Baranowitz + Kronenberg has masterfully reimagined a tired beachfront property, creating an energised and locally driven new interior befitting the W name. 

W Ibiza cuts a striking figure on the idyllic, palm-fringed beachfront of Santa Eulalia. This distinctive Balearic structure from the 1980s belies a completely reimagined interior, masterminded by Baranowitz + Kronenberg (B+K). Thanks to B+K’s vision and experience, this former 3-star hotel is now an elevated and imaginative space that embodies the bold, playful spirit of the W brand.

Passing through the intriguing installation of masts in the street outside the property, guests are drawn into an exceptional ground floor space. Extensive internal modifications [more details on which can be found in an interview with B+K on p94] have created a wonderful flow between the main entrance esplanade through the building to the outdoor pool and sea. Ascending amphitheatre-style platforms have been artfully created to connect the space, inviting guests to engage or retreat, according to their preference. 

A concrete floor and steel-wired, hand-woven, laced ceiling provided the perfect canvas for B+K’s selection of surfaces, colours and textures. The bohemian culture of Ibiza, the fascinating mythology of the island and its flora and fauna all inform and inspire the design narrative here. 

“It was important to us to capture the spirit of Ibiza within this project,” affirm Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz, the co-founders of B+K. “‘Flower Power’ led our design strategy – laid back, colourful, simple, transparent, engaging, and letting the sun shine in, are notions which flow throughout the public and private spaces of the hotel.”

Curated street art, spectacular lighting and vibrantly toned soft furnishings layer together beautifully with the architectural form of the property to create a refreshing and engaging space. As well as making extensive use of natural and locally manufactured furnishings and materials, B+K opted to collaborate with local craftsmen to create one-of-a-kind, meaningful pieces that would honour the island’s heritage. 

W Ibiza’s F&B offerings have been designed as “anchoring bays, rather than destinations”: Steakhouse, La LLama; relaxed beach restaurant, Chiringuito Blue; and modern health food bar, Ve Café, offer cutting-edge, individual F&B concepts that aim to bring people together. These are joined by Glow – an impressive rooftop cocktail bar, and W’s renowned WET Deck, with its glistening pool and oversized loungers.

Completing the offering is the serene, 4000 square feet Away Spa, and a colourful gym, fully equipped with weight machines, free weights, cardiovascular and strength equipment, as well as sauna and steam rooms. 

W Ibiza’s 162 guest rooms continue B+K’s Flower Power design narrative. The light, fresh feel here, emphasised through the natural tones of the walls and floors, is punctuated by bright pops of colour from the vibrant scatter cushions, striking lighting pieces, and eye-catching Jackson Pollock-style headboards, which were created by a local artisan. 

www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/ibzwh-w-ibiza/

www.baranowitzkronenberg.com

Q&A - IRENE KRONENBERG & ALON BARANOWITZ, FOUNDERS OF BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

How did you get involved with the project?

Irene: We got a phone call from an investor who had bought this beachfront property, and who was keen to make it a W Hotel. It’s located between two roads, with the rear of the property facing onto the beach, but differing interior levels meant that the sea views were completely obscured from the front of the building.

Having viewed the property, Marriott had expressed that it wasn’t suitable, and, when we arrived at the location, we were extremely doubtful of its viability as a W Hotel. W Hotels are all about being together and connecting, and the space just didn’t work. 

We sat down and thought out of the box – if there were no limitations on our ideas and money wasn’t an object, could we do something without destroying the structure? We came to an understanding that if we changed the internal section of the building from the entrance level to the lower level of the backyard, creating connecting terraces in the process, it could work. 

The investor looked over the sketches and he understood the enormous potential – not many people are going to give up on 400m2 of prime real estate. We were invited to make a presentation to W, who were initially still quite sceptical, and expressed our belief in the project. After seeing the plans, they said “we have a W”.

Could you talk about the history of the building itself? 

Irene: It was formerly an all-inclusive, three-star hotel from the 80s. In our industry, we’re always seeking ways to make our work more sustainable. Taking an old structure, which exists as a hotel but is not relevant anymore, and performing a 180° conversion on the soul of the building – in our minds that’s one of the most sustainable things you can do. 

We worked with local people – the furthest members of the team were from mainland Spain. We also collaborated extensively with local creative forces from Spain and from the Balearic Islands. 

