Cardiff Castle in B&W

Bristol in B&W

Magna Pars Suites Milano

magna_pars_suites_1-thumb-800x534-54037My new article for Cool Hunting.

Located in the heart of Via Tortona—Milan’s mecca for fashion and design with its plethora of showrooms, advertising studios, architecture and fashion houses, plus hundreds of events during Design Week—the Magna Pars professional complex provides an essential reference point for creativity in the Italian metropolis.

At the helm of Magna Pars is the Martone family, who recently expanded their enterprise by opening Magna Pars Suites Milano. The five-star, suites-only hotel is the world’s first of what they’re calling “hotel-à-parfums”.

“This building is the site of our old essences and perfumes production plant,” explains Roberto Martone about the role of scent in the project. “When we moved out of Milan in the early ’90s we decided not to sell. After several years of restructuring, Magna Pars has become home to temporary events, offices, communication and creative studios.”

Giorgia Martone, Roberto’s daughter, oversees every detail of this ambitious and beautiful development, in which every element is inspired by perfumes and scents. “The whole project is eco-friendly and powered by geothermal and photovoltaic energy,” she says. “The rigorous project by architect Luciano Maria Colombo has privileged structures in wood as well as steel, aluminum and glass.”

Behind the crystal facade, visitors are welcomed into the spacious, open-air lobby, which leads to the reception and garden. The entire structure of the building is inspired by the typical Milanese “casa di ringhiera” (railing house), which is a multi-story building with apartments connected by external corridors. One of the most impressive experiences at Magna Pars Suites lies in the Library Hall. Located at the entrance of the building, this restful area allows the guests to surround themselves with an incredible book collection, all available for reading, and many of which date back to the 19th century. “I spent every weekend for the last six months cataloging, photographing and placing all the books, a total of almost 2,000,” says Giorgia. “Most are here, but they also go to the restaurant and to the rooms.”

Each of the 28 suites takes its name and identity from olfactory essences like flowers (Gardenia, Jasmine, Neroli and Magnolia) and woods (Vetiver, Sandalwood and Patchouli, just to name a few); colors, scents and amenities are coordinated to the theme of the suite. All the interiors are completely furnished with products made in Italy, like Flos lamps, Poltrona Frau sofas and Viabizzuno lighting systems, while all the furniture pieces are made by artisans in the area around Milan. The colors and the dominant essences are also reflected in paintings by students of the Brera Fine Arts Academy, another creative landmark in town. Each suite is governed by a home automation system that allows you to take full control of lighting, curtains, temperature. The suites are all facing the beautiful garden, characterized by the presence of three Liquidambar trees, as well as olive trees, maples, magnolias, hornbeam.

A “secret” door made of copper leads to the Liquidambar cocktail bar, whose interior design is dominated by an impressive onyx counter. The name literally means “liquid amber” and refers to a fragrant natural resin which, when burned, develops a pleasant aromatic smoke.

Da Noi in via Forcella 6, the hotel’s restaurant led by Chef Fulvio Siccardi, serves up dishes from Piedmont as well as traditional Italian cuisine. Before entering the restaurant you can see the exposed wine cellar and the kitchen, and during the summer you can also eat outside in the garden.

Prices average around €300 per night. To book a room at Magna Pars Suites Milano, visit the website.

Immagini e immaginario di Milano

Milano è sempre capace di sorprendere e di ribaltare gli stereotipi. Anche i suoi.

Urban Italy

My new article from Cool Hunting.

Founder of the successful architecture tourism site Viaggi di Architettura, South African-born Mikaela Bandini recently expanded her scope with Urban Italy—a new website devoted to travel, design and the discovery of an alternative Italy in all forms. With a clear goal to help people discover something new and surprising, Bandini tells CH the story of the project in an exclusive interview.

How did the idea of Urban Italy come about?

My day job over the past 12 years has been creating contemporary architecture tours around the world for Italian professionals and architecture lovers for Viaggi di Architettura.

It’s what I do. It’s what I love doing. Scouting for information, contacts and spaces that you don’t get in a cheesy guide book off the shelf. After putting together over 50-plus itineraries worldwide I decided to create a guide-blog for foreign archinauts and design-aholics who want an alternative approach to Italian cities.

[It’s for] people like me who are on the lookout for great design deals, new industrial spaces, cutting edge architecture and souvenirs that don’t necessarily fit into your suitcase as well as the people who really rock the country.

The project is based on your personal experience or on a team?

I like to consider Urban Italy a kind of 2.0 version of my Moleskines—basically Italy the way that I’d like to see it (after having lived here for 20-odd years).

The project started as a personal collection of contemporary addresses and insider information from the tip to the toe (literally!) that I gathered while traveling around for architecture, food, interiors and pathological modernist furniture-collecting. Then I asked a handful of foreign friends around the country to give me their ‘best of’ to have a wider coverage of things to do and places to go. There are currently five of us working on the project, all foreigners living in Italy.

We begin the second phase of the project in spring with young Dutch film maker Caspar Diederik, who’ll be doing 2.0 storytelling about people and places around the country.

Are the Italian contemporary cities very different from the postcard-like Italy that many people expect?

We’re looking at a rather more contemporary Italy, which appeals to the kind of traveler who doesn’t collect Hard Rock t-shirts. Stuff like ex-industrial sites that have been transformed into something new, exciting spaces for arts and theater, the latest hot spots for an aperitivo, urban eateries, events, products and people. Not exactly the stuff you get on a postcard.

Then again our readers send Tweets, not postcards.