Having a sense of place is key to today’s hospitality venues, as exemplified by the recent extension of Amsterdam East’s Hotel Arena, which includes a new hotel wing and two pavilions housing meeting rooms and a café.

The building’s cultural history and its location in the city’s Oosterpark form the starting point of the project, which was executed by local architecture firm Team V and fellow Amsterdam-based architecture, interior design and branding studio Tank. We speak to Team V’s director and architect Do Janne Vermeulen and Tank’s founding partner and art director Sanne Schenk to discuss how the design of Hotel Arena relates to today’s fast-changing, locality-focused hospitality scene. 

What are some of the trends and developments that are defining today’s hospitality landscape? Where do you believe the industry is heading?
Increasingly, the focus is on service. Hotels are a home away from home, where the bar, restaurant, and lobby serve a communal function.
The range of hospitality offerings is becoming much wider. You can get an uber-local experience with Airbnb, sleep in a treehouse, or visit a business-oriented hotel chain. Because of this growing variety in the industry, it’s more and more important to define and distinguish yourself as a hotel.

And how does your approach to the design for Hotel Arena respond to these developments?
We let the location be the defining factor in the architecture. The research phase of the project felt almost like an archeological exploration: we ‘excavated’ the history of the building, digging in the archives. We found the original plan drawn by architect Adrian Bleijs, dating back to 1888 and never fully executed.
SS: We made our interior design approachable to guests of all ages, with a place for any time, mood or occasion. We used honest materials, integrating furniture pieces by Label Breed, a studio that establishes collaborations between designers and manufacturers to develop innovative interior objects. We even translated our ideas to the restaurant’s menu, which consists of healthy food made with fair-trade ingredients.

Hotel Arena is housed in a listed building. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
DJV: The building has a very rich story. It was designed as a home for orphaned Roman Catholic girls, served as a WWII refugee shelter, and later also housed many student parties. But since this history was the starting point of our design, we didn’t encounter many problems. Using the original floor plans, we actually finished what Bleijs started.
SS: The main challenge was to connect the new and old spaces whilst preserving the characteristics of each. So wherever we ‘touched’ the original structure with our interiors, we kept the main elements clean and white, emphasizing the monumental architecture. In the new parts of the building we added a layer of ‘coziness’ through the use of warm materials and extra touches like a fireplace and vintage furniture.

Photo Luuk Kramer

Can you talk us through the extensions?
DJV: First of all, the main entrance was relocated from the street to the Oosterpark side, so that the hotel benefits optimally from its ‘green’ location.We added two new transparent pavilions, containing the Park café-restaurant as well as meeting rooms. The high glass façades of the pavilions are designed to make a soft fade between inside and outside. The exposed concrete columns in the restaurant mark the original floorplan. The space outside the columns, but inside the glass structure, give the idea of a conservatory as the brick flooring continues onto the terrace.

The wing with the extra hotel rooms mirrors the existing one, but still has a modern appearance. We used a similar brick, but with very different masonry. And instead of a tiled roof, we added an abstract glass ‘cube’, which allows for hotel rooms with an extra floor and more connection to the park.

Photo Luuk Kramer

Photo Luuk Kramer

Besides the rooms in the extension, you were responsible for the interior of the Park restaurant. Are there similarities in the approach you took to these different spaces?
SS: In both cases the light was very important. Park was designed with the lighting of day and night in mind. The heart of the space hosts the bar and the restaurant, which is surrounded by a space reminiscent of a greenhouse. Inspired by the surroundings, we selected a raw palette of timber, leather, concrete, and smoky-blue velvet furnishings.

Photo Luuk Kramer

How did the architecture inform the interior design?
SS: We maximized the openness of the floor plan to incorporate both the building and its surroundings into the experience. As Hotel Arena’s entrance was moved through the park, it becomes the first welcome to the guests and an essential part of their stay. We also accented the architectural structure in our layout and finishing: strong, natural materials, plants, atmospheric light and a mix of modern and retro furniture bring a human touch and scale to the space.


Read more about hospitality venues with a strong sense of place in Frame 118.