Athens Capital Center Hotel, Greece

1st March 2022

Completed in late 2020, Lighting Design International has brought a fresh, yet homely feel to the luxurious Athens Capital Center Hotel, highlighting the beautiful artwork and striking interior design of the space.

Completed towards the end of 2020, the Capital Center Hotel – M Gallery in Athens, Greece received a complete interior renovation and upgrade. The hotel is located near Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens, across from the Parliament buildings on one side and the bohemian district of Kolonaki. 

With a unique identity, the hotel’s interiors are heavily inspired by its Greek surroundings. Lighting Design International (LDI) was commissioned to provide a fresh yet homely approach to highlight the elegant interiors created by MKV Designs. 

arc hears from Sandra Brookes, Senior Lighting Designer at LDI, to find out more about their involvement in the project: “LDI has been working on many successful projects in Greece for several years now. We have developed excellent relationships with our clients in the area. As a result, one of our clients recommended us to MKV Designs.”

Brookes explained how the initial design brief shaped the approach for the lighting, ensuring it was balanced throughout: “This was created was created through layers of light, while the unique and distinctive atmosphere in each space added drama, which is highlighted through accent lighting.

“We worked in tandem with the interior designers creating harmonious integral lighting that highlighted the interior in places and was the protagonist in others.

 “One of the project’s strengths was that once the lighting brief was defined, it was thoroughly maintained. The final design result was an elegant, sophisticated ambience with a residential feel focused on art, which represented the initial vision agreed with the client.

“LDI was commissioned to provide a fresh yet homely approach, highlighting the elegant interiors by MKV Designs. The concept was brought to life via the art and the successful relationship with lighting throughout the hotel. Art plays a very important role within the interiors of the hotel. The different pieces dotted around the hotel were emphasised with light, reinforcing the significance of great artistry to the M-Gallery brand.”

The hotel presents a luxurious arrival experience starting at the porte-cochere, where a valet service receives the guests. You are welcomed by a warm and vibrantly uplit façade and an arcade containing the Gallerie Café. The arcade café incorporates an abstract marble relief on the inner perimeter wall. This element is enhanced by accent lights that emphasise the form and texture by using light and shade. The marble wall also provides an introduction to the excellent blend of art and architecture that is experienced throughout the hotel. 

In the reception lobby, vibrant colours and bold patterns are highlighted with soft lighting to give the space a residential feel. The light wrapping around the grand staircase, the subtle vertical washes and the lighting concealed within the furniture make this a unique space. 

“The ground floor public areas are a labyrinth of areas interwoven with each other tied up by a central atrium flowing from the main entrance to the Galerie Café,” continued Brookes. “Art is dotted around with lighting providing an interest and focus in every corner.”

 “The reception is at the far end, away from the entrance, offering a sense of intimacy and exclusivity, which is highlighted by the subtle lighting atmosphere. This area is perfected with two paintings by Yannis Adamakos that were highlighted with recessed spotlights, enhancing, and lifting the blue hues that are a symbol of Greece.

 “LDI designed the lighting layouts with the existing structure in mind, but with the advantage that most of the equipment was concealed from view successfully by the new interiors. Bespoke tailored details were developed in conjunction with the interior designers and incorporated within furniture and the building envelope.”

Central to the building is a large atrium that houses a Mappemonde art piece mounted on the entirety of the façade viewable from the staircase, guest rooms and roof terraces. The original Mappemonde was sculpted by Greek artist George Lappas for the Venice Biennale of 1988. This piece consists of parts of metal cut out of a house-shaped form at roof level and mounted horizontally on square white boards in a checkerboard formation. Composed of 3,000 metal pieces, it is carefully lit with colour changing floodlights, producing textures and patterns with movement enhanced by individually controlled white and colour changing lighting.

As daylight moves throughout the space, different shadows form through the silhouetted sculpture. At night, the piece comes alive with concealed colour changing spotlights that cast shadows across the boards in various directions. At night, the lights, which are located at different levels, are programmed to cross fade with changing colours to create an animated focal point to the centre of the building.

Telling arc about some of the challenges the team faced during this renovation project, Brookes explained that bringing the historical building into the 21st century in a careful and considered manner was a main consideration, with the focal point art piece in the central lobby being another.

