Thursday 20 Mar 2014
Palazzo Montemartini is an early 20th century building (although designed to look older), that was originally a residential structure and subsequently the administrative offices of the Roman city transport company (ATAC). It is located opposite the Termini railway station in Rome and next to the National Archaeological Museum, once the site of the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian. Part of the early Roman city wall (Mura Serlianae) sits in the entry garden facing the station.
Both the site and the building have inspired many of the themes explored in this project. They also brought with them a number of challenge, firstly a conservation order on all the exteriors and some of the interiors and secondly the original layout of the rooms and the main public spaces were not immediately suitable to the new programme of a hotel. This meant the design on the 87 guest rooms involves seven or eight 'types' which are then adapted to the existing building one by one.
Thirdly, the structure, an early example of a reinforced concrete, mixed with load bearing walls, with a large number of level changes has given rise to a necessarily complex distribution of the hotel. Nevertheless, the difficulties combined with the character of the building and particularly its siting provide a continual stimulus channelled into the three main themes developed in the design: stone, water and bespoke furnishing with modern design classics.
The Roman baths and the Servian wall surrounding the building suggested the use of stone as a floor finish and a material for not only bathrooms but many public spaces as well. In recent years the technology of working stone; computer controlled cutting, lamination, glues, stain proof and waterproofing treatments, have combined to make it a most versatile material. It was clearly the most suitable material to bring the theme of water and public baths to life.
With the Roman Baths of Diocletian next door, water became a leitmotiv for this spa hotel in which the presence of water permeated the spaces for the entire hotel. From the swimming pool on the roof terrace to fountains and channels within the building with a natural conclusion in the spa in the lower ground floor. Water also invades some spaces where water would not normally be present. For example, the private pools in some of the rooms, or the table-fountains in the main lounge.
To offset a possible excess of ancient Roman references, modern design classics of the 20s to the 50s have been used for some of the furniture and light fittings. Given the spatial constraints of many rooms, the architects used the opportunity to design as one-offs many of the items of furniture, like the beds and seating and particularly the bathrooms (in stone).