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Garden of Eden

The Can Bordoy Grand House and Garden in sunny Palma de Mallorca is a paradise for nature lovers and its design centres itself around the vegetation giving the whole property an ethereal feeling. Photo courtesy : José Hevia

Turning 500 years of history into a magical space for its contemporary guests, the Can Bordoy Grand House and Garden is a small 24 room hotel with a magnificent garden, swimming pool, spa and panoramic terrace, located in the historic center of Palma de Mallorca. It is a complete renovation of a 2,500 m2 abandoned building that had been heavily intervened throughout it’s vast history. OHLAB was roped in to create this design vision, as a practise the firm looks at urban analysis and cultural research of contemporary society through design, architectural practice and urban strategy. OHLAB has been recently awarded as Interior Design firm of 2019 by Architecture Masterprize, selected as one of the 6 best emerging interior design studios of 2018 by Dezeen and has been previously described by the Chicago Athenaeum as “one of Europe’s most important emerging architects”. In 2019 they received numerous architecture and interior design awards for its work in the recently opened Can Bordoy hotel in Palma. The office, directed by Paloma Hernaiz and Jaime Oliver, was originally established in Shanghai, moved to Madrid and currently its main office is in Palma de Mallorca where a team of 18 architects, interior designers and building engineers are working on a variety of projects. OHLAB focussed on the most distinctive elements of the property which is its garden. They were inspired by not only its size but also by the richness and antiquity of the existing vegetation. One of the project’s most important interventions has been opening the doors of the garden until now unknown by the vast majority, to the city and giving it visibility from the entrance courtyard and from the street.

The proposed program is intended to evoke the experience of visiting a house more than a hotel. Therefore, rather than being at a hotel reception, the clients meet at the entrance hall of the house, instead of a restaurant you find a residential dining room, the rooms and living rooms are like those you would find in an old house, etc. The project carefully preserves the romantic and decadent atmosphere found in the building and is deliberately contrasted with interventions and elements from different epochs. It is a respectful intervention with the existing centenary architectural crossbreeding, maintaining the traces of the past and avoiding a false recovery of a glorious past that the house has never had.

Inspired by the traditional Japanese technique of Kintsugi - the art of repairing broken antique porcelain with a precious material, such as gold dust, and thus obtaining a repaired piece that does not hide the fracture and whose result is a piece that may have even more value than the ceramic before breaking- the project does not pretend to hide the heterodox eclecticism of the existing building, but instead conciliate and celebrate the different layers of history and clearly highlight the new interventions that have been necessary to give the house its new use.

A series of architectural strategies were designed and developed throughout the building as a collection of theatrical and distinctive contemporary interventions in dialogue with the existing building. Large velvet curtains disguise the new bathrooms in the rooms creating a scenography where the bathroom happens to be the new set; instead of hiding this new element its use is celebrated. On the ground floor, a green corridor of vegetation invades the dining rooms connecting the garden with the courtyard and the street. In the main staircase, the skylight is flooded with water becoming a small pool with a transparent bottom that creates a play of light through the water, flooding the staircase with caustic reflections… Etc The furniture is a very important part of the project. The eclecticism of the architecture is reflected in the selection of furniture with pieces from very different eras and origins. Antiquarian pieces coexist with contemporary furniture carefully selected and with bespoke furniture designed by OHLAB specifically for Can Bordoy as a collection of beds and bars.

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