“The project was a refurbishment of an existing site. The outer shell and structure were maintained while the building was completely renovated. The original layout was maintained throughout, but the building services and interiors were totally upgraded. Therefore, we had the opportunity of having a new and more current lighting scheme and control system incorporated within the building, leaving a minimal lighting aesthetic visible so that guests could enjoy the warm inviting lighting ambience without knowing where the equipment is located. 

“The pièce de résistance of this project is in the central atrium and is viewed from the terrace above; The Mappemonde art piece. During the night, the metal pieces of the work were carefully lit with colour changing floodlights producing movement and creating an explosion of shadows, textures and patterns through individually controlled white and colour changing lighting horizontally positioned throughout the length of the piece. A special effort was made for the sources to be carefully concealed from view within the building envelope, focusing on the art piece. 

“Designing and programming this piece was one of our greatest challenges as the lighting effect needed to be the focus and the equipment totally concealed from view, and for the lighting to transition seamlessly not only from day to night but to subtly crossfade between the colours, performing a spectacle of light at night.”

Art played a major role in the design scheme throughout the hotel, so it was integral to the overall success of the project for Brookes and the team to integrate lighting to suit the individual artworks cohesively into the grander design. Brookes explained further: “Art and light is a relationship that has always existed from the beginning of time: from the humble picture light to more immersive installations. Art and lighting are used throughout hotels to help accentuate the identity of their location, so the guest gets a local feel. Nowadays, art is taking centre stage in hotels more and more, attracting the interest of potential guests and passers-by and with lighting adding a new dimension to the experience.  

“There are several ways of using light to accent art, and these have all been used throughout the Athens Capital Centre Hotel – M Gallery. The hotel’s art was inspired by Greek culture. The hotel is at the heart of Athens in a prominent position looking towards one of Athens’ most popular tourist destination, the Parthenon, on one side and on the other side looks towards the bohemian quarter of Kolonaki with its numerous art galleries setting the scene.”

Moving further into the hotel to the contemporary and cosy guest bedrooms and suites, luxurious materials, flexible lighting, and the addition of original artwork were chosen to add to the experience of luxury and intimacy. “The interiors and art represented the Greek heritage and the resulting fresh approach helped to enhance the art within the rooms. Spotlights and traditional picture-lights were used to add accent to all artwork exhibited,” explained Brookes.

“Intimacy and art were connected via the creation of lighting scenes. At the touch of a button the atmosphere of the room changes, and different objects were highlighted in each different scene. These scenes are governed by a control system, which is essential to realise the subtlety required to create the perfect balance of lighting effects within a space.”

The layered lighting used throughout the project came to life with various scenes created. “Like an artist, the lighting designer uses different combinations of light levels across the space to create the desired ambience throughout day and night. During the daytime the ambience was welcoming and lively but with levels balanced enough to provide a homely feel. During the night scene the levels were subtle, and the art was emphasised by increased brightness,” said Brookes. 

When asked about the mix of classical and contemporary architecture throughout and whether it was challenging to create a scheme that would effectively complement the varied architecture, Brookes commented: “The success of the scheme was in the creation of the right ambience for each style in a cohesive way where the classical and contemporary architecture felt unified in its approach to lighting. In both, there were commonalities that made the transitions seamless. The lighting worked as a silent backdrop creating that all-important consistency throughout.

“The lighting complemented the distinctive look of the interiors through the careful control of accent lighting. Each space focuses on that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ created solely for that space with lighting in a subtle way.”

The blend of architectural and decorative lighting allowed the decorative pieces and the artworks to take centre stage. “Oversized bespoke decorative luminaires help to retain a cleaner soffit and introduce a sense of scale. Their special design adds uniqueness to the style of the Gallerie Café, the lobby lounge, and the lift lobbies,” explained Brookes. 

“The warm, welcoming atmosphere at the reception area is provided mainly through a decorative loop of lighting that flows, interweaving the labyrinthic spaces. These are curved coves with integral linear lighting, which are shaped around the columns, providing soft lighting. Accent lighting was positioned only as required and highlighted the intricate lattice behind the reception.”

Reflecting on the project and the lighting’s success, Brookes concluded that the “overall impression is a fresh yet homely space brought to life via the focus on the art and its successful relationship with lighting throughout the hotel”. 

She added: “Art played a key role within the hotel’s interiors, which was part of the initial brief and was developed as the main feature during the whole process. The different pieces of art dotted around the hotel were emphasised with light providing a cohesive approach where traditional and contemporary architecture were combined successfully by the power of light.” 

Image: Gavriil Papadiotis