Entering the Café Royal today means taking an instant trip in time, rediscovering a lost atmosphere that has skillfully been brought back to life. In the center of London, between Mayfair and Soho, the Café is a historic venue that has recently gone through two important updates: the first, in 2012, was the transformation of the entire building as a hotel, in a project by David Chipperfield Architects; the second, just completed, is the renovation done by Lissoni Architettura, completely rethinking the communal spaces through a delicate, careful dialogue with the building, which dates back to 1865.
In this project the collective areas take on new character thanks to precise interventions that interface the functions more open to the life of the city – the lobby, the concierge service and, above all, the prestigious Laurent at Café Royal restaurant – with the rest of the hotel. The Café has been transformed into a ‘room with a view’ of London. The magic touch of Piero Lissoni is made of a mixture of impressions, graftings and references to different worlds, refined contaminations of past and future with images and decorations that are always perfectly poised, but also explicitly innovative.
The sequence of spaces contributes refined atmospheres that ideally express a seamless dialogue with the historical memory of the site: the lobby is spacious and dynamic, using the double height of the existing structure to introduce new perspectives. Above all thanks to the invention of a vertical axis, transparent and monumental, formed by the suspension of a magnificent Murano glass chandelier made to measure by Vistosi. A perfect geometric form, a cylinder of light that descends straight from the ceiling over a polished brass table designed by Piero Lissoni. The single support point of the circular table marks the symbolic center of the whole lobby as well as the end of the vertical axis traced by the imposing immaterial column of the chandelier.
The most characteristic material of the lobby is polished brass, while the dominant hue is supplied by its golden reflections that underscore the precious nature of the spaces; as narrated by the two pure, simple volumes of the reception and the capitals of the old columns that seem like glowing suspended solids. Around the central space the various islands on the ground level are marked by chromatic variations. For example, the lounge zones with furnishings, among others, by Paolo Paolo Castelli, Poltrona Frau, Cassina and Living Divani, stand out for warm brown tones that form a contrast with the gold of the reception area and the white light of the large central chandelier. In the lighting of the spaces Lissoni has sought a contemporary sensorial effect, selecting products by Flos.
The upper level is entirely set aside for The Laurent at Café Royal, the restaurant accessed by way of the sushi bar placed in front of a show kitchen clad with tiles by Domenico Mori. It is an informal but sophisticated interior divided into two different zones: the first is organized along the balcony facing the two-story lobby, and furnished with chairs in wood and Vienna straw produced by Poltrona Frau, and custom benches by Paolo Castelli.
The second is more private, suggesting the soft atmosphere of London clubs, above all thanks to the typical wood paneling. Here the perception of the space is multiplied by a ceiling entirely clad in mirrors. In the background, the light reflects on the semi-transparent backlit onyx wall that incorporates the bar.
Project Lissoni Architettura - Design team Piero Lissoni with David Lopez Quincoces, Stefano Castelli, Pino Caliandro - Photos Simone Bossi / courtesy of Lissoni Architettura