Universal Design Studio's Hannah Carter Owers explains how her team transformed a brutalist bank headquarters into an art-filled hotel, in this movie filmed ahead of the AHEAD Europe hospitality awards.
At Six opened earlier this year on Stockholm's Brunkebergstorg Square. It is home to one of Europe's most significant hotel art collections – curated by Sune Nordgren, formerly of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.
"The aim with At Six was to create Scandinavia's best luxury hotel, in a way that felt authentic and at home in a brutalist building," explains Owers, who is co-director of Universal Design Studio.
The hotel is shortlisted in five categories at the upcoming AHEAD Europe awards: Urban Hotel (Conversion), Restaurant, Lobby or Public Spaces, Guestrooms and Bar, Club or Lounge.
The building that houses it was first built in the 1970s, as part of a government initiative to replace the grand belle-époque architecture of Stockholm's old centre with brutal modernity. It was originally designed as a hotel, but instead became the headquarters of Swedbank.
"When we came to the building it had been derelict, and felt pretty broken and soulless," says Owers in the movie, which Dezeen filmed in London for AHEAD.
"Nevertheless, we were very impressed with the facade and the scale of the building. We quickly saw the opportunities in taking on this brute and softening it, and creating a hotel interior that harnessed its strength, but brought beauty to the spaces."
The new interior contrasts bold metal and stone finishes with furnishings selected to soften the stark modernist space and make it comfortable. "You get something that feels quite mighty and strong, but then there's a fineness in the details," says Owers.
A centrepiece feature of the hotel is a voluminous white marble staircase that leads from a smaller ground-floor lobby to the first floor, where most of the public spaces are located. "We felt it was really important to celebrate that ascension from ground-floor level," says Owers.
Set into the centre of the staircase is a large marble sculpture of a female head, by artist Jaume Plensa. It is one of the standout artworks from a collection that also includes Olafur Eliasson, Julian Opie, Sol Le Witt, Tacita Dean, Spencer Finch, Richard Long and Marijke van Warmerdam.
The main restaurant makes reference to the all-day dining brasseries of the belle époque era that Universal Design Studio sought to evoke. Owers' team opened up windows on both sides of the building to bring light into the space and offer views of the square below.
The cocktail lounge, also located on the first floor, features a 14-metre-long chandelier by London-based lighting studio Atelier Areti.
"It's the kind of place where you could grab a cocktail after work, but also you might go and sit in the corner and work during the day and have a coffee," Owers claims.
Many of the furnishings that Owers' team selected for At Six are classic 20th-century pieces, chosen to complement the setting.
"There is a real diversity in the types of furniture, but tonally it feels very coherent as an entity," claims Owers, "which I think gives it that level of sophistication."
Each standard room features a bespoke sofa and a full-length marble credenza, as well as light fittings by Swedish lighting designer Rubn.
"Our desire with the rooms was to think of every one as a suite," she continues. "All of the furniture has been hand-picked, all of the details have been well thought-through, and it's really well crafted."
This movie was filmed by Dezeen for AHEAD in London. Photography is by Andrew Meredith.