[Originally published in Azure, September 2013]
For Pau, its new hotel in Barcelona, the Room Mate group sought an interior that would conjure an archetypal character. Luckily, architect Teresa Sapey likes to tell stories in her designs. “In this case, Pau is a Catalan gentleman; a chef who is refined and edgy at a time when Catalan cuisine leads the world,” she explains. Through graphics and furnishings, she shows Pau moving through a sequence of spaces that form chapters of sorts. The most dramatic, the elevator lobby, introduces the protagonist, represented in a large artwork stenciled onto the elevator doors and walls. Wearing a jacket with the same houndstooth pattern as the carpet, Pau has his back turned to us, and his head appears to be in a knot. “I have always liked houndstooth for the classicism of its directional black and white checkerboard pattern,” says Sapey. “And the irony of a cook wearing pata de gallo! (In Spanish, houndstooth translates as “rooster leg.”) The question might be whether the rooster came before the chef.”
A stairway leads up to the 66-room hotel’s lounge and café-bar, which opens onto a large wooden terrace dotted with multifunctional furniture pieces (Adán, created by Sapey for Vondom) shaped like human heads, which serve as stools, side tables, or planters. In the atrium and corridors, large photographs of different-colored eyes peer at us. The suites provide the final chapter, leaving the ending up to the guest’s imaginations. Stenciled images of hands, Corian room dividers perforated like Swiss cheese, and bathroom tiles that resemble rustic barnboard adorn the rooms. As with any good story, Sapey fills in the details with care, through her use of color, materials and iconography.