Always a marvelous storyteller, Ingo Maurer wrote over half a century of the history of lighting with his innovative products and projects. His vision and his creativity were made of surprise and novelty, hands and intelligence, poetry and technology, irony and lightness, on every scale of intervention. In this sense, the concept of interior and lighting design imagined with his team for the transformation of the old Tsinandali winery in Georgia, a Radisson Collection Hotel, Tsinandali Estate, represents one of his most paradigmatic works, completed in 2018, one year before his death.
A holistic project that extends from the object-light into the spaces, furnishings and finishes, with the aura of a romantic, cheerful fable the German designer wrote under the skies of Tsinandali (a village in the wine region of Kakheti, in Georgia, 79 kilometers from Tbilisi). The hotel and its wine cellar are in the midst of the vineyards of the Tsinandali estate, considered one of the finest in a zone famous for its wines, not far from what was once the palace of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, father of Georgian romanticism.
“This place put a spell on me. It has a very strong aura and any interference on our part, damaging the existing harmony, would have been a crime. The ruins and architectural remains of a winery from 200 years ago had to become a sparkling star. It was one of the biggest challenges of my life,” Ingo Maurer remarked. The historic complex, with an area of 4000 square meters, starts from a central courtyard to form a fluid, eclectic sequence of episodes: the entrance hall, the lounge area, the point of sale and tasting of wines, the wine bar, the meeting rooms, the breakfast room, the dining room, areas for relaxation and reading, a comfortable multifunctional space (mostly for concerts and balls). There is also an unexpected ‘gem’: the Secret Room, along with that of 1001 Nights for the most important guests.
Each space is one chapter in a story, with its own atmosphere and character, expressed in forms, materials, colors, furnishings and finishes. And above all in lights, the true protagonists of installations balanced between functional use and art. The project orchestrates a series of unique elements, accompanying guests in the spaces and times of a stimulating, joyful experience (not just for wine lovers), with a series of striking ‘narrative’ details. In the internal courtyard, the central space visible from many of the rooms, the focal point is a sculptural fountain with two stylized heads in aluminium that move back and forth, spraying water controlled by a kinetic mechanism, inside a frame formed by surfaces paved with large pale travertine slabs with classical-Roman overtones, and walls clad with a brick texture where protruding parts create a game of light and shadow during the course of the day.
In the zone of the entrance hall the setting relies on a rotating door cut into the wall of irregular stones and bricks, with a height of 4.4 meters and a width of 2.5, activated by remote control, that acts as an unexpected ‘threshold’ leading to the Secret Room, where an outburst of luminous candles and a very long wooden table with a built-in basin create a mystical atmosphere of full and empty zones, ideal for private meetings. One of the key points of the renovation was the conservation of the original openings in the architecture, with its forceful, rugged physical substance, topped by barrel and groin vaults. To experiment with a range of materials and colors of great impact, enlivening and warming the rough enclosure; to play with counterpoint and embroidery on walls, windows, floors and ceilings in every room; to combine off-scale objects with others that are more understated in terms of perception, geometry and contrast; to use curves and angles to generate a male-female dialogue translated into spatial terms, also drawing on figurations and techniques of the past, with erudite references: these were all parts of the next step, the true divertissement of the project.
In the restaurant dining room the barrel-vaulted ceiling is clearly inspired by the cave paintings of Lascaux. The ceiling of the hall, with cross vaults, has a finish applied with a spatula in blue, punctuated with gold stars by the Georgian artist Tamara Kvesitadze, based on an idea by Ingo Maurer; it becomes the ideal backdrop to intensify the 1001 Nights atmosphere of the space, lit by a sequence of Butterflies Dreaming, large incandescent lamps around which finely crafted graceful butterflies hover. All the lights have been developed to interpret and enhance the landscape in which they are inserted: from the chandeliers of the lounge, enormous metal rings with posts on which to attach bottles of different shapes and colors, to the battery-driven paper lamps specially created to light the tables in the restaurant, which only later became a standard product. Careful research also went into the furnishings.
The custom items range from cabinets and display cases in various types of wood, to tables – with infinite impressions of forms and materials – as well as small French bistro tables and faceted mirrors positioned as a perspective backdrop in the rooms, reflecting them and dilating their perception. We should also mention the Tikka benches in wood covered with cushions and a kaleidoscope of fabrics, inspired by the antique carpets of the local crafts tradition. Finally, there is a small, curious and ironic tale, told by a luminous installation in the Passageway room for the presentation of wines: three sheet metal figures, a woman with a bottle of wine and a pistol who runs, chased by a man and a dog… You can make up your own ending.
Project Ingo Maurer and team - Team Heike Dewald, Sebastian Utermohlen, Axel Schmid, Marisa Mariscal - Photos Tom Vack, Hagen Sczech / courtesy Ingo Maurer company