A Legendary Film Location For Spy Movies Gets Made Into a Spectacular Five-Star Hotel

A Legendary Film Location For Spy Movies Gets Made Into a Spectacular Five-Star Hotel

By Kate Reggev
Budapest's Paris Court—one of the most ornate buildings in Europe—is renovated and repurposed into a five-star hotel.

Originally completed in the early 1900s during the height of Budapest’s belle epoque boom years, Paris Court (Párizsi Udvar in Hungarian, also called the Brudern House) has been a landmark building since its construction. Sadly, following World War I, World War II, and subsequent decades of Soviet rule, the building fell into severe disrepair (its formerly stylish, Parisian-style shopping arcade at the ground floor was in particularly poor shape). However, the building and its iconic arcade recently reopened to the public as a five-star hotel following a major renovation by interior design studio KROKI and architecture studio ARCHIKON.

Designed by architect Henrik Schmahl and completed in 1909, the building originally served as a residential and office building. It had fallen into deep disrepair by 2015, when renovations and restoration work commenced.

Paris Court in Budapest, also known as the Brudern House, is eclectic in style, combining Art Nouveau, Moorish Revival, and Gothic forms and motifs for a highly decorative exterior and interior.

Even before the recent restoration and renovation, the building’s impressive Gothic and Moorish-inspired design by noted architect Henrik Schmahl began to be recognized (and even renowned) as a great film location for spy movies, fashion shoots, and other events that took advantage of its evocative interiors. Films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) with Gary Oldman; Spy (2015) with Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, and Jude Law; and the series Dracula (2013-2014 ) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers all were all shot in Paris Court.

The building's historic arcade was originally home to 32 shops. After the renovation, fears of it being closed to the public were assuaged when it reopened as the hotel's public lobby, cafe, and restaurant. 

A major part of the restoration work involved the delicate cleaning of the laylight, or glazed ceiling, of the former arcade. The painstaking work now allows the laylight to glow as originally intended, as if it were backlit by daylight (in fact, apartments and offices were always located above, and it was originally lit by artificial lighting as it is today).

While these films took advantage of the dark and damaged condition of the arcade, the process of restoring it to its original glory began in earnest three years ago. ARCHIKON restored the exterior of the building, the decorative elements of the facade, and the glass of the arcade skylight. "For me the exciting part of this project was behind the scenes," says Csaba Nagy, lead architect of ARCHIKON. "This is why we designed the protective case to allow visitors to see into the Paris Court from above."

The intricate detailing of the laylight and windows provided ample inspiration for the design team, who were deeply influenced by the geometry, color palette, and materials of the original building.

Lighting and light fixtures provided an opportunity to insert modern, contemporary elements into otherwise historic spaces, like the stairs and corridors of the hotel.

ARCHIKON then made other subtle, thoughtful alterations and interventions in the building. They enclosed a formerly open-air courtyard with a unique rooftop with geometric glass panels to create a light-filled space for the new hotel. They also added a new floor to the building for the hotel’s presidential suite, complete with a rooftop terrace that not only provides grand views of the city, but also of the building’s original roof tiles and detailed craftsmanship.

Paris Court is one of the only buildings in Budapest with a courtyard—and this space became an important part of the renovation. The architects enclosed it with a new glazed skylight, allowing it to function as a restaurant for the new hotel.

The geometry of the skylight reflects the shape of the courtyard itself and is inspired by the vaults of the arcade around it; the daylight still floods the space, allowing the green tile to contrast against the white walls.

For the interior design and finishes of the new hotel, KROKI employed a simpler, more modern aesthetic to contrast—and be clearly distinguished from—the original, historic portions of the building. As the co-founders of KROKI Studios, Andras Gode and Balázs Kery, explained, "We were inspired by the heritage of the great designers of the 1900s, but wanted to make a contemporary version of the Arabian Nights that they had originally envisioned with the building."

A new rooftop suite provides fresh views of the city beyond—and the building's intricate, highly decorative rooftop structures. The new structure is clearly modern and avoids confusion about what is old and what is new.

While the interiors presented challenges because of the irregular shapes of the floor layouts, the designers looked to the motifs, colors, and materials of the historic parts of the building as inspiration. Flooring and textiles were specifically manufactured with hexagonal patterns seen in the tile floors of the arcade, for example.

The sparing use of black in the bespoke furniture is reminiscent of the passageway’s walls and thematic coloring. Subtle notes of pale green are used to annotate each room, paired to the same green found in the famous Zsolnay ceramics that adorn numerous historical structures inside and outside of Budapest, including the rooftop of the Paris Court building itself.

To create this inspired-but-modern design, they looked to motifs from the historic building that could be expressed through texture and color in the new hotel rooms. Custom-made patterns of hexagons—recalling the hexagonal tile of the floor of the arcade below—were employed on the floors and wallpaper, while custom wood paneling suggests the Moorish style that is visible in the original design. 

Sleek sliding glass doors divide bedrooms from living spaces in some of the larger suites, allowing light to enter the space while still allowing for physical and acoustic separation if required.

One of the most significant interventions to the building is the rooftop addition, which added not only interior square footage but also a rooftop terrace with greenery.

The restoration work, the new structural and architectural elements, and the careful selection of textiles, patterns, and materials in the renovation project make for an inspiring, exciting project that gives new shine to an old gem.

Materials like marble match the high quality of the original building—but they are employed in modern ways with contemporary details.

Motifs from the skylight and decorative elements of the arcade were incorporated into many of the public spaces of the hotel, like this niche with a seat and intricate geometric screen behind.


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