Frankfurt’s Book Heaven

An overnight stay at the Frankfurt Book Fair? An intriguing idea — though one that’s been impossible up until now.

 “Initially we were considering a rooftop bar, but then we went for the pop-up hotel,” says Peter Haag. The Zurich-based founder of publishing house Kein & Aber is sitting amidst orange cushions in a vintage armchair in the reception room of his quirky fair booth. Outside, the fair’s visitors hurry across the Agora, the big open space between the halls, on which mountains of freshly printed books await. The result of Peter Haag’s collaboration with 25hours Hotels for the October 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair — the world’s largest annual publishing event — is quite the attraction here: four freight containers, each a different color, have been stacked on top of each other. On top stands “the penthouse”: a hotel room fitted out with all the usual amenities, plus breakfast and room service provided by 25hours Hotels.

Visitors to the book fair had the chance to enter a raffle to win a stay at the hotel, including a nightly bedtime story read by one of the publishing house’s authors, including Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Hazel Brugger, and Michalis Pantelouris. The private bedside readings gave the lucky winners an experience to remember — one that patrons of the hotel bar below could also enjoy via a live stream. The tower room’s glass front provided guests with a view over the hubbub of the fair below and out to Frankfurt’s banking towers. That was Peter’s explicit wish: “The hotel has to be angled toward the fair’s tower. I wanted its design to be reflected in our structure,” he says, before looking out over the skyline and noting, “of course, that is only possible in Frankfurt. This city is an American version of German cities.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the concept’s implementation was realized in a manner typical of the German bureaucratic system: “There were quite a few things to take into consideration,” Peter recalls. “Safety regulations and so on. But we were so committed to the idea that we pulled it off.” Creating something beautiful and cozy in the confines of a small space presented its fair share of challenges, which hotel designer Michael Dreher overcame by settling on an overall theme: “From A to B.” Expanding on the concept, Michael explains, “it soon became clear that the container would be transformed into a hotel room jam-packed with citations and references relating to the theme of travel in its original form.”

The interior’s furnishings match the concept in an eclectic fashion: “The cumulus clouds on the wallpaper are a motif from the Dutch painting tradition — a representation of freedom originating in the 17th century. The folding chest is dressed up as a sacred wedding chest. The armchair was made from car tyres, an unwanted waste product of Western society.” And since Michael designed the pop-up hotel in collaboration with a publishing house, the room’s shelves were not left wanting. Covering an entire wall to the right-hand side of the bed, a carefully selected range of books serves both as reading material and as an art installation. Each is opened at a different page, telling “stories of departure, arrival, and staying forever,” notes Michael.

The designer views the concept of the pop-up hotel as a kind of artistic experiment: “The pop-up hotel will not receive artistic recognition in future, and the container will forever remain an image of a moment in a temporary home,” he explains. In recent years, pop-up hotels have been appearing all over the world: in Tel Aviv, for example, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism ran a marketing campaign featuring a former beachside lifeguard tower furnished with a freestanding bathtub, double bed, and designer light fittings. Often, such types of temporary lodgings are designed to suit a clientele who crave the sense of adventure that comes with camping or festivals, but who is reluctant to forego the luxury of a hotel. In this case, the hotel usually takes the form of large tents, which can be equipped with proper beds, running water, and even a Wi-Fi connection. Depending on the provider, the limits of luxury may know no bounds. England’s Glastonbury Festival recently created a pop-up campsite of pavilions and tents, in which guests could enjoy velvet couches and flat-screen TVs, offering them an experience in which connecting with nature demanded no sacrifices.

Back in Frankfurt, guests of the Book Fair’s hotel room were “awestruck” by the furnishings, says publisher Peter Haag, who greeted his clientele in person each morning. For Michael Dreher, the venture was also an opportunity to test out new ideas for the 25hours Hotel The Goldman Frankfurt, which is soon to be enlarged. “The right-hand part of the building has become free, so it was decided that the hotel should be extended,” explains Michael. The precise concept is still under wraps. But we know this much: the extension will take on some of the ideas tested during the Book Fair pop-up. Which ones? We’ll have to wait and see.

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