John Pawson Transforms a Former Tel Aviv Hospital Into the Jaffa Hotel
The master of minimalism adds his elegant touch to this historic landmark
What was once a French hospital in 19th-century Tel Aviv is soon to be the latest luxury hotel in Jaffa, the oldest district in Israel’s vibrant coastal city. The 120-room Jaffa Tel Aviv is the result of a decade-long collaboration between New York real-estate impresario and art collector Aby Rosen and British architect John Pawson, who elegantly blended modern interiors with the building’s original elements, among them marble Roman columns with Corinthian cornices and ornate stained-glass windows.
With a distinct minimalist aesthetic, Pawson is known for his carefully considered and thoughtful approach to design, whether it be hotels, yachts, or homes. Here, we caught up with the renowned architect to hear how he transformed the crumbling structure with his signature elegant restraint.
Galerie: What were some of the building’s original elements or details that you found most inspirational?
John Pawson: What most inspired me was the way the existing structures came together to create a very special atmosphere, which I found incredibly moving when I first walked around the site. More specifically, inheriting a cloister configuration was very important, in terms of the embedded patterns of movement and the sense of intimacy and enclosure. The character of the stone was also always at the front of my thoughts—as a carrier of history but also for its interaction with the dramatic play of light and shadow.
What was the biggest challenge in transforming a 19th-century hospital into a luxury hotel?
Wherever I am working, the challenge is always to ensure that people who are entering one of my designs for the first time feel instinctively at ease and at home. Of course there are practical issues in terms of accommodating a modern program and services when you inherit a historic structure, but this history also anchors the contemporary vision in a more resonant sense of place.
How did you make sure the contemporary interiors blended so harmoniously with the historic character of the space?
A lot of consideration went into the material palette. I wanted the overall impression to be one of seamlessness, but the layering of tone, pattern, and texture was critical, so there is always a quiet richness in the interaction between old and new. The design of the perforated screens and shutters is a dynamic example of this, in the way it draws on both vernacular and contemporary references and subsequently in the way the haze of light it generates becomes the medium through which all the various elements of an interior are experienced.
The Jaffa Hotel, 4 Louis Pasteur Street, Tel Aviv. The hotel is set to open August 20. Rates start at $500 per night.