Casa Popeea was built in 1900 by a Greek merchant in the Art Nouveau style and is an iconic building within the historic Hellenic quarter of Brăila, Romania. Following its inception, it has suffered a troubled history with a fire partially destroying the building in 1923. After the Second World War, the property was confiscated by the Socialist regime which led to dereliction and neglect. A series of urgent consolidation works were required to save the building from collapse.

The restoration and repair of the existing was driven by the idea that the original structure should be emphasised in its spatial context and original materiality – the new reflects the lost without imitating it. The compressed, dark stained palette in the reception, lobby and coffee shop, with stained solid oak floors, joinery and bespoke furniture opens up to a light-filled stairwell. The building’s original oak staircase has been meticulously restored, guiding you towards the tranquil sleeping quarters above. Carpenters from Transylvania were called upon for their expertise and life sized 1:1 models played part in rigorous design development workshops.

A pragmatic approach to the brief and context was taken, working with the original building rather than against it. Articulate, richly detailed and filled with space and light, Casa Popeea Boutique Hotel is recognisably contemporary yet of its time and place, celebrating its context to create comfort, character and delight.

Conservation through retrofitting is perhaps the most environmentally sustainable approach within the wider construction industry. Retrofitting buildings usually results in significantly lower upfront emissions than demolition and rebuild because of the embodied carbon in existing structures. Moreover, we believe that this project can demonstrate sustainability in a cultural, social and economic sense also. Heritage buildings in Romanian city centres have long suffered from neglect due to a web of complex economic, legal and bureaucratic issues.

Casa Popeea is a project that transforms a single family dwelling into a hotel, repurposing this historic building through carefully selected materials, construction techniques, the use of light and the creation of charm while balancing it with the contemporary needs of its guests. We believe that this project will offer fresh thinking as regards future development within the historic Hellenic quarter of Brăila, Romania.