ON THE SCENE: NEW OPENINGS JAN 2016
It doesn’t seem like two minutes, let alone two months since our last On the Scene mustering of the freshest, design-minded international openings. In that space we have indulged in the season of look-how-much-I-can-fit-in-my-gut, finding ourselves chewed up and spat out into the bleakness of January quicker than you can say ‘sign me up for a gym membership’. Alas, the first month of 2016 is practically over, your gym card is already being used as a beer mat, and attentions are turned to the remaining months of this Millennium’s seventeenth year.
Those remaining months look likely to satisfy the needs of the most demanding of us creative classers…those who covet the space where forward-thinking design and luxury collide, where culture and innovation and future-first trends are taken as given. Indeed there are already plenty of noises being made about forthcoming hotel openings: a trio to bring a new focus to Miami’s forgotten downtown (EAST, ME Miami, The Langford Hotel), unconventional hostel outfit Generator arriving next to Oosterpark in Amsterdam, new hotel brand Amastan debuting in Paris, The Williamsburg Hotel (needing no further explanation) and Hilton’s hipster brand Canopy being set to launch in Reykjavik … but what of the new openings we can already step foot in?
Let us begin, fittingly, with a couplet that fall directly in line with my New Year’s resolution: do all I can to visit entirely new cities. San Antonio, Texas, and Durham, North Carolina, meet the criteria; cities to which I’d practically never given a second thought — until now. Down in rootin’-tootin’ Texas, and to Pearl, a major mixed-use culture and culinary destination that dates back to 1883, Hotel Emma occupies what was once the State’s largest brewery. It has been fitted out by designers Roman and Williams — famed for their theatrical approach to places like Ace Hotel New York and Chicago Athletic Association — and calls on their experience as on-hand creatives for Hollywood productions; the duo creating a space that defines Americana.
Some 1,300 miles northeast and another American city hotel revelling in the design of a bygone era, but this is not the Gilded Age or prohibition. Durham, North Carolina, one of the the Triangle’s three major hubs. The Triangle? A 1950s masterplan that created one of the world’s largest research parks; 7,000 acres of high-tech research and development, anchored by three cities. Riveting, hey? Well Durham’s Home Savings Bank building is, at least — its incredible late-1960s modernist architecture revived by a mid-century design-inspired refit, courtesy of L.A. firm Commune (Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, American Trade Hotel).
The Durham Hotel pulls out all the stops, ticking things off the Creative Class Checklist as if they were going out of fashion: coffee program, indie mag newsstand, vinyl records, honest cooking, movie nights and morning yoga. If this is how North Carolina’s renaissance looks, I’m moving in.
Indeed, renaissance is an important word at the beginning of a new year — whether it takes the form of an unfashionable American city, or your oversized derrière working on the treadmill … change always feels close, even before spring arrives. Barangaroo, Sydney; an area well-versed in change … a 22 hectare, $6 billion project that is changing the face of the city’s famous harbour.
We will be talking about another new year by the time this development draws to a close, but the Wulugul Pop-Up offers a glimpse at what is to come. A mixed-use culture-led space with sustainability at its core, the pop-up — designed by Foolscap Studio — brings indie publishing, co-working, exhibitions, gardens, food and drink, and coffee (this is Australia, after all) to Sydney’s newest neighbourhood; all in the shadow of gargantuan building works led by the world’s leading architects.
Amazingly, René Redzepi’s planet-conquering Noma restaurant is here too, serving 5,500 diners over a ten week period whilst their Copenhagen space undergoes redevelopment. I told you change was in the air.
But what are cities without change? Even the oldest, most stubborn of cities creak along to the beat of metamorphosis. Built on over 100 years of heritage, and occupying an early-15th century gothic palace, Barcelona’s Fundació Gaspar is a contemporary art space that its founder Moishan Gaspar Abdal-lah hopes will take the Catalan capital back to the very top of the world’s modern art circuit; his great grandfather having founded Sala Gaspar in 1906, exhibiting the likes of Picasso, Miró, and Tàpies. Not much to live up to then. A deep-burning desire to democratise art, and reestablish his hometown as a big-player on the contemporary art circuit, will no doubt aid the experienced curator.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean city, change is a-brewing too — chef Alan Stewart injecting a little of what was missing into its famed culinary heritage. Stubborn Barcelona may be, but Stewart’s cosmopolitan style is winning over the locals, La Esquina looking locally for its produce, but to cultural capitals like London, New York or Melbourne for its essence …. veg-heavy dishes and plenty of homemade treats: pickles, cakes, smoked fish and Nutella. Yep, homemade Nutella. Spread some of that on your pipe and smoke it.
And London wouldn’t be London if change were not on the menu there either … and where else than the St Pancras-King’s Cross nexus of regeneration, where England’s first purpose built gym has been transformed into a super-scale European brasserie; an expansive Grade II-listed building (that played host to the first indoor Olympics in the mid-1880s) given new apparatus by Conran’s D&D group. German Gymnasium is a staggering space spread across two floors and, as its name suggests, you can expect schnitzel, currywurst, and smoked Black Forest ham. By all accounts there is a DJ too, but don’t expect it to turn into Berghain once midnight falls.
All of which brings us neatly to where we began: new beginnings, gymnasiums, the need for change. As we step further into our new now; our contemporary expectations of what hospitality and food and beverage should be; the Millennial odyssey … what do new openings need to achieve in order to capture our imaginations? If the first month of twelve proves anything, it’s that 2016 will be fascinating at the very least.