Set in the historic university town of Göttingen, Germany, it would have been a no-brainer for a hotelier like Georg Rosentreter to direct his design team to study up on academic inspiration and then close the book on any further aesthetic investigation. But that kind of too-literal thinking wouldn’t have earned a passing grade from Rosentreter or Freigeist Lifestyle Hotels cofounder Carl Graf von Hardenberg. Instead, Rosentreter worked with designer and artist Frank Kassner to craft an 118-room property in the heart of the city that mixes Nordic and Asian elements with Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired art to bend and blend cultural cues and redefine what it means to be local.
These sensibilities are put to the test in small, interconnected spaces on the main floor. No focal tables; no daunting reception desk; no overpowering chandelier. Architecture firm Ahrens & Grabenhorst found the upside in this smallish site. They sidestepped the trend toward breezy open-plan lobbies and embraced a series of smaller spaces that allow for more glimpses of what lies beyond, tempting voyeurs to explore each area. Think home, not hotel, says Rosentreter. “There is no classic lobby but rather a meeting point for all guests where they can enjoy a drink, a good book or get some work done,” he says of this Design Hotels member. “We wanted a direct connection between the reception, the bar and restaurant.”
He and Kassner also looked for a way to create a sense of spaciousness without losing that intimacy. That meant a sky’s-the-limit approach to the tall, tight spaces. Using height to their advantage, the designers layered found objects from floor to ceiling to create focal points and breathing room. The rich mix of a lighting program that ranges from understated floor lamps to black and copper pendant fixtures draw attention to the art and illuminate guests in an intimate setting. Kassner’s Basquiat-inspired paintings are the tie that binds this all together. Rosentreter says, “Basquiat’s paintings are thought-provoking and they inspired us to rethink and recognize more than just the obvious. The art is integrated into the entire interior design, but should not be an exclusive focus. It serves more as an inspiration for exchange rather than an obligatory distraction.”
Mismatched custom furnishings in copper, beige and blue, coupled with tables of varying surfaces and materials, and blue velvet draperies on the floor to ceiling windows, complement the art and invite guests to choose seating or settings that reflect their mood or their need to work, relax, socialize or just grab a coffee. To keep costs in line on the custom furnishings, he worked directly with manufacturers and combined purchasing for several hotels at once.
Scandinavian sensibilities are the starting point for the overall design. “Oak floorboards and ash timber are both regional materials, creating a link to the green spaces and at the same time support the Nordic design,” he says. But, like the city around it, Freigeist doesn’t have to be a single demographic. That Scandinavian aesthetic takes a multicultural twist in the Japanese-South American restaurant and sushi bar, Intuu. Antique Indonesian wooden paddles and Chinese Ming bowls reside adjacent to a wall covered in colorful Moroccan tiles in the open kitchen, and a large 0rigami-like light fixture hovers above the clean lines and shapes of the FF&E in the dining room. “The antiques support the Asiatic style, while the other artifacts represent an openness in the Intuu kitchen,” Rosentreter adds.
The flow of natural materials transitions from warm wood to cool surfacing in the form of the Moroccan stone floors that wind through the public spaces and lead guests to the Herbarium Bar. Living greenery is front and center, thanks to the eye-catching vertical herb garden behind the bar. Here is where form meets function—bartenders infuse the herbs into their cocktail creations. This also bridges local influences from Göttingen’s old botanical garden with Rosentreter’s multi-cultural concept. He collaborated with Drinksology, the studio behind the design of Dead Rabbit and BlackTail in New York, which were both selected for inclusion in the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2017 (William Reed Business Media), to devise herbal-infused gins and help lend a certain street cred to the space for locals and guests alike.
The multi-cultural main floor aesthetic gets pared down on the upper floors. Wood panels identical to those used in the lounge are integrated into guestroom headboards with adjustable copper reading lights; custom-made wardrobes resemble a retro-refrigerator, and floor to ceiling windows and oak floors create continuity from public to private areas but glow in softer tones so guests can unwind and unplug. The design is also simplified in the fourth floor spa and workout area that includes a “Fatboy” relaxation lounge and a 984 square ft. rooftop terrace.
Combining Nordic and Asian sensibilities with graffiti at first sounds about as appetizing as eating a Swedish meatball with octopus sushi in an alley. But, Rosentreter and Kassner sourced the perfect pairings to make Hotel Freigeist a cultural hotspot in the academic sector. “I’m helping to change Göttingen into a standalone destination worth visiting.”
Freigeist Göttingen GmbH & Co. KG.
co-owned by Georg Rosentreter and Carl Graf von Hardenberg
Freigeist Lifestyle Hotels
Freigeist Lifestyle Hotels: Georg Rosentreter, head and managing partner
Ahrens & Grabenhorst
EBR Projektentwicklung GmbH
Patrik Wolters, aka BeNeR1
NTS Tischlerei Linden GmbH
Santa & Cole