With over 60 years of history, the Ritz Four Seasons Lisbon is the most iconic hotel in Portugal. The renovation was carefully thought out to maintain the character of this unit opened in 1959. When highly acclaimed Portuguese architecture studio Oitoemponto was entrusted in 2019 to breathe new life into guest rooms and suites at the Hotel, design duo Artur Miranda and Jacques Bec baulked at the idea of modernising the classic Hotel.
Through close collaboration between the Ritz, Oitoemponto and Vector Mais, which carefully carried out all the renovation works, it was possible to re-imagining the past for the present, embarking on a journey to evolve the Hotel's roots for 21st-century visitors. This attention to detail is particularly noticeable in the carpentry, the construction of the interior architectural details and the restoration of most of the original stones in the bathrooms.
Oitoemponto restores the original splendour to the rooms of the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz in Lisbon
The Four Seasons Hotel Ritz in Lisbon by the architectural duo Oitoemponto opened in spring 2021. It represents a perfect compromise between modernity and decorative luxury while paying tribute to 60 years of history.
The meeting was obvious. Between the Ritz in Lisbon and the interior designers Artur Miranda and Jacques Bec, there was already an invisible link. First of all, because Artur grew up with the most spectacular hotel in Lisbon, not to say Portugal. As a teenager, he discovered what decorative arts and contemporary creation could produce, when put at the service of luxury and the art of entertaining. He then returned regularly to meet friends at the bar or restaurant, always fascinated by this hymn to modernity. When Jacques Bec made Portugal his second home, he was then completely bewitched by the place.
It is worth mentioning that the Ritz in Lisbon has nothing to do with the one in Paris. The name was negotiated because it symbolized excellence in the hotel business. But this Ritz does not look towards Place Vendôme, it looks towards New York, Rio, Acapulco. Its sophistication is in phase with the beginning of the 60s which saw its birth. Its elegance is stylised, colourful and sunny. It was born of Salazar’s wish to give Portugal a palace. To carry out this project, a company of promoters was created, headed by Manuel Queiroz Pereira. The latter entrusted the construction to Porfirio Pardal Monteiro (1897-1957).
Famous for his modernist style, the architect designed a ten-floors building made of concrete and glass above Lisbon. Not in the historic district, but on the edge of the city, making it easily accessible from the airport and close to the roads to Sintra and Cascais. Unfortunately, Porfirio Pardal Monteiro died before his work was completed. It was his nephew Antonio Pardal Monteiro who completed the project. The hotel was inaugurated on 24 November 1959. Today, the descendants of Manuel Queiroz Pereira are still the owners of the hotel, which has been managed by the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts since 1997.
Inside, the volumes have the excessiveness of this modernist manifesto. A multitude of lifts serve the 282 rooms, the lounges are of impressive proportions and the technical infrastructure is worthy of a New York establishment. However, Salazar asked that this radicalness be calmed, humanised, by a chic and warm decoration. To embody this, the famous decorator Henri Samuel (1904-1996) was called upon. He was then in full ascendancy, working on a series of Rothschild residences. He was precious because he was the first to embody a form of eclecticism in decoration. A lover of the decorative arts of the 18th century, he was also a fan of contemporary creations, as in his Paris flat, where a piece of Boulle furniture stands side by side with a coffee table by Guy de Rougemont, a painting by Balthus and a sculpture by Philippe Hiquily.
Embodying a perfect compromise between modernity and decorative luxury, nourished by Art Deco and Louis XVI style, Henri Samuel gave the Ritz in Lisbon a unique identity of great visual strength. He was helped in his task by Lucien Donnat, a French decorator living in Portugal. The 1980s and 1990s were to be a bad time for this stylistic testimony, but there was still enough left to revive the spirit. This is what Artur Miranda and Jacques Bec set out to do.
On the ground floor, the many specially commissioned works of art are still there: the superb tapestries by Almada Negreiros, the bas-reliefs by Margarida Schimmelpfennig and Salvador Barata Feyo, the fountain by Lagoa Henriques or the paintings by Maria Vieira da Silva. But in the rooms, there was nothing left of the flamboyant past. "The first thing we did was to go into the storerooms. A lot of furniture and lighting fixtures were stored there. We dug them out. That was our starting point to reconnect with the history of the place."
Because the duo does not intend to mark its territory any more than that. On the contrary. "We proceeded with respect and even tenderness, as with an old lady to whom we had to restore all her elegance. For example, there were still some magnificent bathrooms that we tried to modify as little as possible. Their gigantic sinks, ordered from the United States, are extraordinary, ample and sensual, and the marbles are the most beautiful in Portugal because Pardal Monteiro’s father was a marble worker. We only intervened in the showers to extend them."
For the bedrooms, the period furniture has been redesigned, sometimes with new proportions. Chests of drawers have become night tables. Armchairs have been given more volume. The colour palette was designed to evoke the 1960s, with a cameo of beige, grey, tobacco, white, and a few touches of ochre, brick and duck blue. With the same aim, blond wood was favoured for the furniture. Oak for the headboard, varnished oak for the desk and the pedestal table. "We really like this kind of subtlety, the play of texture that a slightly sharp eye perceives. "
Another decorative detail is the ceiling, which ends in a curve and thus hides the curtain rod. "There was an example left in a room and we used it everywhere. It’s elegant, very period-related and also provides better acoustics." The wave-like carpet pattern was found in Lino Antonio’s "Olisipo" tapestry, which hangs in the staircase. Of course, each room is equipped with the most advanced technology in terms of light, screen and sound.
In the corridors, the approach was the same, with a model of old wall lamp, but multiplied for a theatrical effect, walls covered with a textile that looks like Japanese straw and a carpet with an abstract pattern inspired this time by the Portuguese paving known as "calçada".
The lift lobbies have been given back their large Royère-style wing chairs and neo-classical lamps. The effect is a perfect balance between evocation of the past and contemporary lifestyle. Once again, Artur Miranda and Jacques Bec have focused on harmony and coherence. "The idea was to recover the original essence of the Lisbon Ritz. Of course, it is not a strict reproduction, but an evocation with our eyes, our taste of today. We believe that new clients of this kind of hotel are lovers of decoration and will appreciate it."
These improvements correspond to a first phase of work that concerns three of the ten floors. Four other floors are underway, in a more classic, more Art Deco spirit, still using furniture recovered from the storerooms.
Also to come, on the 6th floor, three suites united and treated as a private club, a lounge, which Oitoemponto has decorated with woodwork, Zuber panoramic windows and Fortuny fabrics. Or a rereading of the 18th century in the style of the 1960s. Delivery is scheduled for the autumn.
“In most of our projects we invent a story, here we have extended a story. We took a step back, because the Ritz in Lisbon is a stronger monument than us.” Oitoemponto