Snapshot: The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles has seen many iterations in design, but none so surprising as Patrick Jouin’s redesign of Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Between the Seine and haute retail center Champs-Elysées, the redesign at once echoes the embellishments of Paris past and the contemporary design center that is Paris present.
Suspended in the hotel’s palatial dining hall, an upside-down peak of crystal points in opposition to the globular metal furniture rising from the floor. The space thrives with the energy of opposition, elements historic and new meeting in a space that can no longer be mistaken as a trademark of old-school French opulence. Jouin’s reconfiguration spurns the traditional ephemera of upper echelon hoteliery - the white linen napkins, frilly tablecloths, and anachronistic patterned motifs - for what he describes as “a world of beauty, poetry, surprise.”
Take the Bar au Plaza Athénée, where a classic space is flooded with a bloom of color and vigor. The preexisting carved-wood arch supports and wood-panelled walls encounter a rich shroud of lapis lazuli-hued cloth. It is a contrast not only of hue - deep blue against caramel wood - but also of vitality, of stoic woodwork against the energy of a winding cloth installation. The bar counter also features a material shift, with a wide lip of clear resin bowing out from the center. Behind, carbon-fiber panels are coated with hammered steel to provide a textured backdrop to mixologist Thierry Hernandez at work.
Dual Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse oversees the restaurant - Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, where the change of design accompanies an overall change of perspective. Ducasse created an entirely new menu composed solely of seafood, grains, and vegetables, and this reduction and new focus seems to echo in Jouin’s redesign. “The idea is to disorient slightly,” shares Jouin, describing how dance and music inspired his approach where “your eye floats freely and wanders unguided.” In the banquet hall, you can’t help but get lost in the unexpected illusions and distorted reflections of the polished steel furnishings. They stretch on an expansive scale in organic shapes, dually providing visual interest and privacy for those seated within. For a designer who has done such projects as the US flagship of Van Cleef & Arpels and fellow Alain Ducasse restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel (within the famed monument itself), the Hôtel Plaza Athénée is an iconic experiment in rewriting a space’s identity towards wider accessibility. By making a full turn from the hotel’s opulent past and intersecting those elements with utterly contemporary design features, Jouin creates a creative tension that draws the visitor in via surprise and wonder.
Project: Patrick Jouin Design
Photography : Pierre Monetta