Interior design and furniture in hotel complexes of Greek Modernity (1950-1970) and its influence on contemporary architectural proposals.  The case of the architectural competition Room 18

 

DIMITRIS MARNELLOS

Department of Interior Architecture, Decorative Arts and Design, Technological Educational Institute of Athens

 

 

ABSTRACT

   During the period that Greek modernity was at its peak (1950-1970), a series of hotels were built in Greece, amongst them many XENIA hotels through the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).   In addition to the clear architectural perception of the elements used in constructing these complexes and facilities, particular attention was given to the interior in terms of both its design and furniture.  The designing quality of furniture became a reference point for architects in terms of design, materials and technology of its time.  A design fully in line with the aesthetics and principles of  Modernism. New elements were used for the interior design with features such as, materials, textures, surface processing and colors that mirrored the main design trends of the time under consideration.  Furniture and Space of that era, are found by modern scholars to have an advanced level of material and finishing process, due to the technological evolution. The basic characteristics of this concept are used unchanged or practically unchanged with no intention of imitation but with the aim of implementing the basic idea of interior design.

  What is being sought to emerge from this lecture is that interior and furniture design in hotel complexes during the Greek modernity period has greatly influenced and is continuing to influence contemporary professionals when creating new proposals for hotel facilities.   Case studies, pertaining to the interior and furniture of hotel facilities built from 1950 to 1970, will be used as a mean of proving this influence.  To present the contemporary proposals we will use Architectural Designs that have been awarded in the Pan European Design Competition “Room 18”[1]   held in 2016, asking for the design of a typical hotel room 18-24m2 (This competition was a program for the exploration of the architecture of hospitality today with a view to re-thinking and the generation of ideas which will revise the current givens in the tourism sector).

These contemporary proposals bear decisive elements from the cases mentioned above as far as interior design and, mainly, furniture is concerned.  The goal here is to show that the period from 1950-1970 continues, after decades, to greatly influence the modern hospitality architecture and furniture design thus proving its plenitude and its continuous contribution.

Key Words: Greek Modernism, Furniture Design, Interior Design, Xenia Hotels,  Room 18.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

  In the beginning of the 1960s Greece experienced tourism boom and the tourist began flocking from all corners of the globe[2] (Figure 1). During this period significant hotel complexes where implemented, with architects such as Ioannis Triandafyllidis, Aris Konstantinidis. A. Konstantinidis, as the head of the Greek Tourism Organization's study department, brings to fruition a series of hotel facilities in Greece (Xenia)• and although his work does not  move away from the modern movement, simultaneously depicts a locality and uniqueness without any scenographic slips[3] (Figure 2,3).

Figures 1,2,3: Left-Journal “ΕΙΚΟΝΕΣ”, June 1964, magazine cover, source: http://parallaximag.gr/parallax-view/touristikes-egkatastasis-stin-ella. Center, Right- posters ΕΟΤ, source: http://parallaximag.gr/parallax-view/touristikes-egkatastasis-stin-ella

 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, buildings by the above-mentioned architects and other architect specializing in hotel complexes, where noted as milestones in the history of Greek Architecture. This observation does not focus so much on the interior design and furnishing but rather on the building-shell itself as it should, since these are important components of the unbreakable unity of the whole. This overall approach resulted in the design and production of new furniture styles that follow the architectural synthesis of the hotel complexes and the aesthetic choices of the architecture they express, establishing design principles that have been occupying the researchers' minds up till now. These furniture styles are constantly being reproduced and evolving (Figure 4).

The strong relationship developed by the architects through their entire work, both the building and the interior, the materials and especially the furnishing, becomes apparent. Today, interior and furniture design is an important field of study as it shapes the lifestyle and the quality of life, leading them to primary elements[4] (Figure 5).

 

Figures 4, 5:  Left – Interiors– Xenia ofMykonos. Right-Xenia of Mykonos, architect: A. Konstantinidis, source: journal “Arhitektoniki” 1960 ; yr. Δ', is. 22-23p. 92-99.

 

 

THE FURNITURE AND ROOM OF ‘XENIA’ HOTELS

In the study of the 'Xenia' hotels, the hoped-for result was the standardization[5] for financial and technical reasons, such as fast efficiency and mass production. In the effort to keep costs low, a rational construction system was applied to almost all Xenia hotels, consisting of a reinforced concrete frame. This reinforced concrete frame includes a construction that holds up: columns- beams- slabs and a construction that is held up: brick walls, stone and glazing that fill the gaps between the framework columns (Figure 6).

