World’s first design hotel turns fifty

Five Star, Hotels — By Jane Graham on June 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm

The five-star Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen turns fifty on July 1, 2010 – marking half a decade since the birth of the world’s first design hotel.

‘One great big playground, with 22 floors to explore.’

This was how today’s hotel director, Roy Al Kappenberger, described the Royal when it opened back in 1960. Kappenberger has been a part of the hotel’s development since the very beginning, from humble beginnings as a bellhop to moving into the boss’ office in 2008. The son of the hotel’s former director Alberto Kappenberger is so personally involved with the hotel that they share the same name – Roy Al.

Behind the plans for the world’s first design hotel was Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen, whose glass and steel sky monolith remains one of the city’s tallest buildings – and whether you love or hate the striking post-modern construction, you can’t help but notice this skyscraper, so out-of-place in a city that generally likes to keep itself close to the ground.

Not content just to design the hotel’s facade, Jacobsen’s unique look permeates the entire building – a world-first back in 1960. His famous Egg and Swan chairs were designed specially for the hotel and are one of the first sights you see as you enter the hotel’s lobby. And while the hotel has undergone plenty of renovation and refurbishment since Jacobsen’s day, one of the hotel’s 260 rooms has avoided change:  Room 606 has been preserved exactly as it was when Jacobsen’s designs were first unveiled to the world back in 1960. Overnight bookings are in high demand with design fans the world over, with a request for the room at least once a week.

Expensive gourmet restaurant Alberto K, named after the legendary Alberto Kappenberger, offers dramatic views over Copenhagen’s rooftops and an expensive, nouveau-Italian menu  – eaten of course with Jacobsen-designed cutlery. If it all seems a bit other-worldly, it might be because you’ve seen this particular cutlery set before – its futuristic design compelled Kubrick to use the sets in his film 2001 – A Space Odyssey.

The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel may have been the first of its kind, but today Copenhagen offers a variety of design hotels, both exclusive and more populous. How about a stay in the colorful world of Hotel Fox, where no two of its 61 rooms are the same? Each one has been individually decorated by one of 21 artists and graphic designers – and it all started out as an ingenious promotion plan for the launch of the new Volkswagen Fox 21.

Or what about the Danish retro design of Hotel Alexandra, with its Kaare Klint lamp shades and Hans Wegner chairs? Different rooms offer different styles from different designers – room 338, for example, is equipped entirely with original furniture from designer Finn Juhl, while Room 448 contains the work of designer Ole Wancher.

Boutique hotels Sankt Petri and Hotel Twentyseven offer smart design for the young and trendy. While five-star Sankt Petri managed to transform a former department store into the hotel of choice for touring pop stars, (and in addition be honored as third-best business hotel in Europe by CNBC Business), Hotel Twentyseven’s cooperation with Scandinavian design firm R.O.O.M offers design for a new era, as well as the ice-cool design of the Absolut Icebar Copenhagen.

Photo of the lobby of Radisson Blu Royal by Kim Ahm. Image of the lobby at Hotel Alexandra courtesy of Hotel Alexandra.

Tags: Arne Jacobsen, Design hotels, five-star hotels

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