 plant types and was inspired by the colours and movement of the water. Covering the main façade, the garden is visible to visitors from across the lake.

Patricia Urquiola

How and when did you get involved with Hotel Il Sereno?
I met the owner of Il Sereno, Luis Contreras, during a trip to the United States. He expressed a desire to open a hotel on Lake Como, and asked for my involvement.

The vision was to create a contemporary hotel in contrast with the classical designs found surrounding Lake Como. We envisioned designing every facet of the hotel, from the architecture to the interior design, which includes custom furniture, rugs, wall coverings, lamps, bathtubs and bathroom fixtures.

Why did this project appeal to you?
Nothing had been built on Lake Como for many years, and I was attracted by the idea of creating something new there. I wanted to create a contemporary sanctuary with timeless elegance where people could live and be absorbed by the atmosphere. I wanted them to be cocooned by the landscape.

How did the location of the hotel and the history of the area influence the design?
The design was inspired by the rationalism of the nearby Casa del Fascio [a municipal building designed by rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni].

The Terragni building gave us the idea of modularity for the hotel; a way to design individual rooms that also interact as a whole.

I was inspired by the colour of the lake, its glistening water, and the nature of the dramatic mountains. The hotel utilises the water, sky, and mountains, and allows guests to interact with the environment as they wish.

What was the biggest challenge of the project?
We wanted to seamlessly integrate the modern comforts of a luxury hotel, while respecting the natural and historic surroundings of Lake Como. Research was conducted to ensure the building fully respects the environment. Il Sereno has obtained Climate House certification, thanks to the materials, energy saving system and the lighting chosen.

What are you proudest of with this project?
Il Sereno is a complete project. Everything from the architecture to the smallest detail was designed to create a true oasis of peace, a haven for relaxation and privacy. All of these elements have a very strong connection with the location; the importance of the prevailing character or atmosphere of the place.

What's the most unusual feature of the hotel?
The fact that guests can interact with the environment as they please, through features such as adjustable wooden panels added to the façade allowing for the entrance or shielding of sunlight.

Another unique feature is the old darsena (boathouse) that’s been converted into the new spa. It was important for me to use some of the historic features.

Can you tell us about the staircase?
The hotel features a vast staircase that connects the ground floor to the lower level. It's made of a metal grid of tropicalised copper tubes with steps in walnut that give the idea of being suspended. Again the lake and the mountains remain visible from the inside, enabling guests to have constant contact with nature.

How do you want the hotel to make people feel?
I want people to feel completely absorbed by the atmosphere and to have all the things they need to live and feel embraced by the landscape. I want guests to feel connected with the environment, and to experience a peaceful refuge.

Have you achieved what you set out to achieve with this project?
I think so, yes! I wanted to create a place where guests can see the lake at all times in the hotel, and I wanted the materials and colours chosen for the hotel to continue the environmental theme.

How would you sum up your philosophy when it comes to design?
My design philosophy is to enter into deep empathy with the companies I work with, to understand the users’ needs and to interpret these ideas.

The concept of empathy is very important to me. Only if my ideas of how to develop a certain project – which could be a hotel, a sofa or any other object – are interesting for my client, do I know I am on the right track. The clients for whom I work know this and understand its value.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration in my everyday life, just walking around my neighbourhood in Milan.

I consider myself lucky because I travel very often both for work and for pleasure. My travels inspire me, and also allow me to meet interesting people who teach me many things.

Also by Patricia Urquiola...DAS STUE

Berlin, Germany

Das Stue is a boutique hotel that represents the shift towards modern grandeur in the new, old west in Berlin. We wanted to create a space where people can relax, socialise, entertain, and discuss; a ‘drawing room’ of sorts. My favorite parts of the hotel are the common rooms, because this is where the exchange of ideas and creativity are born

• Originally designed by German architect Johann Emil Schaudt, the 1930s building that now houses Das Stue was formerly Berlin’s Royal Danish Embassy.

• Opened as a hotel in December 2012 following a renovation and the addition of a new wing by Potsdam practice Axthelm Architekten, Das Stue has 78 rooms, a spa, an indoor pool, two restaurants and a bar.

• Patricia Urquiola was responsible for the interiors, which feature dramatic public spaces including the grand lobby with its restored staircase and impressive artworks, and the classic, calming bar. The hotel sits next to Berlin’s zoo, and has a private entrance so that guests can visit the attraction directly from the hotel, as well as views across the animal enclosures and the Tiergarten beyond.

