With Six Senses Rome inside the 15th-century Palazzo Salviati Cesi Mellini in the historic centre of the Eternal City, the Thai chain Six Senses makes its debut in Italy. From Bangkok, the hotellerie brand devoted to wellness (part of IHG Hotels & Resorts, which to date estimates 19 resorts and hotels in 17 countries), lands in Via del Corso next to the Church of San Marcello al Corso and a few steps away from Piazza Venezia, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
Here, its first urban hotel represents the concept of a five-star luxury hotel in the name of all-round sustainability, where each element participates in the construction of a lifestyle in balance with its own dimension of well-being, whether it relates to the food line or the spa, to sleeping or to the sensorial nature of the architectural space. "This is our value of exclusivity, a customised experience to be lived in a high quality environment, also experimental and out of the box", in the words of Francesca Tozzi, general manager of Six Senses Rome. The proposal is shared for the first time in the common spaces with the community, that of Urbe caput mundi in primis (but not only): the great novelty of an all-inclusive journey back in time and projected into the future, which has been entrusted to the green and gracefully feminine interpretation of Patricia Urquiola, who signed the design and architecture project.
The genius loci
"If they also believe in the possibility of realising an all-round circular sustainability concept, I will go ahead, I told myself during the four years of the construction site, including the pandemic years, which were the most intense and emotionally motivating," Patricia Urquiola acknowledges. "Complex design research such as this is a great source of stimulation and enrichment, also for possible developments in transversal areas, as has already been the case for the hotel Il Sereno on Lake Como. Sustainability is a theme of approaching nature that is in my heart. But here we also had to deal with the peculiarities of a fragmented and heterogeneous historical context. The noble 15th-century palace, which underwent profound changes in the 18th century, then in the early 20th century and finally with the architect Ludovico Quaroni in 1985, had undergone transformations, extensions, mergers and conversions of use, also housing a bank. Rome thus became an extreme source of inspiration in terms of geometry, material-chromatic and artistic suggestions'. The main promoter of the renovation was Orion Real Estate Fund V.
"I have tried to enhance all the architectural stratifications of the building, emphasising that sense of crossing and opening to the city that is typical of an urban hotel, integrating in a respectful but also balanced, harmonious and fresh way all the most significant and fascinating traces of the recovered pre-existing building: the majestic gallery that in the early 1900s led the way to a multi-screen cinema and shops, the large entrance hall with its two columns and five arched portals, the monumental 18th-century staircase with its decorated skylight, the former 4th-century underground baptismal font of the Church of San Marcello al Corso adjacent to the hotel that is now visible through a glass porthole on the ground floor," Patricia Urquiola continues.
In its creative interpretation, from Via del Corso where the main entrance is located to the rear of Via di San Marcello, the connecting axis represented by the gallery now plays the role of a large square with two integrated souls of life: the first is characterised by the original roof brought back to light with its mighty structure of exposed metal beams surmounted by a skylight in the form of a sunshade from which light pours in; the second, on the other hand, is totally open-air and recovers the courtyard as a patio with a Mediterranean matrix crowned by a luxuriant triumph of green plants, the great protagonists of the Six Senses hotel everywhere. Acting as a hinge, a very long full-height window that can be opened during the warm season, which unites the various convivial islands of the lobby and the café-bar inside and out, like a unicum. The harmonious fluidity of the public space is emphasised on an expressive level by the search for the perfect shape of the circle, particularly congenial to the classicism of Rome, which returns in the curved lines of the two counters in Alpi green marble, symmetrical inside and out, in the sinuous forms of the furnishings, made with materials as natural as possible, and in the textured coverings of the volumes. "I could only choose Travertine - the local stone par excellence - but declined in various shades and finishes, together with cocciopesto, mosaic and opus incertum - the materials of the Roman architectural tradition, for the construction solutions," explains Patricia Urquiola. "But this hard landscape is also balanced in the juxtapositions of the quilted wood of the boiseries, the woven straw, the graphic cuts that design the light or ventilation grilles, and softer modulations of sign strictly in the range of terracotta and bronze".
The private spaces
A search for aesthetic homogeneity that returns tenaciously for consistency in the design of the private spaces, 96 rooms and suites distributed on the four upper levels, where the furniture always uses FSC-certified sustainably sourced wood, all the carpets are made of natural or regenerated wool (together with GAN, CC-Tapis, WARLI), the ECONYL ® fabrics show the potential of a yarn regenerated from nylon waste such as fishing nets, textile offcuts and industrial plastic. All the way up to the fifth floor, to the rooftop-terrace overlooking the city where beds of aromatic plants, lemon and olive trees in permaculture give shape to a botanical garden and supply raw materials to the cocktail bar crowned with other relaxation areas and carpets made of fibres obtained from 100% recycled PET, underlining that strong sense of reconnection with nature that is in the project's imprinting.
In the name of sustainability
Of material and immaterial sustainability at Six Senses Rome speaks of the continuity of all the details that contribute to nourishing the holistic experience of the guest, from the architecture to the design of the interior spaces, from the restaurant (curated by Executive Chef Nadia Frisina) to the Earth Lab, the multifunctional room where experts share workshops and laboratories so that we can become more aware in our daily food line and wellbeing choices everywhere. Then, in particular, the works of art selected under the curatorship of Federica Sala and all produced site-specifically for the hotel were an integral part of the interior design from the beginning. Likewise the carefully considered furnishings by Cassina, Moroso, Kettal, Mutina, Agape, among others. In the overall setting, the centrality of an open kitchen around which the various areas of the restaurant unfold uninterruptedly stands out, but also the decorative detail of the mosaic flooring here inspired by a mosaic from the 2nd century B.C., now preserved in the Vatican Museums, which interprets a custom practised at banquets in imperial Rome where the remains of food, such as fruit and fish bones, were left on the floor. And then, among the many citations of history in a contemporary artistic key, there is the table-sculpture with classical features, by the artist Paolo Giordano, which stands in the centre of the entrance room crowned by the five arches. It represents Janus Bifrontus, the god of beginnings, who looks with his double face to the past and the future, "a symbol of the Six Senses project", says Patricia Urquiola.
The Roman baths: the greatest tribute
The spa inspired by the ancient Roman baths, elective places of encounter and relations around water, naturally represents the sanctum sanctorum of alchemy devoted to body-mind wellness. It is distributed over two levels, including calidarium, tepidarium and frigidarium, various relaxation or personalised and curative treatment areas. Here the leitmotif is the laurel leaf imprinted on the bas-relief wall decorations, in Patricia Urquiola's highly creative representation of the myth of Apollo and Daphne, while the flooring enhances the seductive play of the grit carpets, travertine tozzetti and Alpi green marble with the progression of different mosaic medallions, returning with other forms and motifs to the experimental research on materials and colours developed in the other rooms.
Sustainability and comfort
With regard to air quality, energy efficiency (electricity comes only from renewable sources), water consumption and recovery, waste management, and plastic reduction, cutting-edge technologies and control systems constantly monitor the building's performance in relation to its environmental impact. It is no coincidence that the building is in the process of obtaining Leed Gold environmental certification. And it is no coincidence that 0.5% of Six Senses' revenue goes to the Sustainability Fund dedicated to the development of environmental and social projects benefiting the local ecosystem. The first was the restoration of the façade of the Church of San Marcello al Corso adjacent to the hotel, which, with its prominent curved façade, restores a broader sense of the circularity of a design that here also understands sustainability as a legacy of history to future generations.
Photos by John Athimaritis, Luana Failla and courtesy Six Senses Rome.