There is an old German saying, “He who doesn’t dare, doesn’t win.” It could be said that Armin Fischer’s most courageous professional move came when he entered a competition in 2003 to design the debut 25Hours Hotel. Not only did he dare—he won! This one-time cabinetmaker from the small German city of Augsburg had come fully of age as a world-class designer, launching his studio, Dreimeta, following the victory. And should anyone doubt Fischer’s place on design’s main stage, he need only step inside the playful, quirky, intentionally hyperbolic 25Hours Hotel Hamburg Number One. The bright, youthful vibe that runs through the entire 25Hour’s brand DNA owes much to Fischer’s signature style here.
“Along with Design Hotels, we were involved in developing both the concept and the design language for 25Hours,” he says, and though that statement is modestly put, the design language itself is bold and undeniable. His transformation of an unpromising 1950s office block into a hip destination begins with a candy-colored lobby anchored by a curved, mirror-studded reception desk. The striking, upbeat tone continues with disco balls and stencil art in the public areas while the 128 guestrooms display a cool, retro feel with black, white, and magenta color schemes, floral wallpaper and 1960s/1970s vintage-style furniture and lighting. The retro vibe extends to the dining room’s bench seating, and the roof terrace with its pink straw parasols. Unconventional, certainly. Yet the approach chimes with guests’ tastes and perfectly interprets his client’s vision—this ladder achievement being a signature strength of Fischer’s.
The latest is 25hours Hotel Altes Hafenamt, Hamburg, a listed harbor-master’s building in which historical details, including original doors and soaring stucco ceilings (an impressive eight meters high in Restaurant Neni), are preserved. Wood-paneling, brass mirrors, and ship-style, latticed-brass lamps characterize 49 rooms whose furnishings look as if they are found in-situ rather than freshly installed. Original cast-iron columns and old coffer panels are retained in the cozy Boilerman bar (a former chartroom), while vintage chart cabinets now function as restaurant service stations.
Fischer’s great skill at channeling the vision of the 25Hours owners and his ability to deliver on time and on budget—no small thing in the hospitality arena where the stakes are high, costs are astronomical, and margins can be razor thin—made him the natural choice for the next project by the 25Hours visionaries: Bikini Island & Mountain Hotel, Port de Soller, which opens in May 2018 on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Here, a 1970s-built hotel is given a contemporary makeover, while losing none of its original spirit. Fischer sets the tone by revitalizing old terrazzo floors and employing natural materials like wooden wall-cladding. Specially commissioned artisan-made furniture, tiles, carpets, and lighting add to the hotel’s laidback charm.
“My aim is to create a memorable space with its own identity and character while keeping functionality in mind; soul, creativity, and love are the key,” says Fischer. This ability to inject an interior with personality, coupled with a meticulous attention to detail, sets Fischer’s work apart. These key characteristics stem from an early cabinet-making apprenticeship sandwiched between stints working in his father’s Augsburg furniture store, latterly in the kitchen planning department. A fork-in-the-road came with client requests for more imaginative kitchens. “This was the moment when I had the idea to make my own things,” he says. Initially he manufactured his own furniture designs then moved on to room interiors then entire residences in which a clever use of space and a simple, uncluttered style promote easy living.
“Our roots are in residential work, which I compare to creating a tailor-made suit for a client,” says Fischer. Perfectly capturing this artisanal-craftsmanship-meets-bespoke-tailoring mentality, Haus Ludwig is a project that saw Fischer take a small rather nondescript former teacher’s house and transform it into an off-the-grid refuge with autonomous water, electricity, and heating supplies and raw wood clapboards that that fully integrate the property into the surrounding nature.
“My aim is to create a memorable space with its own identity and character while keeping functionality in mind; soul, creativity, and love are the key.”
Contrasts here come in the form of Solnhofer limestone tiles, which create a more spacious impression than actually exists, while in other residential projects these visual surprises are created by a weathered wall located at right-angles to full-height, sliding-glass doors in one residence and a raw, brick fireplace in another. Industrial materials like a rusty steel wall in an entrance area add character and charm while suggesting historical references. Indeed, authentic and unexpected effects, such as that weathered wall or a scarred oak floor and rustic wooden chairs, are embraced equally in Fischer’s attempts to emotionalize a space through sensory stimulation. “Imperfect beauty is about accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay,” he says. “Flawed and scarred materials and surfaces reveal the passing of time, giving a space its own identity and character.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than at La Granja Ibiza, another successful Design Hotels project for which Fischer was invited to collaborate. A centuries-old farmhouse set in 10 hectares of farmland and citrus groves on the Spanish island of Ibiza, the almost-timeless structure here presents itself as a stark contrast to the bright, playful, youthful, and decorated looks of Fischer’s earlier work. Traces of Moorish influences—dark, beamed ceilings, wooden doors with hammered-iron doorknobs—are glimpsed within a framework of classical Iberian architecture in which simple, wooden furniture, freestanding baths, and natural materials—burnt wood, stone, slate, tiles, luxury linens— create a relaxing ambience and foster a spirit of togetherness among guests. The look is a complete departure from Fischer’s earlier work with 25Hours Hotels. As such, it clearly reveals his ability to translate a client’s vision into a stunning reality, and reflect the needs of guests. The concept of imperfect beauty is championed here with flair and imagination to create character and singularity.
“In a world where travel and hotels are surrounded by technology, extravagant comforts and unnecessary distractions, La Granja encourages guests to return to the basics: modesty, rustic simplicity, and the beauty of imperfection,” he says. “The aim was to translate the basic concepts—focusing on the essential, the beauty of natural materials and imperfections—into a design approach. While eliminating the nonessential, the property still provides guests with all the necessary comforts—less in more, as they say.”
Fischer’s characterful interiors are not limited to heritage-inspired projects as a visit to Berlin’s Skybar confirms. This 14th-floor oasis, where full-height windows offer a panoramic cityscape immersion, was reinvigorated by Dreimeta using an eye-zapping color palette and custom-designed furnishings, including a deep-green, marble bar front and flamingo-pink bar stools. Visually eclectic, this design mashup mirrors the dynamic Berlin skyline and dramatically demonstrates the lively, playful style that is Fischer’s calling card.
The preceding article by Augustine Segwick was excerpted from the “Influencers List,” honoring five visionary architects and designers who are changing the face of contemporary hospitality, in the Design Hotels™ Book 2018. Available now for pre-order, the book features 295 handpicked properties over 500-plus illustrated pages, with behind-the-scenes stories of the artists, designers, architects, and hoteliers who brought them to life. Click here for more information or to buy your copy.