Das Stue’s courtyard garden
Das Stue’s courtyard garden
Artworks remind guests of their proximity to Berlin Zoo, including two gorillas made of chicken wire by artist Benedetta Mori
Artworks remind guests of their proximity to Berlin Zoo, including two gorillas made of chicken wire by artist Benedetta Mori
The entrance features two staircases and a crocodile-head sculpture by Paris-based artist Quentin Garel. This open space contrasts with darker, more intimate areas in the reception
The entrance features two staircases and a crocodile-head sculpture by Paris-based artist Quentin Garel. This open space contrasts with darker, more intimate areas in the reception
Darker, more intimate areas in the reception
Darker, more intimate areas in the reception
Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
latest jobs
company profile
Company profile: FORREC Ltd
FORREC is an entertainment design company that creates places of escape and destinations of distinction. Our creative house leads in the design of theme parks, waterparks, mixed-use and entertainment developments, resorts and visitor attractions globally.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The Vault Door leads to The Ned’s members’ club, housed in the former bank strongroom
Lund has worked as a designer for Soho House since 2014. She co-led the design of The Ned
"My favourite part of the building is the original bank vault, in the belly of the building. It once stored gold bullion deposits of £335m"

On the challenges of creating The Ned

A bronze mesh allows sound energy to reach the hall’s walls, improving the acoustics
"It’s a privilege to have completed a scheme of such importance to the cultural identity of Antwerp - Stuart Mills"

SimsponHaugh’s latest project

Ratti’s floating plaza will incorporate a range of public facilities
"You could have cultural events and museums that go from city to city. It’s a new way of thinking"

Rising sea levels and a shortage of land are leading to increased interest in floating buildings. We take a look at some fascinating projects

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Clarity
"We want to create the illusion that guests are entering another world when they arrive at the resort"

An Icelandic spa retreat inspired by surrealist folk tales

West 8 helped to design an ‘Art Park’ for the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong
Adriaan Geuze
"The profile of landscape architecture has been raised by international cities competing with one another"

How the West 8 founder is using the healing power of nature on a Korean site with a turbulent history

The Fangshan Tangshan Museum
Decq has been recognised for raising the profile of women in architecture
"Things have improved, but not enough"

On women in architecture

features
"Whenever you’re looking at it, the elevation is running away from you, so it never looks quite as big as it really is "

FaulknerBrowns’ Dutch sports facility

Three raised white stone volumes will be constructed
Theoni Xanthi Partner XZA Architects
"The design concept is to create a museum that evokes a transition in time, in space, in memory"

The vision for the New Cyprus Musuem

cladkit product news
Kvorning wins contest to design aquaculture exhibit at Norway's Coastal Museum
The exhibition explores the history of Norway's fish-farming industry dating back to 1970
Lauren Heath-Jones
Copenhagen-based design studio Kvorning Design and Norwegian advertising agency Vindfang have won a competition, organised by Museums in Sør Trøndelag ...
Hotel Crescent Court opens new spa following multi-million-dollar renovation
Hotel Crescent Court has reopened its spa after a multi-million dollar refurbishment
Lauren Heath-Jones
Hotel Crescent Court, a luxury hotel in Dallas, Texas, has reopened its spa and fitness centre after completing a multi-million-dollar ...
Empex Watertoys partners with Singapore architecture firm on new splash park
Buds is a new splash park that caters to children aged 12 and under
Lauren Heath-Jones
Empex Watertoys has partnered with Singapore landscape architecture firm Playpoint Singapore Pte to create Buds, an exciting new splash park ...
cladkit product news
Dornbracht debuts Rainmoon wellness shower concept at  Salone del Mobile
Rainmoon is a multi-sensory wellness experience designed to revitalise and reinvigorate the user
Lauren Heath-Jones
Dornbracht, a German-based luxury bathroom specialist, has launched an innovative new shower experience, Rainmoon. Slated as the next generation of ...
Bright Buildings to create UK's first 'open sky' swimming pool
Bright Buildings will create the retractable roof for the Open Sky pool at Ivybridge Leisure Centre
Lauren Heath-Jones
Leisure operator Fusion Lifestyle has announced that it will invest millions of pounds over the course of the next three ...
Parkside opens flagship Chelsea showroom
The showroom is designed to inspire its clients
Lauren Heath-Jones
Parkside, a designer of contemporary porcelain and ceramic tiles, has opened its first showroom in the UK. Located in Chelsea ...
cladkit product news
Ben van Berkel launches UNSense startup to boost health and wellbeing in built environments
Kim Megson
Dutch architect Ben van Berkel and his design firm UNStudio have launched a tech startup to “improve the health and ...
London's new pollution-eating living wall has air purifying power of 275 trees
CityTree is a living wall that reduces particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in the air by 30 per cent
Lauren Heath-Jones
The Crown Estate, a London-based commercial real estate company, has partnered with Westminster City Council and cleantech specialist Evergen Systems ...