by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Industry Relations, MCI
Defining the Destination Experience
Destinations need hotels like Villa Kennedy.
Hotels like Villa Kennedy lift the destination experience beyond the ordinary and alter outdated destination perceptions and lazy prejudices. When you stay at Villa Kennedy your image of Frankfurt changes the way Clark Kent becomes Superman. The sanitised, navy suit destination for gray faced bankers becomes a vibrant, design led location for bright eyed culture seekers.
I was fortunate to be accommodated there for the duration of IMEX13 and, as a result, experienced Frankfurt in a new exciting way discovering the subtle, beguiling appeal of the city for the first time despite my 10+ visits there.
Rus in Urbe
Villa Kennedy is on the Sachsenhausen side of the River Main, across from the high rise towers and buildings that constitute Frankfurt’s skyline. You can get to the financial district and to the Messe is less than 10 minutes by tram while enjoying a little rus in urbe seclusion slightly south of the river. Completed 110 years ago in 1904 and named Villa Speyer after its wealthy Jewish owner, the original building quickly evolved from a neo-gothic private residence into the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics. Eventually, in 2003, it underwent significant development which saw the addition of 3 wings and an internal courtyard terrace brilliantly conceptualised by the award winning architect Dimitri Porphyrios.
Externally it presents as a single seamless period piece, new matching old with architectural precision and visual perfection. Internally it’s a highly efficient contemporary hotel with a 1000sqm spa, 326sqm ballroom and 163 guest rooms which bear the “simple luxury” hallmark of Olga Polizzi, interiors expert at Rocco Forte Hotels. Entry level guest rooms are a minimum of 35sqm – amongst the biggest in Frankfurt – and are magnificently appointed in muted tones and textures with original black and white photographic art pieces by Manuela Hofer. Warm timber floors in dark oak are a bridge into the sanctuary of your guest room, a beautifully configured uncluttered space that balances functionality and aesthetics. Above the corner couch landscapes by painter Heike Negenborn transport you further away from the unswerving speed of life in the fast lane.
The public spaces at Villa Kennedy include an Italian restaurant, Gusto, which opens out onto the Villa Gardens in summer time offering al fresco dining, and JFK’s Bar and Lounge, named for John F Kennedy who visited Frankfurt in 1963 en route to Berlin where he made his famous pronouncement Ich bin ein Berliner. These spaces connect with the original Villa Speyer and include the rather stunning Ludwig Erhard room, the original ceiling of which was re-discovered during the 2003 re-modelling, having been covered throughout the Max Planck years. Dimitri Porphyrios’s fusion of old and new at ground floor /reception level in the hotel creates a series of home-from-home spaces for reading, relaxing or conspiratorial plotting and planning while keeping the functional requirements of a quality 5 star experience appropriately out of sight. At present the public area is hosting Axel Crieger’s “L’amie Americain”, an astonishing exhibition of digital paintings which combine “a variety of photographic quotes, effects designs, paintings and narrations”.
Pat and I take smart Rocco Forte umbrellas in anticipation of a further bout of the unseasonable May weather that has most of Europe in its miserable grip. We make the short walk to the river embankment where posh villas now host an exciting array of art galleries and museums including the world famous Stadel Museum. Armed with our copy of Museen & Ausstellungsorte (“Museum and Exhibition Sites” published by Museums of Frankfurt) and fully appraised of the delights that await us by Timo Dreissigacker (Villa Kennedy’s “Les Clefs d’Or” concierge) we commence our cultural immersion at Deutsches Filminstitut or the Film Museum of Germany. A recent refurbishment has transformed the interiors of this beautiful period villa into a series of exhibition spaces that trace the history from early 18th century peep shows through 19th century flip books and panoramas to the ultra-sophistication of contemporary film techniques of how we interpret and perceive images. The facility is available to hire for events.
Next door, hosted in another late 19th century villa, is the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) or Architectural Museum. The permanent exhibition “From Primordial Hut to Skyscraper” is a remarkable display of scale models depicting how human beings have co-existed in conurbations and communities throughout the millennia. When you see the architectural evolution that includes Roman cities, Renaissance towns, Neo-classical terraces and the New York Skyline you’re left in speechless wonder at the boundless ingenuity and limitless imagination of the human person. The Film Museum and the Architectural Museum happily provided content and interpretation in both German and English.
This was our quibble with the otherwise excellent Museum fur Kommunikation Frankfurt (the Museum of Communication) – all exhibition content was only in German, although we did discover, at the end of our visit, that a booklet in English is also available. The museum relates the history of communication up to our contemporary media dominated society. Dotted around the exhibits are striking installations and art pieces by Max Ernst, Joseph Beuys and Dali with pride of place going to Jean Luc Cornec’s “Telephone Sheep”. Harmless, humorous whimsy or sardonic post-modern commentary? You choose!
As Captain Edward Smith might say, “That was just the tip of the iceberg!” We managed to visit 3 of the 9 museums along Schaumainkai and none of 20+ located on the opposite bank of the River. Personally I would have loved to visit the Struwwelpeter- Museum – an entire facility devoted to Heinrich Hoffmann’s extraordinary, and now highly controversial book, written in 1844 to encourage children “to be seen and not heard”. We had a copy of StruwwelPeter at home and it instilled a curious mixture of terror and intrigue in my 6 year old mind.
I was delighted to read in the industry press that Rocco Forte intends to actively target Meetings, Incentives and Events business. With its balance of excellent meetings infrastructure and a superior guest room product Villa Kennedy can certainly put Rocco Forte on the map as a collection of hotels with a real commitment to business tourism, located in a city destination that deserves to be re-discovered.
Huge thanks to Patrizia di Patrizio who has been guiding my on-going discovery of RoccoForte hotels over the past 6 months or so and the wonderful Romy Ritter who steered me charmingly around the pleasures and delights of Villa Kennedy with that lightness of touch that always leaves a lasting impression. With such grace and poise, she must somehow be an Irish cailin!
Padraic Gilligan works for MCI and is Vice President of Industry Relations and Vice President of Ovation Global DMC, MCI’s destination services division. He can be contacted on [email protected]