One of Switzerland’s most legendary destinations, the Bürgenstock Resort, has reopened with MKV Design as a principal designer of this nine-year, multimillion-franc project. The studio was responsible for several highlights within the resort:
•The Bürgenstock Hotel: architectural masterplanning and interior design
•The Bürgenstock Alpine Spa: interior design
•The Palace Hotel and Conferences: interior design
•Grand Residence Suites: interior design
•Sharq Oriental Restaurant and Shisha Lounge: interior design
Chief amongst the considerable design challenges was restoring prestige to a resort that had been a legend since 1873, which had a fine pioneering heritage - Switzerland’s first electric railway, Europe’s highest outdoor elevator - and which had been synonymous with glamour and celebrity. It was here that, in the mid-20th Century, Audrey Hepburn was married, Charlie Chaplin regularly stayed, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti made their home and the Goldfinger film crew, including Sean Connery, lodged whilst shooting in the region.
However, as the 20th Century grew to a close, the resort was losing its’ way. A lack of a renewed master vision, as well as investment, meant Bürgenstock could no longer live up to the expectations of guests who were increasingly well-travelled and familiar with the new luxury offerings of other resort destinations.
Bürgenstock was in need of reinvention, one that was both visionary and in keeping with the 130-year-old narrative of the very large, 140-acre resort. Ten years ago, under new ownership, the plan was formed to renovate or, in some cases, demolish the existing buildings, to introduce new world-class elements and to upgrade all infrastructure. MKV was tasked with providing a guest experience that was specific to each part it was designing, buildings which nevertheless would “click” together to create a homogenous destination. Above all, the work was to reaffirm and celebrate what is unique about the Bürgenstock experience, adding new layers to this and thus ensuring longevity well into the future.
The new Bürgenstock Hotel and Alpine Spa sits at the heart of the resort. It is where guests arrive via the legendary, and now renovated, electric railway and have their first unforgettable view of the panorama from the resort before proceeding to the piazza. The experience of the Bürgenstock Hotel is that of being in a helicopter or a bird in flight hovering above the sheer drop of the Bürgenberg Mountain into the valley and down to Lake Lucerne. An astonishing, modernist construct with over six-metres-high, fully-glazed walls that overlook the mountains and valley from the public areas, every aspect of scale, height and axis of views was considered by the designers when planning the massing, the shape of the building and its internal layouts.
The scenery is everything and the interior design is deliberately held in check to allow the natural world to be the star. There is little to no artwork. After all, who needs artwork when nature is so completely engaging? Materials are natural, textural and local – stone from the mountains, for example - achieving a sense of uninterrupted transition from the view outside to indoors. Breathtaking views notwithstanding, the experience of the public areas is cosy. Great care has been taken to create comfortable seating areas with rugs and deep armchairs to sink into, there are fireplaces to gather around and the colour palette is reassuringly earthy. The dizzying majesty outside is counterbalanced by a sense of rootedness inside.
The reception lobby inside the Bürgenstock Hotel is shared by The Palace Hotel and features desk pods constructed of curved sawn timber and surrounded by beautiful tactile bronze panelled walls. In the centre of the space is a round fireplace surrounded by an eclectic mix of seating. From here, guests can be directed to The Palace Hotel, which is linked by a “museum corridor” displaying the fascinating history of the resort.
All the hotel’s 102 bedrooms direct guests toward the view from the moment the door opens, with a perfect flow of spaces from arrival through lounge areas to bedroom and then onto the huge window with an integrated seat - a space to sit and “touch” the majesty of nature. Materials are warm and natural, including bronze, timber and stone; they are quietly beautiful, intended to match the stunning view, not to fight it. Floors are of dark walnut parquet, contemporary oak cabinetry is crafted with the finest Swiss attention to detail, there is a large walk-in closet and all the rooms are equipped with top-end technology including Bose sound systems.
The bathrooms offer a similar flow towards the window where, in the luxury of a double-size tub, guests can soak in wonder. They feature an exquisite, deeply veined marble wall and an oversized rain shower, while between the bedroom and bathroom, shimmering sliding doors composed of bronze mesh encased in glass add discrete glamour. The hotel also enjoys a range of suites, crowned by a six-bedroom suite on the top floor.
