With Zurich’s historical center behind us, we walk along the lake. Passed the prestigious Opera Theatre, overlooking the shore, lies a majestic Art Nouveau building with an elegant central cupola crowned with a classical tympanum and lateral wings adorned by sculptures, lion heads, friezes and garlands. This could be the description of the Hotel Eden au Lac in 1920 when it had just been inaugurated and, thanks to the marvelous Swiss passage of time, it is still valid, precise and punctual today. Identical to 100 years ago, in all its original splendor, it seems to have changed only in name, as a few weeks ago it became La Réserve Eden au Lac Zürich: a five-star hotel with forty rooms and two restaurants on the world’s most exclusive lakeside. Good to know, but what has design got to do with it?
The reasons for our curiosity reveal themselves once you step inside because, despite the exterior presenting itself in its antique splendor, the interior undergoes a sudden metamorphosis in “… A timeless place, respectful and insolent, serious and crazy. An imaginary, modern Yacht Club by the lake.” Philippe Starck. A starred-hotel with a visionary designer: the thinking of the new owner, Michel Reybier, a guarantee in the universe of luxury hôtellerie, makes perfect sense.
With decades of history in front of him, Philippe Starck, the most versatile inventor on the international design scene, wanted to dig (literally) into its origins. With an almost archaeological approach, the building’s original structure was gradually freed from overlapping layers accumulated over the years (plaster, tapestry, wallpaper…) until the brick walls, solid wood floors, the basement’s marble and cement details were uncovered. Once the structure had been recovered, the hotel was decorated in an entirely new, surreal fashion. Phillipe Stark reinvented the building’s history tout court, transforming it into an imaginary “historic” nautical club, riddled with sentimental objects like nautical maps, photographs, paintings of sail boats and fearless captains, collections of hull and gondolas, and oars placed here and there (as if they had been forgotten after a regatta).
From the rooms furnished as onshore sailor’s cabins to the two restaurants—The Eden Kitchen & Bar with an open kitchen (Italian chef Marco Ortolani) and La Muña under the cupola with a 360° view from the Alps to the historical center (chef Tomoko Gunji Hangartner)—the La Réserve Eden au Lac is a treasure chest where imaginary memories of bygone lives and recovered objects in Zurich and around the lake are blended. As Phillipe Starck, a passionate sailor who knows the sea and sailboats, says “…There is complete osmosis in the building and environment, the sounds and stories”, which is fair whether they are true or not.
WHERE: Utoquai 45, Zurich, Switzerland
PHOTOS: Courtesy Hotel La Réserve Eden au Lac Zürich – Credits © Grégoire Gardette