Could you talk about how you reconfigured the property to encourage that sense of social connection? 

Alon: First it’s people, then it’s space, then it’s building. This is how we see what we do. 

Irene: Exactly – it’s not only about design, it’s about understanding space and understanding energies, architecture and lifestyle. Everything that you do needs to be rooted in how people will move within and use a space. How do you want people to communicate with each other? When you’ve established this, you can then come up with a design strategy – you cannot create a design strategy and then dictate how people use it.

Alon: When you approach the hotel, there’s a beautiful esplanade in front of the entrance, where the long glass facade of the hotel overlooks the street. What was very important for us was that the energy inside didn’t dissipate out of the building due to this glass facade. We didn’t want to share the hotel with the street too much, but we wanted to create a filter at street level that would speak to the energy and language of the hotel, enticing people to come closer and explore.

We decided to introduce hundreds of white metal masts, which double as light fixtures, to create an almost sculptural installation. A beautiful pergola on top was formed from ship ropes made by people of the island. If you look at W’s Instagram, so many people are taking pictures amidst those masts. It was a really fascinating moment that screens the hotel from the street, but is very playful.

What was the framing concept or inspiration for the interior design?

Alon: We explored the concept of ‘flower power’ for the hotel. When you speak about ‘flower power’, a lot of people immediately think of sex, drugs and rock and roll, but it’s also about engaging with people, accepting other kinds of people. It’s about the older population of the island living side-by-side with the hippies that started coming in the 70s. The island was an escape for all kinds of intellectuals and people fleeing their governments. So, there’s a beautiful history of co-living, and bringing people together from all walks of life.

This is combined with the rich history and legends of the island, such as Bes, god of music and merriment, and Tanit, goddess of fertility and dance. There is, in fact, a small island called Es Vedrà off the island of Ibiza, which is said to be where sirens would lure sailors from passing ships with their song. Actually, these islands have a very high density of metal, with a very strong magnetic field, so there is a correlation between the physical attributes of Es Vedrà and the stories of Homer’s Odyssey and the sirens.

There is something really fantastic about all these myths and legends, so for us ‘flower power’ meant creating spaces that entice people to come together, giving them a really varied set of options. You can be alone together, you can be together alone, you can be in the pool, you can be in the restaurant or the rooftop bar. The joy of life was a leading theme, and is an integral part of W’s DNA. 

Could you talk about the guest rooms?

Alon: They are completely inspired by ‘flower power’. All of the bases and headboards for the beds were actually created on-site by a local company, that used Jackson Pollock-style action painting to spread the paints on the canvas. It means that each and every headboard is unique.

What were the main challenges you faced, and how were they overcome?

Alon: I think everybody understood the idea that necessity is the mother of invention, so almost any means were on the table to make this project happen. There was a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, there was a lot of intuition and organisation and some surprises along the way, as is natural when you take on a pre-existing building.

If you don’t make a fuss about it, but go with the flow, and take it as an opportunity rather than a hurdle, then I think you open yourself up to a beautiful world of potential – and I think that’s exactly what we did. This island inspires you to be free, to think about things in a very different way. It’s not about formalities, it’s not about how things are done or should be done. 

Irene: We adhered very carefully to the soul of the building. We let the building tell us what it wanted to be.

How is 2022 shaping up for you as a team? Are there any upcoming projects you’re able to share?

Irene: One month ago, we were awarded the Prix Versailles for the New York boutique we designed for Âme. It’s a new brand of lab-grown diamond jewellery, and the boutique opened just at the beginning of the pandemic. Our practice is not just involved in hotels, but in all aspects of lifestyle. We love getting to the heart of why and how people connect in different spaces, and find it so rewarding to create platforms that really fulfil their needs. 

Besides this, we’ve been very busy in our home studio in Israel. The hotel industry is changing here, finally. People are understanding that brands are important, and that not every project is for everybody. They’re seeing the value of design in creating an identity for these projects.

Because we work across both architecture and interior design, we have the tools to discover the soul of the project. It’s not about functionality and programmes, it’s about understanding what a project needs to be. When you understand this, you don’t need to talk about textures, colours and forms ... it’s about special experiences.  

Alon: We’ve also completed an amazing project in Manchester, UK, that’s just about to open, called The Urban Playground. It’s a huge 4000m2 venue for competitive socialising.

www.baranowitzkronenberg.com