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Interview with Tassilo Bost: “I wanted to combine private accommodation with the view to the harbor.”

Interiot designer Tassilo Bost © Westin
Interiot designer Tassilo Bost
© Westin

The Elbphilharmonie has had to overcome a few difficulties until its completion. However, it’s fascinating shape, the artful wave design referring to the water around it as well as the union between the old Kaispeicher, a former warehouse building, with modern glass architecture make it already to a landmark of Hamburg’s Hafencity. And also at the inside, too, the building wants to set an example – as in the bathroom concept of the integrated hotel Westin. In this interview, Tassilo Bost talks about his design – and why the “sublimity of a location” can practically become an erotic experience in a bathroom with a view.

Mr Bost, the cooperation with Westin for the hotel in the Elbphilharmonie was certainly anything but ordinary?
Our planning office had been working with Westin in 2008 even before the planning started. They didn’t want an “off-the-peg” hotel and we could fully concentrate on dealing in depth with the virtuoso architecture designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

What is the basic concept behind your approach to the Westin Hotel?
It is becoming increasingly important for hotels to have some kind of connection to their locality, which is in line with a current trend in hotel design. This connection to the surroundings of the Elbphilharmonie extends to the privacy of the bathrooms thanks to the transparent façade. This “extroverted privacy” is key to the guest’s unique experience.

The Elbphilharmonie at Hamburg's Hafencity. © Westin
The Elbphilharmonie at Hamburg’s Hafencity.
© Westin

You once said, “Take a look at the bathroom and you will know how good the (hotel) room is”. Is this what prompted you to take such a radical approach and put a few bathrooms next to the façade?
When you have an architectural icon in such an exposed location on the one hand and a vital port on the other, then you need a confident idea. We didn’t want our design to simply follow a trend. We used purism and transparency to put the focus on the special quality of the genius loci.

But isn’t it contradicting the notion of using space efficiently, putting some of the bathrooms right next to the façade?
The bathroom is probably where guests spend most of their time intentionally. As we see it, people find a special tranquillity here to concentrate on the unique view.

The extroverted location of the bathrooms lets you celebrate the view. What significance does that have for the hotel and, therefore, for the guests?
We want to offer visitors a retreat and not just unique architecture, a place where they can enjoy a distinctive moment of contemplation. Guests will then always associate this intense experience with their stay at this hotel.

A bathroom with a view - the bathroom of the Westin Hotel Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg © Westin
A bathroom with a view – the bathroom of the Westin Hotel Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
© Westin

What do you think prevails in this experience? The exclusivity of the location or that you are able to let your gaze drift off into the distance?
That depends on the person. For me, it was important to combine the contradiction of a private retreat with a view over the lively port. The “pampering of the ego”, i.e. the experience of exclusivity and luxury, obviously also plays a decisive role. Especially in bathrooms, this very private area, a place of undress, this “sublimity of the location” practically becomes an erotic experience.

How do you see the contradiction between the desire for privacy and the extroverted, almost exhibitionist location of the bathrooms?
This very tension creates that incomparable feeling, which provides guests with this special moment. These kinds of experiences can trigger an “addiction”. Maybe even a strong desire to return to this place.

For more than 15 years the Berlin-based office has been concentrating on hotel architecture and design. The interdisciplinary team works besides Westin for international hotel brands in the fields consulting, design and the realisation of projects. In the bathrooms of the Westin Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, it also uses Villeroy & Boch products.