An interview with Bruno Borrione – Designer 

Bruno Borrione - Designer © J.L. Dubin

Bruno Borrione - Designer © J.L. Dubin

This is the not the first time that you have dealt with a hotel! Which hotels have you previously worked on?

15 years ago I developed le Jardin des Sens hotel and restaurant for the Pourcel brothers in Montpellier and prior to that Le Placide in Paris for Mr Bansard. I have just completed the renovation of the Anne-Sophie Pic hotel in Valencia and I am currently putting the finishing touches to the 4 star Palacio Avenida hotel in Palma, Majorca. Over the past 20 years, I have also helped with the development of almost all the hotels in the Starck agency portfolio.

You have effectively worked with Philippe Starck for 20 years, today, what gives the Borrione touch to his empire?

I have no idea. Having developed at his side, I imagine there must be a relationship of sorts. In spite of everything, I would say that I love to work with the ultra-classical standards that one finds in the hotel industry and to contort them! I like my clients to be confronted with sensations that can seem initially classic, or even banal, to them but which after closer consideration they discover a more intelectualised or even subversive aspect to the work. To make a literary comparison, my universe recaptures the style of Peter Handke: the limited means that are employed, verging on bareness, nevertheless convey meaning. It is the way in which things are organised, and not their sophistication that produces emotion. I also have a particular fondness for colour and the sensitive manner in which materials interact.

What was it that seduced you in the challenge of designing this new Parisian hotel?

First of all, to satisfy my client, for whom I had already done the Placide! Then it was to be confronted with a complex building containing offices, that I had to transform into a hotel and finally check the equations that I had made in 3 dimensions.

What were the key themes that inspired you?

I had in mind images of Oscar Niemeyer’s projects and in particularly the large creations in Brasilia. In all of these buildings, the internal renovations reflect this optimistic vision of a human modernity that, whilst being at the cutting edge of innovation, has not lost its roots. I tried to, in particular, rediscover this atmosphere in public spaces.

Are such inspirations linked with the exact choice of materials that you choose to use?

It is rather the opposite: the concept dictates the materials I use.

How do you approach each new space?

It all depends on the state of mind that I find myself in at the start of the project. I often have intuitions or ideas before I begin, but for the most part I try to purge myself of influences as much as is possible. It is once that I have visited the place and have spoken at length with the backers that I begin to envisage a theme and the guidelines that will direct me through the project.

Have you found any particular challenges with this space?

No more than with any other hotel. The only challenge with a hotel, as with any other project, is to ensure that the planning does not go on forever and mean that you lose the initial impulse.

For you what is the design of a hotel?

If we consider that technical demands and comfort are obligatory, then the design is what remains once these primary conditions have been fulfilled. The design is the whole creative part. Therefore the architect only has to let his imagination run free in order to create dream spaces that offer a change of scenery. The renovation of a hotel is a formidable laboratory within which you can put innovative concepts into place that people are not necessarily ready to accept in their daily lives.
Elsewhere we see more and more ideas that were born in the hotel industry migrate to houses.

How do you work today? Do you still modify your project as it is being built?

I do very few projects and I try to, wherever possible, anticipate any problems. But during a renovation it is almost impossible not to adapt the project along the way, essentially because of the ’surprises’ that crop up during its construction.

How do you approach furniture design?

From the start I consider myself an interior architect therefore for me furniture is only one of the elements of the project and never a separate concept. In some instances I find it very hard to design items of furniture that are not destined to be in a particular interior. I often refer myself to the concept of the ‘interior designer and decorator’ and the way it was practised until the start of the 1970s.

Which designers or products do you like at the moment?

Well Philippe Starck for one… But I acknowledge that the work of my contemporaries may not sufficiently arouse my curiosity.

I have always admired people who define themselves by a style that is either the opposite of their period or one borne out of a crazed eclecticism. Strangely, it is in the United States where I find the most examples of this genre: in the work of Dorothy Draper, Tony Duquette or Morris Lapidus – the undisputed master of eclecticism. In Europe I have an huge passion for Carlo Mollino (in terms of both his work and his character that remains a role-model for me). Amongst contemporary designers, I watch the work of David Collins with interest.

I also think that architects ought to often look to stage direction in the theatre. It would not be a coincidence if Richard Peduzzi had careers as both a scenographer and an interior architect. If we pay close attention to the work of the German Kastorf, the Swiss Marthaler or the Englishman McBurney we would be surprised by the pertinence of their work and would see that it is one of the places where modernity expresses itself.

Did that inspire you for the design of the Crowne Plaza?

In one sense, yes, you cannot see him, but the ghost of Carlo Mollino is always perched on my shoulder!

What do you enjoy the most in this style of project?

Enjoy is not really the right term. I would speak more of an intellectual challenge. I have already designed a number of hotels, so to return to the drafting board to work on each new project is the only time I feel satisfaction.
The intellectual pleasure comes from reinventing oneself and finding an original answer to each new demand.

If this hotel was a story, a tale, a film or a work what would it be?

It is difficult to respond to such a hypothetical question!
The problem is that I always have reference points in my head that have been old obsessions for years, but I would briefly say Stalker and Tarkovski and Patrick Modiano’s Les boulevards de ceinture. But equally Guy Debord’s theatre company, Giorgio de Chirico’s Premonitory Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire or any song by the Comedian Harmonists or Ludwig Ruth. All this creates a mental landscape that I can voyage through whenever I am looking for inspiration.

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