Figures 6,7: Right- Xenia of Mykonos. ArchitectA. Konstantinidis, left-Standardization in hotels Xenia, wings for rooms, source: Konstantinidis A, 1981. Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed. and A. Konstantinidis, p.218.

 

The framework that holds up is evident almost always and everywhere and stands out from the elements that cover the construction. The furnishing of these areas is along these lines, i.e. it conforms to this grid, using its aliquots, and is "shaped" inside the spaces with the corresponding variation of their dimensions and the needs they serve (Figure 7).

Field of search, exploration and experimentation are also the "new" industrial materials for the manner they will be used. Lights of this, A. Konstantinidis summarizes what architecture should or should not be: pure, not impressing or dominating, embracing man and serving him in all his functional and spiritual needs, it is beautiful when it overpowers the materials it uses without distorting its characteristic features and without deforming them with decorative add-ons, it is not to be messed around with by aesthetic pursuits, it does not speak of monuments or put on a play, nor does it create scenographies[6]. In a "new" or "modern" building and, accordingly, furniture, we simply should not distinguish the concerns and quests of the cubism-expressionism, for the building should acquire its substance through its legible constructive structure rather than having its form based on lining, coating or upholstery fabric, if it is a piece of furniture, that covers everything indiscriminately[7]. (Figure 8, 9) 

 

Figures 8,9: Left-Xenia of Mesologi, architect I. Triandafilidis,  source: http://room18.gr/excursus/. Right- Xenia of Poros architect A. Konstantinidis, source: http://snobberyfields.blogspot.gr/2013/03/xenia-hotels-we-were-once-modern.html.

 

The logic behind the design and construction of the "Xenia" interiors follows the synthesis of the building itself with the logic behind the grid and the framework that holds up and the other elements that are held up. (Figure 10, 11)

A perfect example of this standard model is the room (Xenia of Kalambaka, Paliouri, Poros, Olympia) that follows the grid 4x6 (24m2) and draws into this construction all logic behind the arrangement of all the sub-spaces and all the furniture placed inside. The pieces of furniture that make up the typical double room are: the beds with the bedside tables, the seat-stool, the small coffee table, armchair  and a specially designed adjoining system that includes a "wardrobe", luggage space and desk- dresser.

 

Figure 10,11: Standardised bedroom in Xenia hotels, architect: A. Konstantinidis, source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed. and A. Konstantinidis.

 

This synthesis-system contains the whole basic concept of design, is consistent with the logic behind the structure that hold up  everything and the element that held up, and creates styles and syntheses ahead of their time. It consists of a metal framework and all pieces that form the storage areas, providing the possibility of "infinite" linear development. (Figure 12,13,14)

 

Figure 12,13,14: Left, Right- Standardised bedroom in Xenia hotels, architect: A. Konstantinidis, source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed. and A. Konstantinidis. Center-Theo-Xenia of Andritsaina, Wardrobe, photo: D. Marnellos (2016).

 

Thus, structure, functionality and simplicity characterize this construction, which is an inventive element in the design of a room and spaces in general, as well as a reference point in contemporary design of similar spaces. All furniture in the room and public rooms were designed accordingly. (Figure 15-29)

 

Figure 15,16,17,18: Above: Left- TheoXenia of Andritsaina, desk-dresser, photo: D. Marnellos (2016)., Right: Furniture designs, source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed and A. Konstantinidis. Below: Left- TheoXenia of Andritsaina, bedside table, photo: D. Marnellos (2016). Right: TheoXenia of Andritsaina,  Luggage table, photo: D. Marnellos (2016).

 

Figure 19,20,21,22: Above: Left- Furniture designs (stool), source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed and A. Konstantinidis. Right: TheoXenia of Andritsaina, stool, photo: D. Marnellos (2016). Below: Left- Furniture designs (table), source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed and A. Konstantinidis. TheoXenia of Andritsaina, bedside table, photo: D. Marnellos (2016). Right: TheoXenia of Andritsaina,  Luggage table, photo: D. Marnellos (2016).

 

Figure 23,24,25,26: Above: Left- Furniture designs (bed), source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed and A. Konstantinidis. Right: TheoXenia of Andritsaina, bed, photo: D. Marnellos (2016). Below: Left- Furniture designs (coffee-table), source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed and A. Konstantinidis. TheoXenia of Andritsaina, coffee-table, photo: D. Marnellos (2016). Right: TheoXenia of Andritsaina,  Luggage table, photo: D. Marnellos (2016).

 

Figure 27,28,29: Above:  Furniture designs (armchair), source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed and A. Konstantinidis. Below: Left & Right TheoXenia of Andritsaina, armchair, photo: D. Marnellos (2016).

