News for the Hospitality Executive
A Young Crew of German Friends, All New to the Hotel World,
the 119 room Michelberger Hotel in Berlin
A Cosmopolitan, Street-savvy Hangout Handcrafted for the Social City Traveller
Berlin, 16 June 2009. Raw, rebellious and creative – these are the qualities that capture the unrivalled atmosphere and spirit of Germany’s capital, Berlin. Constantly recreating itself, East Berlin in particular has become a magnet for travellers from all over the world. Now, finally, a new hotel group is aiming to bring this vibrant way of life and unique historical patina inside the doors of its first property. The Michelberger Hotel (www.michelbergerhotel.com), opening in September 2009 next to the famous Oberbaum Bridge and the river Spree, will extend the thrilling experience of the city into every aspect, yet with professional service and administration.
The 119 room hotel stems from the passion of founder, organizer and the central figure in a patchwork of young friends who came together to create the hotel: Tom Michelberger, a 31-year-old from southern Germany. He and his crew believe that character-driven enterprises are the ones that truly succeed: they do more than offer a product, they help transform the way business itself works. The opposite of a cool or trendy project, their goal is a sustainable, passionately run establishment that offers authenticity, a rare commodity in the world of city hotels.
The Michelberger brain trust, all new to the hotel world, has little interest in stereotypical ideas of luxury. They have created a cosmopolitan, yet street-savvy hangout, where they themselves would love to stay. With rates starting at 59 EUR per night, dreamers, movers and shakers, lovebirds, soul searchers, artists, craftspeople and globetrotters alike can enjoy the special social dynamic of the 250-bed space, which will soon become a Berlin landmark for young and young at heart.
Every detail is thought through to provide what guests really want, a moving experience. Anything goes here, and it should. As Tom Michelberger says, “Perfection does not create memories, because memories only result from movement, from a lively experience of interaction – with people, the surroundings and the atmosphere.” To this end, internationally renowned German designer Werner Aisslinger redesigned the old factory building from the turn of the last century, complete with period details like a clinker façade, high ceilings and massive paned windows. But the rooms offer the clearest sense of the group’s efforts to create an innovative guest experience.
Jens Strobl (45, Austria). After his Medical Studies, he changed direction and worked as a bartender, which led up to opening his first Hotel in 1988. His motivation was to provide the young traveller with a low-cost night of sleep. In 1999 he opened the Youth House Berlincity. After an encounter with Tom Michelberger 4 years ago, he decided to join the venture creating something from scratch again. Rudi Michelberger, 66 (The Bodensee), is the master bricklayer who adds true southern spirit to the construction site. Tom’s uncle, Rudi plays the Alpenhorn in the courtyard, runs the schnapps elevator bar at our events, and keeps the craftsmen in line.
East Berlin is unlike any other major tourist destination in Europe: it’s raw, creative, rebellious and constantly recreating itself. Now, finally, a hotel is coming into shape that celebrates Berlin’s rough edges and creative spirit. The Michelberger Hotel extends the Berlin experience within the hotel, in a freewheeling, low-cost solution that nonetheless features professional service and administration.
Tom Michelberger is the 31-year-old organizer, owner and central figure in a patchwork of young friends who came together to create the hotel. Michelberger and his crew are new to the hotel world, bringing a fresh approach to how guests experience a hotel. The result of their collaboration is a funky, communally organized social space that blends the best elements of hostel and hotel. It’s a budget hotel in price only: the amount of imagination and innovation involved exceeds the category’s expectations in almost every area.
Rather than pour their energies into design for design’s sake, the Michelberger brain trust has also done a rethink of what constitutes modern hospitality, from the point of view of the guest: what do guests actually want, as opposed to what hotels want to sell to them. Guests are truly guests, staying at the house of a group of friends – a house that happens to have been designed by the world-class designer Werner Aisslinger, but a house of friends all the same. Everywhere there’s a sense of play, rebelliousness, new textures, ingenious combinations, humour, using budget pricing as a creative tool to make things happen. As Tom Michelberger says, “Perfection does not create memories, because memories only result from movement, from a lively experience of interaction – with people, the surroundings and the atmosphere.”
A cosmopolitan yet street-savvy hangout that expands on the formula of single and double rooms, giving people more options in the way they want to sleep. A Hotel that offers great bang for the buck. Created by a collaborative team who have built a hotel where they would love to stay – they know their guests, because they themselves are part of the target group. Every detail is thought through with playful execution and an abundance of personal, human elements from flea markets and antique stores are combined with a high level of room style.
