After 20 months of renovations, the Imperator, a legendary hotel in the heart of Nîmes, South of France, has reopened its doors to the public. Established in 1929, when the Paris-Lyon-Marseille railway line opened, the five-star hotel, with its Art Deco facade, reintroduces its majesty to the world.
The 53 rooms, the spa, the two swimming pools, the three restaurants including a gourmet restaurant ‘Duende’, eight individual villas, a hammam, a jacuzzi, a barbershop, a training room and 200-square-meters of meeting rooms, were entirely conceived by Marcelo Joulia, a French-Argentinian architect and the founder of the Naço agency based in Paris, and his team.
During their research, a few postcards were found on which the old logo could be seen. It will set the tone and became essential to the scenography. The large O and its geometric shape would become one of the visual components of the new interior decoration and has been integrated into the designs of the carpets, the bedroom walls and the bodyguards’ uniforms. Simultaneously, the elevator, the antique chandelier, the grand staircase and the restored arches, witnesses to the hotels’ glory days, remain faithful to its memory – a subtle reminder of the past, a common theme in the restoration.
For Marcelo, a lover of the region where he has lived for more than 30 years, this exceptional project was unique. “Our challenge was to magnify the Art Deco spirit, preserve the soul of this mythical building while giving it liveliness and modernizing the offering,” explains Marcelo. “This project was fascinating, and I personally chose certain details: the wall or suspension lamps, the limestone of the region whose whiteness and compliments the Mediterranean luminosity.”
But beyond this aesthetic, it’s the light and the perspectives which are the ‘keys’ of the harmony.“On this project, and for all Naço projects, putting spaces into perspective and different arrangements of light is essential,” adds Marcelo. “For the Imperator, the creation of the ‘continuous perspective’ was possible thanks to the huge, 4.3x3m, sliding glass panels along the cloister that generate progressive pers- pective depths. An incredible and unique work that we thought unachievable.”
The renovation is complete, and the interior has been restored, only the concrete structure remains unchanged. The entrance of the hotel heralds a grand decoration comprised of wood and natural stone, expanding surfaces with large old-fashioned mirrors, and transparency with open windows to enjoy the brightness of spaces such as the bar, brasserie and lobby. In each of these rooms with symbolic names honoring the illustrious occupants (Ava Gardner, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway, Sal- vador Dali, Picasso or Cocteau), Marcelo Joulia has matched neutral colors such as beige and white: on leather headboards, on the velvet armchairs, together with brighter colors on the carpet in the rooms. The bedrooms and bathrooms are separated by a sliding mirror in the shape of a porthole. The bathrooms are fully clad with natural, beige coloured stones. The two spaces are decked with grand materials such as brass and marble.
The reception and seminar areas overlook the garden, where the pathways have been remodeled and the flora embellished. The Imperator’s garden is a veritable oasis of peace and sunshine with a surface of 1020m2: dry stone walls, pavilions and bodegas, fountains, majestic trees – including the incomparable Ginkgo Biloba, the symbolic tree of the hotel, hidden courtyards, small paths and passages are all elements that give it its charm.
This harmony, due to the renovation and landscaping, is also refined by the arrangement of works by various artists within the spaces: Guy Bareff’s works of earthenware, Jean-Pierre Formica’s sculptures, lanterns from the designer Marco Marino, the sofas of the artist Thierry Carretero, the fabric paintings by Claude Viala, the lithographs of the Gallery of Michelle Champetier and the gallery HUS where we find artists such as Jim Bird, Jesùs-Rafael Soto, Andy Warhol, Vasarely or Jacques Monory, the ceramic tiles of Anna Maria Vasco and the sculptures of 36 recyclab. Added to this, the unique art books and a Marcelo Joulia drawing of the transformation on display in each room.
This combination of unique crafts converging in this urban resort, orchestrated by the Naço agency and its founder Marcelo Joulia, offers a new vision of the art of French reception and invents a contemporary approach to voluptuous and warm luxury.