Last summer, with its interiors designed by Karim Rashid and a lively lighting concept crafted by Focus Lighting, the 52-room Semiramis Hotel welcomed the Olympics to Athens. Much of the boutique hotel's impact has to do with the juicy colors that seem to flow over and beyond the structural boundaries-a result of light's interaction with the colored glass that exists throughout. The exterior balconies offer the most apparent example of their communion. Wrapped with green-tinted glass, the guest-room lookouts interact playfully with sunlight during the day; at night, backlit by 9W fluorescent steplights located on either side of the balcony door, the lemony silhouette of the table and chairs suggests the trendy hospitality inside. At the entrance, blue-gel fluorescents beneath a fritted-glass floor feed visitors into the lobby. Around the white cutout of the reception desk, a lightly frosted glass wall-both up- and downlighted with LEDs-slowly rotates through a color cycle, as do LED-illuminated ceiling slots that stretch across the lobby. Under Rashid's direction, pink became the color of choice throughout the space, such as in the second-floor lounge area, where a rose-tinted glass wall faces an amber glass railing . 'These are the colors of sunset when the sun is coming through at a low angle and everyone has a warm, rich glow,' says Paul Gregory, principal designer at Focus Lighting.
Quirky details, brought to the fore with light, contribute to Semiramis's unique character. Each guestroom has its own symbol, rather than a room number; these appear as backlit glass cutouts at the front desk, and are used to communicate messages to guests. Hanging paper 'do not disturb' signs are rendered obsolete by LED 'message boards' on the floor in front of each room, which tie back into a central switchboard. Here and elsewhere, the project adeptly capitalizes on the various benefits of LEDs. A recessed ceiling detail in the hallways, for example, features a piece of acrylic backlit with white LEDs. This technology could fit in the small ceiling space and provide an even, glowing band, unlike fluorescent, which would have been too large for the space and caused socket shadow.
Even the guestrooms partake of the lighting experience. Here, visitors are greeted with an installation by New York artist Megan Lang, which is backlit to create an interesting detail and comfortable ambient light. Focus Lighting designed the hinged fluorescent reading lamps on either side of the bed, which are normally dimmed to 50 percent, but reach full brightness when pivoted outward.
It is like a lot of projects we've seen. They are very theatrical, very aggressive. But for a 'gaudy' project this has a lot of interesting restraint. It has an economy that you don't typically feel in these 'Las Vegas-type' projects.
Project Semiramis Hotel, Athens
Lighting designer Focus Lighting, New York
Interior designer Karim Rashid, New York
Photographer Jennifer Alexander/Focus Lighting