Italian architect and interior designer Tommaso Ziffer talk to us about his luxurious project, the Hotel de la Ville in the heart of Rome.
There is a small number of architects that can truly claim to have left their mark on great cities without destroying what made it special in the first place. One of these is the famed Italian architect and interior designer Tommaso Ziffer.
With landmark projects such as The Accademia Valentino and the world-famous Hotel de Russie in Rome on his resume, Tommaso Ziffer is considered by many to be one of Italy’s most prolific and well-respected architects. Ziffer has en exceptional gift of contributing to the great Italian cities in a lasting way as opposed to trying to change it. His masterful blend of the established mixed with cutting-edge contemporary style creates a rich yet inviting atmosphere that is exceptionally modern whilst it still feels as if it has been there for centuries.
Now, although Tomasso Ziffer has seen many great challenges in his career, perhaps the most challenging project had to have been the Hotel de la Ville In Rome.
The reason for this statement is the sheer importance and location of the hotel. Situated atop the legendary Spanish Steps, the Hotel de la Villa offers arguably the best location in the whole of Rome. Set in an 18th-century palazzo, the hotel offers spectacular views of the eternal city and close proximity to all major landmarks, the city’s best restaurants and shopping destinations. As such, the hotel’s historic positioning creates a huge challenge for any architect. Although the streets here are littered with luxury boutiques such as Cartier, Gucci, Prada, Hermes and Bulgari, travellers mainly come here for the city’s historical attractions.
So in creating a successful hotel here, a designer needs to somehow find the balance between the ancient world and the modern. Where a guest is not removed from their destination the moment they enter the hotel’s doors. Ideally, there needs to be a continuity from the old world to the new. An uninterrupted flow that is as much part of the trip as an excursion to the ancient buildings around it.
Through taking inspiration from the era of the Grand Tour, Tomasso Ziffer has masterfully managed to create that fragile blend and blur the lines from the 12th-century, through the 19th all the way to the 21st.
The Hotel de la Ville is a luxurious oasis amongst the cobbled streets of Rome that instils an instant atmosphere of sanctuary, style, elegance and establishment. Its traditional wooden floors mixed with laid marble and sumptuous carpets adds an air of sophistication and old-world charm while discreetly incorporating contemporary patterns and designs throughout.
Each inch of this hotel, from its rooms and suites through to the common area has an authentic and personal feel. This move away from the corporate “copy and paste” design of many hotels not only ads to the charm of the hotel but allows for a warm and inviting feel. It feels more as if you are a guest at a private Villa than a guest at a hotel.
We sat down with Tommaso Ziffer to discuss his life, work and inspiration.
Where did your career start and what made you decide to choose this field?
I come from a family of architects and designers. My grandmother, Carlotta Botti, had one of the most famous fashion houses in Rome from the ’30s until the ’70s. It was really important and big and employed up to 70 seamstresses into making haute couture fashion for the most important families in Rome. Her clients included actresses like Anna Magnani, for whom they created the costumes for a film named “The Golden Coach” by Jean Renoir in 1952, as well as Princess Mafalda of Savoy, etc. My Mother was a prominent interior designer in Italy in the ’70s and ’80s, while my father was a civil engineer and two of my uncles were architects as well. Having always been surrounded by the worlds of creativity, design and architecture, it was natural for me to take this path.
What makes your work different from that of other architects?
At the core of my work is my love of colours. Throughout my career, I have never included a simple white wall. I believe that the “shell” of a project (walls, ceiling, flooring) should be as precious, and thus as valued, as the objects which are in it. My work incorporates an eclecticism of different styles as I enjoy working with many different colours and fabrics. I’m always open to, and encourage, trying out various combinations of styles, colours, and fabrics in order to create something new.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from anything around me. From travelling to watching old movies, from reading books to Pinterest. I also believe Fashion is a very important source of inspiration, which has personally been a key influence on my work. Having also worked for Valentino for quite a long time, I have been able to draw from the world of ‘haute couture’ and integrate it into my projects.
Have you ever thought of creating a book on your work?
I did, but never seriously enough to give birth to something concrete enough to publish, who knows? I am open to possibilities …
What do you think is the most effective way of presenting a project?
When presenting a project, I am not a big fan of CGI renderings as I believe they leave too little to the imagination and look terribly false… So what we generally do here at my office, when we are creating a new project, is designing on plans and elevations and we try to mount everything almost like a doll’s house. In the centre is the furnished plan, and all around it is the elevations which are coloured either by hand or by computer graphics. Overall, the presentation looks very much like that of a 19th-century architect as I like to envision the final work in person, while still being open to new additions. We then add many mood boards, in which we layer photographs to help the client understand and imagine what the overall final look will be like.
Therefore, I strongly believe in mixing old fashion styles of presentation with a touch of contemporary, technological tools to create the most effective and strong proposal
What has been your favourite project that you have done and why?
Always the last one! In this case, it’s the Rocco Forte Hotel de la Ville. I have been working on it for the last two years and it has just opened its doors with very good reviews. The Hotel de Russie, also in Rome, was my first big project in the hotel business.