After designing a long series of residences and boutique hotels, along with Philippe Starck, John Pawson, Herzog&DeMeuron, Yabu Pushelberg and others, seminal works that revolutionised the hotel sector over the years, such as Royalton, the Hudson, New York's Gramercy Park Hotel or the Delano in Miami, Anda Andrei has been working for iStar for the last two years on the entire Ashbury Park regeneration project, a urban centre on the coast of New Jersey, a challenging restoration plan that will involve 10 years of design and development. From being Ian Schrager's design director, with a fundamental role of artistic direction halfway between client and interior designer, continuously and successfully maintained for 29 years, in 2014 he became Chairman of Anda Andrei Design LLC. The 11 Howard hotel in SoHo, the Norm, the Brooklyn Museum’s restaurant, and the Ashbury Hotel were the outcome of just two years of this new life and adventure in the United States, where he arrived in 1982 after leaving Romania, his country of birth.
Let’s start with definitions, what does a boutique hotel mean for you?
The meaning has changed a lot over the years. Thirty years ago, it simply meant a small hotel but now it can be considered to be a hotel with its own, unmistakeable identity that does not form part of the major international chains.
How has the way of designing places for hospitality changed over those years?
It has changed a great deal and is continuously evolving, always seeking to push the limits and boundaries to offer guests, even if only for a couple of days, not only a place to stay but a satisfying, engaging experience. For some years, hotel design has displayed new freedom in design, expressed with inventiveness and imagination, especially in collective spaces, always undergoing change, creative and multifunctional.
Like those created by you and the designers of the Bonetti Kozerski Studio in the new Ashbury Hotel, in the city of Ashbury Park on Jersey Shore.
Yes, we sought a new interpretation of the common areas as social hubs, firstly because the hotel is the first part of a regeneration plan for an entire residential centre and must become the new centre of attraction for residents. Moreover, as the only hotel in the area, we had no competition or reference points. We allowed ourselves to be inspired by the maritime, holiday environment and were very free in including collective areas, even oversized with regard to the forecast number of guests, in order to allow many different activities, from games to music and relaxation, in company or alone.
Does freedom in design correspond to greater comfort for those who use the spaces?
Sometimes, the design has the upper hand, when designing an object or a space implies that the people who use them behave in a certain way. In reality, it should be the other way round. So, for example, in the grand lobby of the Ashbury, we wanted people to behave exactly as they wanted. So the furniture does not have fixed, pre-established positions, it does not impose a certain seating position, nearly everything can be moved and used on the basis of the various activities conducted in the different parts of the lobby. We have sought to ensure that the function flows through the design, not the other way round.
Creating a space but also an atmosphere inside the space is perhaps the most difficult thing to do when imagining how places should be.
As in the residences, so more and more in hotels, it is not simply inventing and designing a functional space but also the atmosphere that characterises it.
Exactly, in the 11 Howard Hotel we did not want a self-regarding or narcissistic design, which would stand out too much in one of the last authentic streets typical of SoHo. Instead, we sought the atmosphere and meaning of a quasi-domestic place, connected to the urban and social context, and that would, above all, be ageless, like many places in New York that stay the same for years, beyond the trends that also permeate interior design, which are always much-loved and contemporary.
I don’t believe that the design of spaces has to follow fashion, I think it should be more timeless, both spaces and the materials acquire beauty with the passage of time and must not be changed every five years to pander to the latest style.
In the 11 Howard, the relationship with art is important, given the fact the owner is an art collector. Many boutique or design hotels now include art in the design.
With the 11 Howard Hotel, we were fortunate to have Aby Rosen as our client, a great collector, however the art was successfully integrated in the overall design. I think artists can play an important role in creating the spaces and atmospheres because they are always interested in questions concerning society, behaviour and politics. However, in some cases, the inclusion of works of art in the design of hotels risks becoming forced and upsetting the balance and harmony.
Portrait credit: ©Brigitte Lacombe
Other photographs: Nikolas Koenig