The "elements pure" hotel in the northern German city-state of Bremen aims to create the maximum atmosphere of well-being with a holistic feng shui-style interior. At the same time, a hotel like this emerged with an unusual design.
text: Stefanie Bisping // photography: KARSTEN KLAMA
White, gently curved furniture, grey curtains in front of the floor-to-ceiling window and blue touches of colour are calming on the eye. The mind will quickly find serenity here too. Because there is nothing superfluous in this room. Both with its motif and its blue colour palette, the large-format picture of falling drops above the bed indicates which element this room is dedicated to: water.
Anyone who sleeps here does not need to know that according to the Chinese feng shui philosophy – literally "wind and water" – buildings and rooms are designed with respect to location, materials, shapes and directions so that the energy flows in nature are not restricted. The positive effect should nonetheless be felt. Because the aim of this Oriental concept of harmony is to create aesthetically balanced rooms which bring a person into harmony with his environment and as a result give him well-being and health.
"Everyone observes many of these principles instinctively," says Markus Barth, who manages the "elements pure" feng shui-concept hotel. Thus hardly anyone would come up with the idea of placing the head of their bed under a window or beside a door, he says: "You would sleep badly there, because you would feel exposed."
However, the interior of the "elements pure" hotel goes a step further. Each floor of the hotel is dedicated to one of the five elements in feng shui: Wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The colours, forms and designs of the furniture are chosen to harmonise with the element which gives the floor its theme. According to feng shui, every person belongs to one of these five elements and its colour spectrum. To ensure an optimum experience of well-being, guests can go onto the hotel website to determine their element based on date of birth and sex, which they then state when making their booking. Thus they will receive a room which matches their basic element.
These customised sleeping arrangements appeal to guests. "Around 25 percent avail of this option, both business and private travellers alike," Barth says. "We have already had conferences at which all the participants told us their date of birth so that we could allocate them the appropriate rooms." The lobby is not dedicated to any specific element. It is designed according to general feng shui principles. This approach created a generous living space with clear lines, open spaces and without any ornamentation. High window façades, separated by the brick walls that are typical for this region, make this lobby bright and airy. Reception is located in the middle. It comprises three desks that are arranged in front of a wood-panelled cube. Living-room suites and sofas in warm orange and yellow tones are positioned in such a way that the guest has both a sheltered seat and a broad view of the room.
Only separated from the lobby by glass partitions, the Smoker’s Lounge does not have the character of a detention room, but exudes a homely atmosphere with comfortable armchairs, bookshelves and an (artificial) open fire. The conference rooms are also designed in such a way that the energy can flow freely. Because blocked corners and busy furnishings make concentration more difficult.
Another well-being factor is the stylish rooftop spa and "one of the best fitness facilities in Bremen," as Barth says: with state-of-the-art equipment and minimalist design comprising white walls, large-format black-and-white photographs and a long vista across the Bremen rooftops. The restaurant, where light cuisine with an Asian character is served, and the adjoining bar are also open to non-resident guests. A minimalist aesthetic and economical use of colour touches liven up the expanse of this room.
Manfred and Andreas Brennfleck, father and son and joint owners of consultancy firm Brennfleck und Partner, developed the concept for the Libertas Hospitality Group, which runs the hotel. Apart from the "elements pure", the Cologne-based group owns eight further hotels in Germany and Austria, of which only one other is a feng shui hotel, however. The Brennflecks are convinced that harmonious spaces based on feng shui principles increase a guest's well-being, who can find serenity and concentrate on what is truly important through peaceful sleep and the absence of visual and acoustic ballast.
Because the building in Bremen was already built – it previously housed the World Trade Center – and was only renovated and modernised more, the "elements pure" is a "feng shui-concept hotel". That means that it is furnished according to the principles of the Oriental teachings, but was not built according to them.
"We have so much feng shui here that staying with us is as pleasant as possible for the guest," Markus Barth explains. Yet it is not just feng shui fans who book the hotel. Some 50 percent of occupants are business travellers. Frequently they realise that they have slept very well without really knowing why. "That is more of a subconscious process." Fifty-year-old Barth, who was born in West Berlin, feels the same way. In 17 years at Ramada, most recently as regional director and tourism sales manager, Barth had very little time to think about Oriental philosophies. But when the Brennflecks invited him to look at show rooms and the lobby in the new property, he was won over immediately.
"It appealed to me 100 percent," says Barth. Although he didn't really want to manage a hotel any more, but concentrate solely on sales concepts for hotels, he agreed immediately: "I knew that otherwise someone else would do it," he recalls. "That was when I thought: I'd prefer to do it myself."
The reason: Barth sees an interface to his own philosophy in the concept of achieving the greatest possible well-being through feng shui: "It is my daily mission to offer our guests the greatest possible comfort and make their stay as pleasant as possible." Barth knew that he would find the perfect external conditions for this conviction in the "elements pure" hotel: Furnishings and fixtures that put the guest's well-being at the centre of attention.
It was a stroke of luck that Barth was able to put his team together himself. He knew all the employees, and many had already worked together before. This shared history ensures a smooth working day and low fluctuation levels. Barth: "It is a huge advantage when members of a team know each other and the employees recruit other people with whom they have already worked well."
However, the team does not want to rest on the success of the first year. The first renovations are already planned for 2016. Barth knows that good recommendation rates on hotel platforms and positive feedback on social media networks have to be earned from scratch every day.
He is looking forward to it.