A landmark building from the turn of the last century, the Michelberger’s shell is a former factory with details typical of the period. These include a clinker brick façade, a generous courtyard, high ceilings, stone archways and massive paned windows. Repurposed as a hotel, the natural advantages of all these features are obvious: space and light to allow easy interaction and a sense of ease and play.
The Looks originated not out of a single vision, but rather through the collaboration of a group of strong characters, all with different talents, all bringing their personal vision to the project. For example, the local building squad, bar and club builder heroes, who build everything from tables to reception desks, from rubbish bins to the courtyard stage. Everything in the hotel, from the beds to the lights has been built, created or hand-picked especially for it.
“My approach was to do a collage world, not a clean, designed world”, says Werner Aisslinger.“ It shouldn’t be something where everything is clean and perfect, but rather one with something family-like in it, a bit of chaos. It’s not so much ambitious architecture or interiors stuffed with details.” Aisslinger, the creator of the world-famous Loft Cube living concept, was excited to join in creating what he calls a “new typology of hotel”.
“Tom and his team wanted community at every level, not an anonymous place where you just check in”, he says. Aisslinger has created a relentlessly personal space that combines mix-andmatch, flea market finds with thoroughly thought-out, innovative use of space. The interior places an emphasis on a cosmopolitan, forward-looking use of materials at an extremely reasonable price point, so that backpackers and business and leisure travellers alike can enjoy a special social space.
Stylists Anja Knauer and Sibylle Oellerich worked with Aisslinger to decorate rooms in a personal way that connects to the history without relying on kitsch. “The thing people in East Berlin do now is to take old stuff, put it together and get something new”, says Knauer. She and Oellerich scoured flea markets and antique shops, finding sugar bowls to mount on the wall for use as towel racks, flower vases that are transformed into soap dishes, different books for each room. “These elements have a story behind them”, says Knauer, “a connection to the past of this city. You typically see this around Berlin, but not in hotel rooms!”
THE PUBLIC SPACES
The brick façade is graced with a hollywood-style marquee that provides a jolt of half-ironic glamour; through an entryway lit up with oversized light bulbs, guests enter a space that is an analogue to the city, a mix-and-match paradise of vintage and hand-crafted surfaces and spaces.
The reception desk, a circle-shaped island, is situated in the middle of the bar and welcome area, keeping a low profile so as not to intrude on the fun. It’s low-key, informal yet professional, the opposite of the usual looming desk that dominates the public space. The ground floor branches out from here in an easy flow, a series of highly textured spaces that retain rough-edged, historical patina. There are polished concrete floors, walls that still bear the marks of time, complemented by crowded bookshelves lining the walls with seating alcoves worked in between them. Guests will realize instantly that they’re in a playful universe, Berlin done one better and conceptualized but not overdone. Oversized lampshades made of books, exclusively built by Werner Aisslinger for the Michelberger Hotel, are made out of old, retained German travel picture books from the 60s and 70s. There’s a bar with a stage so that performance-inclined guests can let it all out. It’s all done up in a aesthetic raided from flea markets that provide a connection to the past - the effect is modern yet relaxed, a setting for a good long chill-out that will attract a cool local crowd as well.
The courtyard is the heart of the hotel. A greenhouse garden, trees and wooden platforms with garden swing seats, mini-huts and bars provide the feeling of a playground where guests can sit, stand, swing, observe, have drinks, circulate...
Stylists Anja Knauer and Sibylle Oellerich come from the film world, where set design is supposed to tell a story, rather than looking flashy and new. They applied the same aesthetic to furnishing the Michelberger’s rooms: every detail tells a story.
Rooms are referred to by their size: the the 33m3, the 55m3, the 88m3 are all for different-sized groups, from one to four people, and the Luxus room, a slightly different take with gadgets and luxury touches galore. Rooms that look onto the courtyards will feature the spectacle of nonstop social life in the garden and greenhouse setting, while outside rooms are open to the world through their oversized windows.
In every room there is unique wallpaper by Azar Kazimir, a special view into the Michelberger universe, with images that represent ideas, thoughts, and moments that inspired the team through the process of creating the hotel. There are records from the nightclub, old Mercedes and palm trees and sunshine and old-school computer consoles, all little things with personal meaning to the Michelberger team, all of it hand-drawn. In addition, there are pictures from antique photo albums, a hand-selected personal library in each room – elements that add up to the feeling of spending the night at the house of an extremely cool friend.
