Athens’ new MGallery symphonises architecture, design and art to capture the city’s soul.
Athens Capital Hotel, the MGallery Collection’s first hotel in Greece, has just opened. Located in the heart of the city, its prominent position on the corner of Parliament Square means it looks in one direction towards one of Athens’ most popular tourist destination and in the other towards the bohemian quarter of Kolonaki with its numerous art galleries. It was this vibe that the interior designers, MKV Design, decided to embrace in order to create a hotel that is a perfect fit for the MGallery brand – individual, modern and rich in stories told through art, design and architecture.
Originally opening in 1959 as the famous Kings Palace hotel, the building subsequently housed a bank before standing empty for a number of years. The building form that the project team inherited naturally lent itself to a jigsaw of spaces and levels around a 27-meter high atrium which is open to the sky, and it is here that the hotel’s defining art piece has been installed – the original Mappemonde sculpted by leading Greek artist, George Lappas, for the Venice Biennale of 1988.
Composed of 3,000 metal pieces, Mappemonde is one of the best-known and most important works of Greek post-war sculpture and reflects on the relationship between the personal and universal, the local and global. The genius of its placement in Athens Capital Hotel is that the designers have converted the previously horizontal display into an astonishing vertical installation, soaring up the building to “break through” the 10th floor roof top. Lappas’s version of his own house, which originally sat in the centre of the sculpture, is now perched over the atrium void, open to guests brave enough to venture inside.
The drama of the Mappemonde sculpture contrasts with a refined interior aesthetic, celebrating the elegance of pure lines and noble materials and subtly integrating Greek symbols and patterns. The ground floor public areas are a series of intimate nooks flowing from the main entrance on the busy Panepistimiou Avenue to the Galerie Café which opens onto a quiet lane leading to Kolonaki. Reception is at the far end, away from the entrance, which adds to the residential
ambience and sense of exclusivity. As in ancient Athens, white Dionysus marble prevails combined with grey marble, both skilfully honed to show the workmanship, and accents are in gold. These are complemented by the warm tones of fabrics, especially the vibrant blue hue synonymous with Greece. The reception area hosts two paintings by Yannis Adamakos whose richly coloured abstracted landscapes have earned him international attention.
The 177 bedrooms and suites are cosy and contemporary. Generous use of timber, marble clad bathrooms and original artwork add to the experience of luxury. The Presidential Suite features a custom-designed wall covering and rug with designs based on Greek heritage patterns and benefits from a large outdoor terrace for lounging and dining in the warm Athenian light. Views from the guestrooms are unforgettable, either towards the square and National Garden or into the atrium. Several of the suites are named after revered Greek artists, including soprano Maria Callas, actress Melina Mercouri, the poet and Nobel Prize winner, Odysseas Elytis, and the composer and songwriter, Manos Chatzidakis – reinforcing the significance of great artistry to the MGallery brand.
In a city that revels in its rooftop experiences, MKV’s planning put emphasis on creating an Athens Capital rooftop which brings a truly memorable addition with thoughtful levels and zones offering a variety of experiences. A swimming pool has been introduced, carefully placed to offer the best views towards the Parthenon and the sea, while, on the opposite side, the Mappemonde Bar & Lounge overlooks the Parliament building and National Garden beyond. By night, the Mappemonde sculpture is washed with illumination.
Other spaces include an all-day dining restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine, three small meeting rooms and a gym. The original staircase, now restored, winds its way up through the building – should guests want a bracing alternative to the lifts.
In total, Athens Capital Hotel displays hundreds of original artworks by Athenian and Greek artists, some well-established and others up-and-coming. There is also the “Iconic Object”. Since storytelling is an important part of the MGallery experience, each hotel within the collection hosts an item of special significance to its location. For Athens Capital Hotel, this is an Akrokeramon, a decorative architectural element seen widely across neoclassical Athenian rooftops, symbolising the timeless value of hospitality.
Urban artist, Vangelis Khoursoglou, has spray painted an edition of 50 Akrokeramon, adding a touch of modern street art to a traditional motif, and these have been placed around the hotel to charm and intrigue.
“The Athens Capital project has been particularly exciting and enriching because we were working with a client who has a deep appreciation of art and with a hotel brand for which art is an integral part of its DNA,” says Maria Vafiadis, Founder and Managing Director of MKV Design. “When design and art come together in this way, the result is especially meaningful, individual and full of soul.”
The architects on the project were MTarchitects; the lighting consultants were Lighting Design International and the art consultant was Maria Migadi.
The artists (in addition to those featured above) were: Yannis Moralis, Spiros Vasileiou, Dimosthenis Kokkinidis, Panagiotis Tetsis, Evgenios Spatharis, Stefaños Nanopoulos (Nano), Yannis Stavrou, Yannis Papanelopoulos, Tasos Chonias, Christos Baloukos and Christoforos Balabanidis. All the guestroom originals, inspired by Cycladic art and classical Greek lines, were by Sofia Petropoulou and the Greek flag
artwork in the lift lobby was created by Zeta Antsakli.
Key suppliers included: Minotti (sofas), B&B Italia (outdoor furniture), Verywood (chairs), Heathfield (guestroom lights), Knoll (chairs), Pierre Frey (guestroom fabrics), Brintons (guestroom rugs) and Vescom (guestroom wallcovering) as well as a number of local suppliers of bespoke furniture, lights and accessories.