The new Raffles Istanbul at Zorlu Center, designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), reinterprets Turkish history in a new and modern way to create “The Dream of Istanbul.”
Located at the heart of the new Zorlu Center—a next generation bazaar where fashion, performance, and art converge—the 181-room hotel is perched atop one of Istanbul’s seven hills and overlooks the Bosphorus on the European side. It features two swimming pools, a Raffles spa, a restaurant by Spanish Michelin-star chef Sergi Arola, 24-hour butler service, and a curated collection of original artwork.
“During the Byzantine era it was common law that all free men were permitted to wear gold, but only the Emperor and Empress could wear precious jewels,” says HBA Lead Designer Sandra Cortner. “These jewel tones are referenced throughout the hotel as details in the palette and selected artworks. Mosaic tiles, a popular decorative element used extensively in Byzantium, are also used as details throughout the hotel. Present day Istanbul is a fashion-forward European capitol, and as such, various forms and patterns in the design originate with motifs and detailing from the couture fashion world.”
Upon arrival at Raffles, Istanbul, one passes through an onyx vestibule with a gold mosaic floor and a crystal chandelier overhead. The vestibule opens to the grand lobby with reflecting pools that flank the lobby lounge. The lounge is anchored by “Lavinia,” an abstract bronze sculpture by artist Martin Dawe inspired by a Turkish poem. A commissioned work by internationally recognized French hyper-photo realist Jean-Francois Rauzier also adorns the lobby lounge.
Ascending the stairs to the mezzanine level, the guest arrives at The Long Bar, Arola Restaurant, Champagne Room, and the Writer’s Bar. The entry to The Long Bar features a work by Turkish sculptress Oylum Oktem that calls forth Istanbul’s Byzantine past. The Long Bar features a 24.6-foot bar that is flanked by mirrors, making it appear to extend into the adjacent Champagne Room. A chandelier with 248 crystal tops illuminates the bar, and 313 crystal tops hang over the bar in the Champagne Room. The tops lend inspiration from the motion of the region’s whirling dervishes. The Champagne Room is encircled by glazed wine displays framed in brass and with a curved counter formed from polished stone slabs.
The Writer’s Bar is a warm, cognac colored space. The library shelves are populated with an art installation comprised of ceramic books by Turkish artist Ismail Oklugil. The bar’s back wall features a custom cast glass installation of fiery yellow and orange tiles.
A winding staircase descends from the lobby to the grand ballroom. The staircase is followed by a tumbling of crystal stars. It terminates in ballroom prefunction that features a series of three cast glass and woven metal mesh Kaftans by Turkish artist Yasemin Aslan Bakiri. Inside the ballroom, the ceiling resembles the Istanbul night sky strewn with 2,316 crystal stars. Fashion motifs appear here too, in the guise of pleated, upholstered walls.
Inside the guestroom, “The Dream of Istanbul” culminates in a custom mural depicting the “dream” derived from a composite of iconic landmarks like Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. Ethereal blues and greens anchor the airy palette, and hand-woven Turkish carpets adorn the hardwood floors. Every room has a balcony to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Prince Islands.
HBA worked with partner companies Canvas and Illuminate on procuring the hotel’s art collection and creating the custom lighting program.
Check out the photo gallery below for design highlights.