Häberli’s Hotel
by Andrea Eschbach | Dec 3, 2012

“You know one, you know none!” This is the motto of German hotel chain “25 Hours”. The concept: young and urban. DJs spin the decks in the lobby, the rooms are bright and colorful, lively and bold in their design. The brains behind the hotel chain consider their enterprise the absolute opposite to the omnipresent, uniform offerings of conventional hotel chains and consciously seek to create a viable alternative for an urban, cosmopolitan target group.

After the success experienced in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Vienna, early November saw the opening of the first concept hotel in the Zurich West district. “This is where Zurich is at its most progressive, culturally open and eclectic, granting a vivid glimpse into the local scene,” comments Christoph Hoffmann, CEO of "25 Hours". And that indeed it is. Zurich West is an area of the city that is currently experiencing dynamic growth and development. Once the city’s industrial district, it is now the address for creative individuals and cooperatives, clubs and stores. It is also home to the tallest building in the city, the “Prime Tower”, the small stage of Zurich’s Schauspielhaus and Switzerland’s largest cinema complex, all a stone’s throw from the new "25 Hours" premises; moreover, the University of the Arts is due to move into the Toni complex soon, just around the corner. A brochure for the new 126-room hotel promises to bring “variety to the gray urban jungle.” And surely with this goal in mind, CEO Christoph Hoffmann’s team called in none other than designer Alfredo Häberli.

The 48-year-old Argentinian-born designer moved to Zurich aged 13 and is now considered the internationally most successful product designer to come out of Switzerland. His list of clients includes the likes of Iittala, Kvadrat, Luceplan, Vitra and Moroso. Häberli has received numerous awards for his work and was named Designer of the Year by interior design magazine Architektur & Wohnen in 2009. Häberli is a man in demand. Just recently, he devised the interior design concept for the new Camper store in Zurich.

So now to the hotel itself. Despite years of experience in interior design, this project represented a new challenge for Häberli both in terms of its complexity and sheer scale. “It had always been my dream to design an entire hotel from start to finish,” says Häberli. Together with his team, he spent three years working on the project, during which time they created around 60 new products – from door handles to clothes hangers and luminaires to carpets. “My aim was to give the hotel a soul,” says Häberli with enthusiasm. In doing so the designer drew upon his experiences while traveling as well as those from his childhood: His grandparents ran a hotel in the Argentine city of Córdoba, his parents a restaurant.

The "25 Hours" founders gave Häberli free rein in his design. A striking staircase forms the focal point of the hotel’s lobby and, in the style of the traditional “grand hotel”, presents itself as a place to see and be seen. “This is the hotel’s catwalk,” explains Häberli. A sophisticated combination of open areas and sheltered niches makes effective use of the space, as does an adaptable curtain system that allows for the portioning of certain sections. Häberli’s signature is omnipresent, in the shapes, colors and textiles. “Color is the first, most direct means of decorating a space,” says Häberli.

He has carried this concept through into the rooms, which have been designed as comfortable retreats decorated in bright colors. Something they all have in common is that they all boast furniture, fabrics and accessories that are based on Häberli’s own designs: Guests sleep on beds from Alias, sit on chairs from Vitra and put their toothbrushes in striped beakers from the Origo series at Iittala.

In a nod to Zurich’s reputation as a banking metropolis, the rooms are named after precious metals. This theme continues inside the rooms, where in penny-round mosaics on the bathroom tiles silver, gold or platinum-colored inlays reference the room category. Each creates its own mood. For gold this equates to walls with eggplant tones and warm parquet floors, while a green carpet with abstract depictions of animals captures your attention as soon as you enter the silver room. The carpet was designed by Häberli especially for the 25hours Hotel and produced in collaboration with renowned luxury custom carpet company Tai Ping. The designer’s contacts also came in useful when creating the heavy felt, color-block curtains, which were made with the help of Danish textile design company Kvadrat. The hotel is also the first major outing for the ergonomic door handles by FSB, as it is for the “Jill” chair designed by Häberli for Vitra.

“My ideas often only reveal their true colors on the second glance,” notes Häberli and points to the birds and cats that adorn the skirting boards in one room. Stefanie Häberli-Bachmann, who is responsible for the charmingly playful graphic design, explains: “It is all based on original sketches by Alfredo.” They even developed a new font for the room numbers based on Häberli’s own handwriting.

Häberli’s work is characterized by tongue-in-cheek design and this applies down to the smallest detail. Every so often one stumbles across hidden references to the city of Zurich, but only those who take a second look, peak behind the curtains or consider things from a different angle will catch a glimpse. “The smile of my hometown.” Häberli has designed the entire building with this motto in mind. The hotel is intended as a three-dimensional guide to Zurich. The glazed windows on the ground floor depict cartoon versions of the stops along the no. 4 streetcar line, including all of the sights to be seen along the way – from Häberli’s own design studio all the way to the hotel itself. The designer even had coins inserted in the cast flooring – an ironic allusion to the cliché that money lines the streets of Zurich. Such amusing references, or interventions as Häberli calls them, are to be found all over the hotel, telling a tale of Zurich’s churches and culinary delights alike.

Chic yet comfortable, high-quality yet witty, the hotel is an homage to Zurich – and to Häberli himself. And here in Zurich, the H in the chain’s logo not only stands for ‘home, heart, honesty and humor’, it clearly stands for Häberli, too.

In a nod to Zurich’s reputation as a banking metropolis, the rooms are named after the precious metals silver, gold and platinum – here the category “Gold”, photo © 25hours Hotels

The „Häberli Suite“, photo © 25hours Hotels

60 new products were created by Häberli for the hotel – from door handles to clothes hangers and carpets, photo © 25hours Hotels

All rooms are equipped with furniture, fabrics and accessories that are based on Häberli’s own designs, photo © 25hours Hotels

A hotel room of the category “Platin”, photo © 25hours Hotels

According to the room categories the bathrooms are decorated with mosaic tiles in silver, gold or platinum, photo © 25hours Hotels

The wellness area of the hotel with attached sauna, photo © 25hours Hotels

The “25hours” hotel with its spacious lobby is the fourth house of the design hotel chain, photo © 25hours Hotels

The “Zunftstube” is furnished with the chairs “Jill” and the armchairs “Take A Line For A Walk“ which Häberli designed for Vitra and Moroso, photo © 25hours Hotels

The hotel is located in Zurich West, a district where currently many creative individuals settle down, photo © 25hours Hotels

Alfredo Häberli, photo © I&I Fotografie Zurich

A room of the newly opened „25 Hours“ Hotels in Zurich, photo © 25hours Hotels3