D+A / A Spanish Icon

Design, Interior Design, Print Articles, Product Design

92-101 PRIME Jaime Hayon_V3-2.jpg

92-101 PRIME Jaime Hayon_V3-3.jpg

92-101 PRIME Jaime Hayon_V3-3.jpg

92-101 PRIME Jaime Hayon_V3-4.jpg

92-101 PRIME Jaime Hayon_V3-5.jpg

00 da 98 Cover
Issue DA98 June/July 2017

A Spanish Icon

Designer Jaime Hayón’s design of the Hotel Barceló Torre de Madrid is a rich tapestry of textures, colours and Spanish cultural nuances reflecting the designer’s individualistic talent.


There is no mistaking Jamie Hayón’s distinctive design language. Curves, colour, hyperbole, the fantastical and the figurative – Hayón’s spirited and whimsical idiosyncrasy stands out in the modern design world where the safety and predictability of straight lines and minimal forms dominate.

The Valencia-born Hayón is a true multi-hyphenate. While he studied industrial design in Madrid at the Istituto Europeo di Diseño and later, the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, he has dabbled in all fields from furniture, objects and interior design to the creation of museum exhibits since establishing his eponymous studio in 2003.

Maestro of Surprise

The furniture and accessories Hayón has designed is most well known. Many of his pieces take on an almost anthropomorphic nature – such as the Showtime armchair for BD Barcelona with its exaggerated hood and the Chinoz lamp for Parachilna with its feminine shape. Sinewy lines in his Favn sofa for Fritz Hansen embrace users while his alluring whimsical characters and doodles grace ceramics for Bosa and crystal boxes for Baccarat.

Currently with three offices, in Spain, Tokyo and Italy, and one of the most prolific of his generation, Hayón is certainly successful. What he is not is egotistical. The man is gentlemanly to a fault, thanking the interviewee both at the beginning and end of the interview. This reflects his down-to-earth persona, matched by an alluring impish grin and curly mop. When ask what his current obsessions and influences are, the family man laughs and replies, “my obsession is actually agriculture at the moment. I love the things that are grown in the earth. I live in the countryside where there are a lot of artichokes and oranges and tomatoes around me. I get inspired by travelling and then coming back to the nice, beautiful land to which I can concentrate on living my life with my family.”

Hayón certainly travels a lot. 90 per cent of his work is overseas, he mantains. “The vision is always international so it’s a very sophisticated eye that I have all the time, trying to work on the details,” he says. When asked what he thinks of people labelling his work quirky and flamboyant, Hayón laughs. “Well, people can term whatever they want but I think my work is about quality, and it’s about trying to find surprises, to find something that is actually special but is at the same time long lasting. I work with furniture companies that are very high end, so when I design furniture, it has to be functional, it has to be good. When I do art, it has to provoke certain sensations, it has to be dramatic; people have to feel good when they see the installations. They have to feel there is a thought behind the work. I’m always trying to challenge everyone [in my office] to design something that is different, that is trying to go somewhere. And this is the point, because what is the point to actually work if not to discover the new things you can make?” ”

One of his latest projects certain evokes all these emotions. In the Hotel Barceló Torre de Madrid, Hayón has created an interior design scape with storytelling at its heart, expressed through a sophisticated play of form, colour and material. Located on the centrally located Plaza de España, one can fully immerse into Hayón’s imaginative universe. It is housed in the first nine stories of Madrid’s iconoclastic, 34-storey Tower of Madrid (Torre de Madrid), one of the city’s tallest modern structures built in 1957.

The client, the Barceló Hotel Group, tasked Hayón to create a boutique establishment within its chain hotel brand. It was a complex job transforming an interior of offices and apartments into a hotel with 258 guestrooms and generous common spaces. Raising the lobby’s ceiling was the first step in giving the hotel a grandeur matching of its host building. Past the entrance, Hayón has anchored a soaring wine cabinet at the Garra bar, providing a dramatic start to the spatial sequence. “We needed to have a cocktail bar that has a wow effect when you enter. It is like a box of light and because of the height, you feel a certain type of grandeur when you’re drinking something at the bar or waiting for someone at the hotel – a feeling [akin to that found in] New York hotels,” Hayón explains.

