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For Greek Cypriot art collector Dakis Joannou, restructuring the tired Olympic Palace into New Hotel has been a true labor of love. Throughout the chunky modernist building, chairs and doors salvaged from the old property reappear as artworks that awaken guests’ senses. Thanks to interiors by Brazilian visionaries Humberto and Fernando Campana, who have earned a reputation for creating living art from castoffs, key elements of design and culture collide on every floor. From the spa and fitness area to the top-floor terrace, which affords one of the best views in Athens, the designs are consistently intense. Each of the hotel’s 79 rooms and suites lets guests feel like they’re a part of the vivid in-room installations. This theme even pervades the bathrooms, where blocky, sharp-edged washbasins based on the shape of diamonds reach into spaces normally left unused.
Ever since 1958, when the old Olympic Palace Hotel first pierced the Athenian skyline, it’s been seen as one of the city’s best examples of modernist architecture. Now, after being painstakingly pulled apart and fastened back together in its original site overlooking Syntagma Square, it’s become a piece of living art. Owner and Greek Cypriot industrialist Dakis Joannou, who renamed his creation New Hotel, was keen that nothing from the original building be thrown away. He enlisted the help of Brazilian interior design legends Humberto and Fernando Campana, renowned globally for their ability to create masterpieces from casts offs and reclaimed materials. Together the three worked to create a space in which the senses are arrested by sights, textures and moods – and objects demand to be interacted with, rather than ignored.
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The glut of old restaurant chairs left over from the Olympic Palace Hotel inspired the Campanas to adopt a twin-track approach. Some chairs were left as they were, while others were spliced with atypical objects to create new and intriguing forms. With the help of a creative team of Greek postgraduate students, public areas are full of unusual chair-art hybrids. Over in the lounges, incredible multi-toned treelike sculptures, lovingly assembled from a jumble of different-colored woods, reach skywards from the floor.
Dakis Joannou, the hardworking owner of Yes! Hotels, is one of the foremost collectors of contemporary European art in Greece. And when it comes to hospitality, he’s just as dedicated to the cause. Working alongside innovative interior designers such as Brazil’s Campana brothers, he has left his cool-as-ice hallmark on three Athens icons – Periscope Hotel, Semiramis, and New Hotel. As a member of the Board of Trustees at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, a member of the International Directors Council of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and cofounder of DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Dakis Joannou is surrounded by the subjects that inspire him: art, design, and architecture.
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