 

 

ROOM 18 CONTEST, FUNCTIONAL AND MORFOLOGIKAL FEATURES OF FURNITURE- CASE STUDY

The Pan-European Room18 Design Contest was held in 2016 and involved designing a typical hotel room 18-24 m2 with 262 entries from 17 countries. Interestingly, it is one of the few, if not the only, architectural competition in Greece for interior space and more specifically for minimal space of a typical hotel room, demonstrating how important interior space and furniture is in hotels and other buildings for accommodation. In many cases, researchers do not give as much emphasis and importance to the interior as they do to the building itself and its constructional details, so the question becomes self-contained and independent from the "engagement" of the shell.

In the contest, awards and commendations[8] were given involving design principles and elements found in the "Xenia" hotels as presented. Through the proposals that stood out of the others and won awards we can see affinity.   

The third award, "The Dream Box"[9] , is based on the standardization witch was the basic feature of every successful hotel design, using a grid as a tool which, hanging from the ceiling as a finished construction, this proposal organizes space according to the logic behind the "Xenia" construction and also the room space arrangement on this grid (Figure 30). Here, it is used as a single element, but it also stands out with its construction on the ceiling.

 

Figures 30: The third award, "The Dream Box", Sara Navazo Saez De Arregui, Edorta Larizgoitia Andueza  , source: http://room18.gr/en/competition/

 

The second award[10], the concept of the linear room 18m2 "borrows" the idea and redefines the image of the wardrobe-furniture system construction in the "Xenia" room in a clear and absolute way (Figure 31).

By placing functions of the room in a somewhat "wardrobe" one meter wide, with linear development and the appropriate ergonomics, user-friendly, it manages to include everything in this linear "inside": useful and functional, furniture.

 

Figures 31: The second award, João Prates Ruivo, source: http://room18.gr/en/competition/

 

The first commendation titled "Hospitable"[11] associated the idea of building an "island" that is hung from the ceiling with a metal framework. It organizes the space and hosts all the room functions on such as "wardrobe" for clothing, lighting etc. but also inside it such as sleeping, bathing etc. (Figure 32). This construction integrates the concept of the element that contains and organizes everything according to the construction of the "Xenia" hotels.

 

Figures 32: The first commendation, Zisis Kotionis, Efthimia Dimitrakopoulou, Aikaterini Kritoy, Nikolaos Platsas, source: http://room18.gr/en/competition/

 

Two proposals received the sixth commendation, one with the title «protocols of a traveler»[12] involves elements belonging to the idea we found in the "Xenia" hotels. Here the traveler moves along and amongst the arranged furniture with its in-line use, the metallic structure is the dominant element that has the role of a wardrobe and also of a partition. (Figure 33)

 

Figures 33: The sixth commendation, Vincent Meyer-Madaus, Zhi Rui Lim, Sebastian Bernardy , source: http://room18.gr/en/competition/

 

Two proposals received the fifth commendation, one of them with the title «Convertible system»[13] brings forth the proposal of the "Xenia" room suggesting a similar "system" which forms the interior appearance of the room and allows it to be expandable and variable. It integrates the basic functions and provides the ability to customize the furnishing according to the user’s needs. This proposal involves something changeable but contains a constant principle (Figure 34) to adhere to the logic of the "Xenia" system with common elements in every aspect: idea, function, material.

Figures 34: The fifth commendation,  Aggeliki Athanasiadou, Katerina Vasilakou, Dhmhtra Ravani, Mara Petra, source: http://room18.gr/en/competition/

 

As we further study the others participating proposals, we discover the "affinity" that appears in many of them with the philosophy of furnishing in general, and with the synthesis-system specifically as analyzed in the "Xenia" room.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Having in mind the basic principles  unity, synthesis, honesty of construction, austerity and functionality, the architects of "Xenia" hotels researched and come to the conclusion that these basic principles are very significant to hotels complexes. Not only are these basic principles used in the exterior of the buildings but also they are a major influence to the interior design, especially in the designing of furniture pieces.

The plan of a typical room in the Xenia complex was the model for the design continuity of the hotel room and this model is still used today (Figure 35).

 

Figure 35: Standardised bedroom in Xenia hotels, architect: A. Konstantinidis, source: Konstantinidis A (1981), Projects + buildings, A. Konstantinidis, Athens: Agra Ed. and A. Konstantinidis.