“We just told ourselves: let’s build rooms that we would like to stay in” says Tom Michelberger. To this end, textured vinyl and concrete flooring, dark-wood laminate accents and further use of larch wood as a frame for flat-screen televisions create a distinct interplay of modern and raw materials.
The bathrooms provide privacy and openness with a combination of transparent and silk-screened glass, creating a cocoon for the modern, socially oriented traveller.
Werner Aisslinger was tasked with making space efficiency playful and fun. He plays with verticality and transparent surfaces: in basic rooms, king-sized beds on hand-made brushed and oiled larch wood platforms are flanked on both sides by glass – the glass-walled bathrooms on one side, the oversized, multi-paned windows on the other. A play of muted grey walls and brightyellow curtains creates contrast that is easy on the eye while still providing a bit of visual style.
Everything from the lighting – custom lamps hanging by cords looped throughout the room – to the television (which plays a custom-created loop of films and clips created by the Michelberger think-tank) has been rethought for contrast, for fun, for ease of use and to break up the typical, oppressive feeling of anonymity in a city hotel.
THE ROOM TYPES
33m3: Cosily tailored for a short stay, small in space but high in style. Rooms have a king-sized bed, open glass shower with natural daylight, free wifi, flat screen TV and great views of either the River Spree or the hotels courtyard. Hosts from 1-2 people.
55m3: Ideal for couples or two people sharing. Twin beds are located on a mezzanine level, with furnishings hand crafted in a natural wooden style. Rooms have an open glass shower, free wifi, flat screen TV and views of the iconic Oberbaum Bridge. Host from 1-3 guests.
88m3: Tailored for sharing with 4 single beds. These open plan rooms have free wifi, flatscreen TV and courtyard views - ideal for small groups of friends or colleagues. The use of a loft area for sleeping introduces verticality, for more drama and a sense of playful space. The bed sits above the bathroom, surrounded by netting that provides a sense of security and a playful way to hang essentials like alarm clocks and toiletries.
The Luxus: For more space – as a love nest or whatever the reason – Luxus rooms have a kingsized bed, free wifi, Bonanza-style open wooden bath tub and are outfitted with little Michelberger gadgets.
The Big One: For a travelling band or a professional team, a
group of backpackers, whomever wants to sleep in a big group in the same
room – provides a grand space that continues the loft idea. Socializing
and work is done down on the floor level, while the beds are above the
bathroom on an open loft space.
|THE TARGET GROUP
Young at heart travellers, Berlin lovers, workers and visitors, who come to vibrant East Berlin for work or as a destination for the city’s legendary nightlife, the art and creative scene, the do-ityourself ethos of imperfection and rough edges.
Starting at 59 euros for the 33m3 rooms and ranging up to 119 euros for The Luxus, the Michelberger caters to backpackers as well as better-funded experience-seekers. The innovative use of low-cost raw materials and an operational Set up, that runs on few but strong shoulders leading to low overhead costs, allow the hotel to provide great bang for the buck.
The hotel has done successful pirate P.R. with its popular “Baustelle
parties”, ad hoc social events that have attracted serious attention in
Berlin. The Michelberger crew, as soon as they cleared an area in the site,
threw a party, evolving from an after-work hangout for friends to an underground
Berlin destination in its own right. The site has become a frequent film
and photographic backdrop as well as a must on the city’s party circuit.
“If you have the space, you have to do something with it”, says Nadine
May of the Michelberger group. “The local network we built through it is
a big part of the hotel’s spirit. We live here, we love the city, and we
want to have all these people around
The popularity of the construction-site parties and the basement bar led the team to devote more space to events and social activity in the hotel – an example of the organic process that guided the hotel’s development, and also of the strong word-of-mouth that already attracts significant attention, and will drive social life as well as attract paying guests.
The character and the face of our hotel will stand as the cornerstone for future Michelberger adventures. The Team is open to various partnerships and projects with those who have a similar outlook. The core idea is not bound to a specific place or a specific product; it’s a way of doing things.
Birgit Schmoltner Communications
|Also See:||Hoteliers Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode Restore 200-Room Residential Hotel in NYC's West Village; 50 sq. ft. Rooms Start at $99 / November 2008|