The Palace Hotel and Conferences has been reinvented as a synthesis of grand fin-de-siècle architecture and state-of-the-art interior design. It opened originally in 1903, and is a magnificent example of classical architecture. Naturally, The Palace Hotel was refurbished several times through the course of the last century but, by the 21st Century, it was in need of complete renovation. While working in line with all the principles of historic preservation, MKV Design has essentially created a new hotel. The ground floor public areas have been recreated as faithful interpretation of the original, while the function areas and guestroom levels above are contemporary in style.
The Palace Lobby Lounge has been sensitively restored to replicate the original space with its famous pink marble effect columns. The new furniture has been custom-designed and is complemented by antique pieces and original paintings from the hotel’s vast collection. The colour palette has been returned to its original greens and gold.
RitzCoffier is an homage to legendary haute-cuisine chef Georges Auguste Escoffier, who was at the helm of the resort’s earlier, much acclaimed Escoffier restaurant, as well as famed Swiss hotelier César Ritz. The restaurant abounds in restored memorabilia from the past – not least some 1,000+ vintage copper pots collected from across the Bürgenstock resort which have been brought back to splendid decorative effect. An original cooking range has been repurposed as the buffet counter and reclaimed elements, such as an antique hearth and imposing original timber doors, add historic gravitas to this new fine dining destination.
The Salle Palace (the pre-function area) is adjacent to the lounge and provides a traditional interior for more formal events. By contrast, the 2,200 sq metre Conference Centre is modern in style. It includes the Lakeview Ballroom with its intricately carved timber cladding depicting a traditional Swiss mountain scene and wonderfully unique chandeliers that have been created using existing cut glass pieces from chandeliers that were once installed in the original resort.
The Palace Hotel offers 108 superior rooms and suites. Designed to be comfortable and homey, the rooms have been created with built-in casegoods in natural oak, worn leather armchairs adorned with felt wool cushions and faux fur throws.
As the name suggests, the Grand Residence Suites epitomise the luxury of the Swiss grand hotel tradition transposed into residential living. Sited on the location of the former Grand Hotel, the suites are in fact entirely new behind the impressive 19th Century façade. The 27 residences and two penthouses vary in size and design tone, from the loft-style, one-bedroom maisonette to the more formal and richly embellished penthouses on the top floors. That aside, however, they all share in exceptionally luxurious features, from finest silk fabrics, works of art by international artists and fine saddle leather to floors of smoked oak and beautifully veined marbles.
Taking the heritage of spa at Bürgenstock to a new level, the design for the unprecedented 10,000 sq metre Alpine Spa is simply stunning. Built partly on the site of the previous spa, which was introduced in the mid-1970s, and extended by blasting a tunnel through the mountain which now emerges into a cantilevered glass box, the spa is perched on the side of mountain, 450 metres above Lake Lucerne. It is linked to the fourth floor of the Bürgenstock Hotel and extends across three levels.
The wellness areas indoors wrap around the fully glazed walls providing the ultimate in rejuvenating views from the pool, L-shaped relaxation room, numerous specialist treatment rooms and sauna. On the landside, there is a state-of-the-art gym, hair salon and changing rooms, and in between, the spa restaurant connects the two wings and opens onto an outdoor terrace. There are also three pools; one inside and, outside, the Hollywood Pool as well as the spectacular Infinity-Edge Pool with water maintained at 36 degrees. Guests may also enjoy a private spa terrace.
The tunnel created a challenge for the designers: how to elevate a walk through a mountain into part of the spa journey for guests making their way from reception to the lift lobby? The solution was to take the idea of a museum walk which links The Palace Hotel and the Bürgenstock Hotel and create a second museum walk through the mountain corridor of the spa.
There is a magnificent reception desk carved out of a single piece of white Arabescato marble; smoked oak finishes and local stone abound. The spa restaurant remains in its previous location and is more traditional in style than the rest of the spa, in keeping with the earlier design. Swiss-style fabrics, worn leather upholstery and original furnishings complement the look with a touch of nostalgia and fond memories of the original spa.