Is it possible to juxtapose architecture with an idea proper to communication such as storytelling? Architecture and storytelling have a deep connection, as they both interpret the relationship between man (the protagonist of living and history) and the real (living and history). In Reykjavik, the Iceland Parliament Hotel (Curio Collection by Hilton) was recently opened, a hotel complex that mixes history, cultural heritage, architecture and contemporary design.
An idea of identity hospitality, therefore, to offer a hospitality structure with a strong personality that can tell a story to the visitor, combining comfort and style, curiosity and a sense of belonging, elegance and uniqueness. From this desire was born Iceland Parliament Hotel, which, with its design and stylistic specificities, interprets the DNA of the place and its deepest spirit. In addition, a very strong genius loci reveals the spirit of the place and expresses a sense of balance, surviving changes due to new functional arrangements and giving a unique character to the landscape.
A fluid narrative
The architectural layout of Iceland Parliament Hotel is based on seven buildings in which new constructions are linked to pre-existing historical ones with symbolic value for the local community. As architect Paolo Gianfrancesco, a partner at THG Arkitektar who oversaw the entire project, explains, "the history of this hotel is interesting and complex. One of the biggest challenges was to put together different stories that all happen in the same place, but at different times. In fact, we had to take care of extracting the individual pieces of the story for a smooth narrative".
A great challenge
Among the historic structures that make up Iceland Parliament Hotel is the Gamli Kvennaskólinn girls' school, dating back to 1835, "a culturally important building in Iceland's history with great symbolic value," says architect Gianfrancesco. "The two-storey building is protected by national laws on heritage preservation and adapting it to a contemporary use that would preserve its value was a great challenge. Not only was it measured and the existing character preserved, but we physically moved and relocated it on site".
In fact, the building retains its original mood, configuration and wooden ceilings despite the change of use. For this reason, the two floors have been designed as rooms for meetings and events with totally different atmospheres: the lower one, warmer and softer, with a large custom-designed bar, is conceived for hosting parties; the upper one, private and reserved, plays with ocean blue tones and is conceived for more intimate moments of conviviality.
An iconic building
The story that the Iceland Parliament Hotel tells continues with an old building adjacent to the school, the iconic Icelandic NASA Ballroom. This portion of the project was demolished after careful three-dimensional mapping and a survey of decorations and architectural styles. The new building (named Independence Hall), with a structure that grafts into the ground about 4 metres below the main level, was designed with technologically advanced parameters for complete sound insulation.
In fact, architect Gianfrancesco explains that ''the building has been realised as a box within a box, insulated from the foundations with a carpet that absorbs part of the horizontal movements, while the rest of the walls and ceilings are disconnected from the building, which surrounds them with rock wool insulation, which is useful for achieving acoustic parameters. The hall reveals the splendour of yesteryear with a respectful and innovative design and better materials and details'.
A space open to the city
The third existing building included in the Iceland Parliament Hotel is the historic headquarters of Iceland Telecom. An important symbol in the collective memory of the local community, it is a large building with symmetrical and robust forms dating back to the 1930s. Today, the spacious ground floor houses the Hjá Jóni restaurant. Bordered by large windows, it is connected to the Telebar, which alludes to the former activities of the former Iceland Telecom headquarters. The ground floor is an open space for the city community, freely accessible and usable as an alternative passageway to the street.
An eclectic and contemporary façade
To the three historic buildings, other new and modern ones have been attached, some with a connecting function, others to expand the capacity of Iceland Parliament Hotel. The exteriors, stylistically speaking, are eclectic and contemporary. "In the historical centre of Reykjavik, buildings are modest in size, have limited heights, almost always have pitched roofs and uneven colouring. We deliberately emulated this language so that to the visitor or ordinary citizen, the hotel appears as a series of distinct buildings with different functions," explains architect Gianfrancesco.
Design within design
Eclecticism is also found in the interior design of Iceland Parliament Hotel where great care has been taken to balance warm and cold materials, matt and shiny surfaces, while respecting local stylistic features. Many furnishings are custom-made, made by craftsmen, with different stylistic choices, sometimes deliberately contrasting.
Innovative, high-performance ceramic coverings
As far as ceramic coverings for the Iceland Parliament Hotel are concerned, Ariostea, FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti, Iris Ceramica and SapienStone, a brand of the Iris Ceramica Group, have been called upon to participate, with innovative solutions offering high performance in terms of strength, durability and aesthetic value. FMG's Quarzite in the colour Ghiaccio was chosen for the outer shells of some of the new buildings. The porcelain stoneware surface with a natural stone effect dialogues with the surrounding materials: reinforced concrete, diorite of the historic buildings and metal of the ventilated façade.
Reversing the language
The main floor accessible to the public at Iceland Parliament Hotel has been divided into two distinct zones. In the gallery open to all, with the big staircase designed to host exhibitions and moments of conversation, FMG's Quarzite and Iris Ceramica's Pietra di Basalto, collections of stone-effect porcelain stoneware with a velvety appearance and matt, neutral tones, have been used on the floor. In the reception area, on the other hand, the language has been reversed: the reception desk and supporting columns have been covered with the lighter shades of Ariostea's Fragmenta Full Body Grigio Luminoso.
In a harmonious chromatic contrast, Black Marquinia by Ariostea customises the frames delimiting access to the lift shafts of the Iceland Parliament Hotel. Inside the restaurant, the rigorous, geometric forms of a large island serving as a countertop are distinguished by the green marble texture of MaxFine Connemarble Irish with shading from dark to light and marked white veins. Finally, also on the ground floor, inside the Telebar, Alpi Chiaro Venato by SapienStone contributes to creating an enveloping and pleasant atmosphere.
A large spa area
In the basement, you will find the Spa at Iceland Parliament Hotel: a thermal area, sauna, steam baths, massage cabins and wellness treatments. To create a cosy and intimate atmosphere, Quartzite and Basalt Stone return again. The rooms are clad with FMG's large-format MaxFine slabs. MaxFine Travertine marble then dresses the walls of the reception area, drinking stations, changing rooms and toilets, massage cabins, and the volumes of the geothermal whirlpool bath. MaxFine Amazonite gives a strong identity to the Turkish bath, cold-jet rooms, reception desk and back wall. Finally, the spa is completed by a daring lounge thanks to the sinuous and enigmatic movements of the MaxFine Onyx Malaga slabs.
Bathrooms and suites
In the bathrooms of the rooms, FMG's MaxFine White Calacatta was chosen, whose delicate texture covers the walls, shower interiors and bathtub volumes, while Iris Ceramica's Pietra di Basalto collection was preferred for the floors. For the main suite, Fragmenta Full Body by Ariostea was used. Thanks to the full-body technology, the pattern running through the entire thickness of the slab allowed the elements to be developed with visible edges that fit naturally into the environment.
Photos by Claudio Parada Nunes and Gunnar Sverrisson