 

The interior and pieces of furniture are the important elements and these "details", which in addition to, and irrespective of, the details of the building as a shell, concern architects and designers a great deal. It is now imperative to resolve these details and to give them the attention they deserve to a basis more powerful than "fashion" or "commercial", at a level of design ideas and principles. These principles have been established during the period of Greek Modernity through the hotel complexes design and especially through the "Xenia" hotels.

From the modern proposals presented, the efforts of the researchers to redefine and search for authenticity in the interior, as an independent element from the existing shell, are apparent. This "absence" of the shell, however, creates the need for the interior to contain a central concept of design, an idea that gives rise to space and furnishing, an element that overall was inextricably connected to the design during the "Xenia" period.

Once we gather the elements and principles from the heritage of this period, we can see on the one hand its importance witch is demonstrated and on the other hand how its authenticity and novelty are redefined as present it, so that these elements are used again as a tool for space and furniture management in modern terms.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Georgiadou, Ζ.,Marnellos, D., (2016) “Modern cultural heritage. When Greece sought economic reconstruction in tourism: The indoor space in the hospitality facilities”, Lecture for workshop: «ΞΕΝΙΑ-ΦΙΛΟΞΕΝΙΑ».

Georgiadou, Ζ., Frangou, D., Marnellos, D., (2015) ‘Xenia Hotels in Greece: A Holistic Approach to Modern Cultural Heritage’, Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Volume 9, Number 2, pp.130-140.

Iliopoulos, B. (2004), Another way for Art, Ellin.

Iliopoulos, B. (1997), The Form in the Design of Connections, Ion.

Konstantinidis, A. (1981), Project and Buildings, Konstantinidis A., Athens: Agra Ed. & A. Konstantinidis.

Konstantinidis, A. (1992), Experiences and Events - An Autobiographical Narrative (vol. 1,2,3), Estia.

Konstantinidis, A. (1992), The Architecture of the Architecture, Diary Notes, Agra.

Konstantinidis, A. (1992), Contemporary True Architecture, Aris Konstantinidis.

Konstantinidis, A. (1960), Xenia of Mykonos, Journal: “Arhitektoniki” ; yr D', is. 22-23  p. 92-99.

Marnellos, D., Georgiadou, Ζ., Frangou, D.,  (2015) ‘Hotel Furniture in Greek Modernity: “Xenia” and ‘Amalia” Hotels cases, 5th  International Conference on Tourism and Hospitality Management, Journal of Tourism Research, Volume 10, Athens June 2015 Published by: Activities for the Development of Tourism and Tourism Education and Tourism Research Institute, ISSN : 1791-0064.

Parmenides, G. & Charalambidou-Divani, S.,  The Form of the Designed Object, Epikentro.

Pepe, A. (2004), Two Buildings of Modern Architecture “Persecuted”, “Architects” Magazine (Association of University Graduate Architects, SADAS),  pp. 28-29.

Triantafyllidis, I. (1961), ‘Xenia Hotel in Nafplion’, Journal: “Architektoniki”, issue 29, pp. 23-34.

Yiakoumakatos, A. (2003), History of the Greek Architecture: 20th Century, Nephele.

http://room18.gr/en/competition/ (10/05/2017).

 


[1] A Pan-European competition for the design of a typical Greek hotel room. Organization “DOMES” magazine,

  competition 21/04/2016-27/06/2016. Source: http://room18.gr/en/

[2] Konstantinidis, A., Experiences and Events - An Autobiographical  Narrative, Estia, 1992, vol. 1 pp.138-139.

[3] Marnellos, D., Georgiadou, Ζ., Frangou, D., ‘Hotel Furniture in Greek Modernity: “Xenia” and ‘Amalia”

  Hotels cases, Journal of Tourism Research, Volume 10, 2015.

[4] Tzirtzilakis, G., Two or three things I know about Room18, The New Urban Hotel, DOMES Magazine, 2016,

   p.220.

 

[5] Konstantinidis A., The Architecture of the Architecture, Diary Notes, Agra, 1992 pp. 81-82.

 

[6] Ibid, p. 173.

[7] Konstantinidis A., Contemporary True Architecture, Aris Konstantinidis, 1992, p. 24.

 

[8] http://room18.gr/en/competition/

[9] Sara Navazo Saez De Arregui, Edorta Larizgoitia Andueza

[10] João Prates Ruivo

[11] Zisis Kotionis, Efthimia Dimitrakopoulou, Aikaterini Kritoy, Nikolaos Platsas.

[12] Vincent Meyer-Madaus, Zhi Rui Lim, Sebastian Bernardy

[13] Aggeliki Athanasiadou, Katerina Vasilakou, Dhmhtra Ravani, Mara Petra