Native Narratives

Above the bar counter hangs custom-designed lamps – Hayón’s whimsical version of traditional Spanish bolina hats. This is but one of the many allusions to Spanish culture found throughout the hotel. A zebra-stripped bear sculpture tipping its hat off to guests at the entrance is a nod to Madrid’s coat of arms. In the bar, arches overhead references Spain’s history as part of the Roman Empire, and colours reminiscent of Moorish and Arabic influences wash the interiors with a rich, energetic palette. Meanwhile, animated emblems of Spanish culture rendered as brass drawings on the lobby’s windows overlook the city streets.

“I tried to bring the different cultures of the country into the hotel but in a very modern, almost graphical and naïve way. I was fully dedicated to the creation of a very unique space that would represent a new version of Spain, a vision far from the traditional aesthetic,” says Hayón. The most poignant elements of this vision are a series of bespoke photographs by KlunderBie, the photography studio of Hayón’s wife Nieke Klunder B. The framed artwork showcases icons from Spain’s culture, such as a madrileña, a bullfighter, and the flamenco dress put forth in portraiture form.

“They did a great job. I said to them: Spanish culture hasn’t been used properly in many examples and I think we have an amazing heritage, which we brought to the 21st century, creating modern photography using [historical elements] and being creative with them. Like an [image] of a lady’s legs in a traditional dress, and only the legs and a bit of skirt because that is the ground floor,” Hayón chuckles. This is the irony and charm of Hayón’s brand at work, where subtlety and boldness meld in meaningful surprise.

Curves and Colour

Throughout the common spaces, gentle curves lead guest through picturesque mise-en-scène, demarcated by plush carpets in hues of tangerine, blood red and mustard. Upon them Hayon-designed furniture, such as the Ro and Fri armchairs for Fritz Hansen and Réaction Poétique tables for Cassina, perch in conversation with the surroundings. Joinery in the reception and seating area and the Garra bar, as well as the pastel green columns, are elegantly sculpted in timber and marble, lending both a feeling of warmth and luxury to the atmosphere.

This leitmotif of soft edges continues in the glowing orbs of light on the ceiling. In the seating area and bar, they dance through the air, held together by black, lithe frames. The latter not only behave as casual space dividers, they are also fillers in the voluminous space, which has been adorned with dome-shaped mirrors reflecting the natural light entering through the generously sized lobby windows.

“There is this surrealist effect within the whole space, where I tried to work with really sophisticated colours. The lamps are also in the same [frame of thought] – these really thin lines that go up and down, with little circles, little balls in different heights. They create a sort of constellation when they are dimmed during the night, and during the day, they become floating elements. It’s a bit magical that way – the idea of having a bit of movement within the space,” Hayón describes. Another version of this lighting fixture also features in the Somos restaurant on the hotel’s top floor, which is dominated by pink and red hues.

While the hotel’s common spaces revel in depth and drama, the guestrooms are more tempered, with pale timber flooring and white walls. It is a calm backdrop for Hayón’s shapely and colourful furniture. Above the bed, a facial image in brass etching injects personality; it is, Hayon highlights, the room’s key feature, like a floating artwork. In the bathrooms, a trio of black, white and dark green marble provides colour and tactility in a natural way.

As a native Madrileño, this project is one close to Hayón’s heart. The chance to create a complete environment was also part of the challenge. “It has been a work I’ve taken very seriously to make, and also a great exercise to evolve with the furniture I’m doing, with the accessories I’m creating, and also with the artwork I’m performing, because it becomes a real experiment to see the participation [of all the elements]. In designing this hotel, I can express myself in many different ways – with my graphics, with the artworks, with the colours, with the space, with the furniture, with the lighting. Everything I know how to do just finds its place within this three-dimensional area.”