Palazzo Montemartini is an early 20th century building that was originally the administrative offices of the city transport company (Atac). It is located opposite the Termini railway station in Rome and next to the National Archaeological Museum, once the site the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian. Part of the early Roman city wall (Mura Servianae) sits in the entry garden facing the station.
Both the site and the building have inspired many of the themes explored in this project. They also brought with them a number of challenges:
1) A conservation order on all the exteriors and some of the interiors.
2) The original layout of the rooms and the main public spaces were not immediately suitable to the new programme of a hotel. This meant the design on the 87 guests rooms in seven or eight “types” which are then adapted to the existing building one by one.
3) The structure, an early example of a reinforced concrete, mixed with load bearing walls, with a large number of level changes has given rise to a necessarily complex distribution of the hotel.
Nevertheless, the difficulties combined with the character of the building and particularly its siting provide a continual stimulus channelled into the three main themes developed in the design.
The notion of solidity and permanence emanating from the Roman baths and the Servian wall surrounding the building suggested the use of stone as a finish and a material for the bathtubs, wash basins and fixtures in many of the rooms and public areas. In recent years the technology of working stone, computer controlled cutting, lamination, glues, stainproof and waterproofing treatments, have combined to make it a most versatile material offering many new uses in interior design.
It was clearly the most siutable material to bring the theme of water and public baths to life, especially given the historical and physical context, the baths of Diocletian.
Roman Baths- Water
The vicinity of the building to the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian became a leitmotiv for a spa hotel in which the presence of water permeated the concepts for the entire hotel, from the guest rooms to the circulation and the public spaces. This theme co-ordinates all the spaces where water is present, from the swimming pool on the roof terrace to fountains and channels within the building with a natural conclusion in the spa and wellness centre located in the lower ground floor and invades some spaces where water would not normally be present. For example, the private pools in some of the rooms, or the table-fountains in the main lounge.
Furniture – modern design classics and made-to measure
To offset a possible excess of ancient Roman references in the design of the interior architecture, the theme of the classics of modern design has been introduced for some of the furniture and loose fittings. Dating back to the nineteen twenties (just after the construction of the Palazzo) the items chosen of furniture and light fittings for the rooms and public spaces represent a selection most appropriate to the interiors from a range of 20th century designers that are all icons- Prouvé, Chareau, Eames, Castiglioni, Ponti and so on.
Given the spatial constraints of many rooms, many items were also purpose built pieces. Particularly for the larger items of furniture, like the beds and fixed seating. The bathrooms in stone, all had to be designed as made-to measure.