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8th June 2017

Zander K: the hotel for a rainy stay

Blue Pearl wanted to dance naked in it, Travis wondered why it always fell on them and Tina Turner couldn’t stand it on her windowpane. People respond to the rain in different ways; some love it; some hate it, and some – notably Claesson Koivisto Rune, the architects and designers responsible for newly opened Bergen hotel Zander K  – use it for design inspiration.

In Bergen, which experiences 266 days of rainfall a year, rain is a fact of everyday life. But for them, it’s no reason to be downhearted – a soggier-than-usual climate is just the price you pay for all that lush woodland, the beautiful mountain backdrop, and the spectacular fjord-filled coastline, after all.

So, when it came to developing a design motif for the hotel – the most modern-minded design retreat in the city – the architects simply stepped outside and drew on the obvious. Own your flaws, as they say.

Rain permeates every corner of the hotel (thankfully, not literally – the roof’s entirely weatherproof). You find it in the storm-cloud artworks by Swedish illustrator Jesper Waldersten that appear on the walls in the lobby. You see it in the natural blue-grey tones of the interiors palette. You read about it in the hotel postcards on the front desk, which bear wry musings on the weather: ‘Some people walk in the rain. Others just get wet’. And, in those moments when the clouds disperse and the sun shines through (actually more common that Bergen’s reputation would suggest), you can pull across Claesson Koivisto Rune’s rainfall-patterned curtains and create the illusion of a downpour. 

So why bring what many people might consider a tourist turn-off into the bedroom? Zander K architect Eero Koivisto has a simple answer: ‘Bergen is world famous for its yearly rainfall – you almost expect it to rain when visiting. The truth is that even if it rains often, it’s usually for a very short time. There’s a lot of sun as well. We thought that by embracing this well-known fact we would introduce a unique angle to the project. Honestly, what’s nicer than being inside a cosy hotel with a glass of red wine in your hand, while looking at the rain outdoors?’
The result is a playful design touch that feels entirely right for Bergen – a city that, despite its world-leading creative culture and jaw-dropping scenery, is in Norway, and therefore modest to the point of self-deprecation.

This endearingly self-effacing attitude is something echoed in the architecture, too. In the hands of another architect, in another the city, the vast, 249-room new-build expanse of Zander K might be contained within a towering, look-at-me building that dominates the streetscape. In Bergen, with Claesson Koivisto Rune, it’s cunningly hidden behind a three-part façade that hides its scale and blends into the street.

‘We wanted the hotel to feel like Bergen,’ says Koivisto: ‘Friendly, modern and somewhat modest in scale. The hotel is located in three visually different but, in reality, fully connected buildings. More or less only the façades of the old buildings were kept, with two new extra floors discreetly added on top; most of the interior is newly built. But instead of making it look like one big building, we opted to visually downscale it into three smaller volumes to suit the Bergen streetscape. We really like the fact that the hotel appears much smaller than it actually is. It’s the opposite of most new hotels.’

Zander K is one of five hotels in the De Bergenske family of central-Bergen city stays (along with Villa Terminus, which we featured back in March). We strongly recommend you visit – don’t worry, they have umbrellas.

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De Beauvoir Block
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