Interior Designer: Jestico + Whiles

Architect: Iwan Buhler Architekten

Hotel Group: First Swiss Hotel Collection AG

Photography: James McDonald, George Apostolidis

One of Switzerland’s last grand-dame hotels, the Mandarin Oriental Palace reemerges with understated opulence for a modern age, after five years of extensive refurbishment.

At the turn of the 19th century, Lake Lucerne had become one of the largest tourist attractions in Switzerland, with over a hundred hotels lining the lake shore or perched high on the slopes above the city. In 1903, eccentric Swiss hotelier Franz Josef Bucher purchased a 3285m 2 plot of land on the north shore of Lake Lucerne, to build an extravagant palace hotel that would be substantially larger than the city’s existing grand hotels. Construction began in July 1904, with designs by local Lucerne architect Heinrich Meili-Wapf, and less than two years later, on 7 May 1906, the Palace Hotel Luzern opened. The hotel marks both the final chapter in Luzern’s period of rapid tourism growth, and the final plot to be developed along the route from city centre to the lake’s shores, standing at the most sheltered end of the promenade. Costing an astronomical sum for the time of 3.4 million francs, the hotel was completely unrivalled in grandeur and luxury, with each of the 120 guestrooms having private en-suites and magnificent views across the lake or towards the city. It became a popular destination for the European elite, and was considered one of the most elegant hotels in the world.

Jestico + Whiles have reimagined the historic hotel for the twenty first century guest, remixing faded Art Deco grandeur with fresh, bold ideas. The new hotel features four distinctively designed restaurants and bars, 136 unique guestrooms, and a new spa made from Tuscan stone. Decorative features have been faithfully restored, including scagliola columns, chequerboard marble flooring and stucco-adorned walls. The hotel’s original colour palette, inspired by Franz Josef Bucher’s travels across the Mediterranean, has emerged from beneath layers of past alterations. Earthy terracottas, rich greens and chalk whites are incorporated into the newly renovated interiors, as palm and lily motifs nod to the stylised botanicals of the Art Deco era.

Many layers of history were uncovered from decades of past alternations. Jestico + Whiles’ role as designers was to interweave new elements into the existing fabric, introducing subtle interventions that conceal a huge amount of effort behind the scenes. Nothing is overtly new; they intentionally blurred the lines between the past and present, introducing elements that are sympathetic to the past. Where heritage details had been completely destroyed in past renovations, new elements were designed in the spirit of the original, rather than exact replicas. By stitching new into old, uniting the traditional with the contemporary, the venerable Palace is ushered into a new era as a Mandarin Oriental.