PHOTOGRAPHY BY ODED SMADER
Located in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, the 159-room Publica Isrotel fills a need its owners determined was not being met. The area draws comparisons to California’s Silicon Valley, due to the presence of such heavy-hitting companies as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Microsoft. Satisfying a young, hip, tech-savvy clientele requires a different approach from that of a typical business hotel.
The operating model for this newly opened Publica Isrotel is an outright fusion between business and social, aimed straight at the local and international business communities. Architect Dana Oberson of Oberson Architects, headquartered in Israel, says there was an emphasis on collection when developing the initial concept. “Collecting people, ideas, items, furniture, and materials were all part of our design process,” Oberson points out.
Her firm’s eclectic interior solution for the Publica is a far cry from the Isrotel chain-sponsored, pre-ordained hotel room which, she observes, “looks the same – without local characteristics – all over the world.” Rather, Oberson and her team collaborated with Studio Tzach Cohen Light Design, located in Tel Aviv, to produce a singular atmosphere that combines the informality of being a guest in a private home with the perks of a business-oriented facility. There is a fully equipped co-working space – featuring draft beer, communal tables, velvet sofas, and pop-art – along with meeting rooms, an events hall, plus a fitness center with a boxing ring, sauna, and a rooftop pool.
To appeal to the Millennial crowd, electronic devices are welcome in all dining and lounge areas as well as on the patio terrace. The hotel encourages networking between guests and the community by hosting special events – including entertainment and music performances – that area residents are invited to attend.
Set amid surrounding high-rises, the seven-level glass and stone building is designed by Rani Ziss Architects of Tel Aviv and is part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection of boutique hotels. Publica Isrotel’s convenient location is a 10-minute walk to Acadia Beach plus nearby shopping and dining venues.
According to Oberson, her biggest – and most fulfilling – challenge was devising spaces that feel unique, local, and detailed. “For the lounge areas, we created many of the seating and accessory pieces in our studio,” she comments.
To achieve Isrotel’s CEO Ofer Agami’s vision for the hotel’s eclectic design, Oberson and her staff visited local and regional markets specializing in vintage furniture and arts and crafts. She then installed those finds throughout the hotel where they artfully blend with more contemporary furnishings. The result is an environment that appears simultaneously timeless and contemporary, residential and commercial — despite the hotel being less than one year old.
The lighting fixtures and plan envisioned by Studio Tzach Cohen drew upon the firm’s experience in hospitality, dining, commercial, and residential projects worldwide. Tal Cohen, director of the Studio, guided the all-LED lighting of the Publica Isrotel’s interior and exterior spaces.
“The Publica Isrotel has been a very special project for us,” he notes. “Most of the lighting fixtures are of our design, working closely with the architect to augment her concept in each phase. Versatility was one of our guidelines; Oberson told us everything should be modular.”
At the entrance canopy is a grid of vintage amber glass, “to make it warm and welcoming, and easy to be seen up and down Abba Eban Boulevard,” Cohen points out. At the lobby’s reception desk, the lighting designers introduced a custom steel pipe with leather belts and steel grip. “In this way, the staff can control each fixture’s distance above the work surface, depending on the person’s height for the most comfortable viewing,” he explains.
In the lobby and bar, the metal frame theme continues for the overhead fixtures. “Here, the floating brass pipes have small glass balls on the tips,” Cohen remarks. “They are telescopic, so we could adjust them on-site to get the exact composition we wanted to achieve. Above the seating in the dining area, they are hung horizontally; in the bar, they are vertical.”
Publica Isrotel’s conference hall is one of the spaces that regularly changes. “We wanted the staff to be able to adjust the lighting depending on the activity, such as presentations or press conferences. Our solution was to divide the space with lighting by suspending narrow rectangular lighting frames, each with its own set of controls,” Cohen states. All of the hotel’s LED lighting in the public spaces is dimmable, delivering programmed illuminated environments depending on the time of day or evening.
The design for the gym provided Oberson and Cohen with another opportunity to combine their individual aesthetic talents and technical approaches. Whimsical photo blow-ups are accented with downlights and cove lights, while an angular dropped ceiling element defines a group of exercise equipment. Above the horizontally striped floor are transparent rectangular boxes (with black outlines) containing four suspended Edison-style lamps. Over the boxing ring are circular flood lights positioned to prevent shadows on the activity surface below.
The lighting plan’s flexibility was also carried outdoors for the patio. Cohen selected the “vitternaria di luce” style by Italian lighting manufacturer Viabizzuno to define the space. “It is both decorative and functional,” he says of the fixture style. “They hang on a cable so that they can be easily adjusted depending on the activities and the time of day or evening.”
The hotel’s initial success has led to tentative plans for an expansion of the boutique business format that can be repeated in nearby Tel Aviv and eventually outside of Israel.