superchat tokyo: suzanne oxenaar + florianne eshuis

image: logo design by thonik

amsterdam’s lloyd hotel has been a bastion of contemporary dutch design since it reopened as a hospitality venue in 2004. originally built in the early 20th century as harbourside accommodation for european migrants in transit to south america, the monumental building has had different purposes. first a low-profile hotel, then a prison, a refugee shelter and a workshop space for young artists, it once again became a hotel, but this time with added style and comfort. suzanne oxenaar is lloyd hotel’s artistic director and one of its initiators. she asked renowned architecture practice mvrdv and a series of dutch designers to create the innovative concept of design-injected hospitality that lloyd hotel is now. last year 400 years of japanese-dutch trade relations were commemorated through a series of events. these relations started when de liefde [english: 'love'], a vessel of the dutch east india company, was shipwrecked in kyushu's usuki bay in 1600. oxenaar has been fascinated by japan from a young age. after obtaining a degree in drama and theatre studies she headed for the land of the rising sun to study noh theatre, and in particular yukio mishima's contemporary concoctions. her one-year residence allowed oxenaar to experience and observe the culture up close. one of the phenomena that fascinated her most were the country’s well-known love hotels. coinciding with the upcoming edition of tokyo designers week, lloyd hotel will launch the llove pop-up hotel in tokyo’s daikanyama area. the hotel is pretty much a fusion of one of oxenaar’s long-time fascinations and lloyd hotel’s adventurous design principles. the llove project unites both dutch and japanese contemporary designers who each have designed a separate room or section of the pop-up hotel. next to providing accommodation, llove also features a café, shop and gallery space. participating designers include jo nagasaka, richard hutten, hideyuki nakayama, joep van lieshout, yuko nagayama and scholten & baijingssuperfuture talks to llove's initiator suzanne oxenaar [so] and producer florianne eshuis [fe] about this striking project.

portrait: lloyd hotel's creative director suzanne oxenaar

llove is inspired by your fascination of japan’s love hotels. what is it exactly that fascinates you about these hotels? [so]: it fits perfectly in japanese culture. there’s very little privacy in people's homes, being so small and having walls that are often as thin as paper. love hotels seem so obvious. when i researched the topic i discovered that they accommodate millions of guests each year. these establishments are very discrete, there’s minimal contact with staff and they’re often fun too. many have differently themed rooms.

florianne, when did you get involved in the project, and what is it you do? [fe]: i used to organize elle décor’s annual inside design event. for the past two years the event took place at lloyd hotel, a very appropriate location. during these past collaborations i got in contact with suzanne and last years she asked me if i wanted to join the llove project. i’m the producer, and in charge of the dutch operations of llove. i also visited tokyo to do some preparations there, mostly trying to tap into local networks from which the project could benefit.

architect jo nagasaka is in charge of llove’s japanese operations. how did he get involved? [so]: we were actually tipped off by bas valckx, press + cultural officer at the netherlands embassy in tokyo. coincidentally, a designer i know also had had an exhibition at nagasaka’s tokyo gallery. jo speaks very little english but when we met, we just hit it off. there was a good non-verbal understanding…it immediately felt so right. [fe]: he’s a real trooper. i don’t think we could have done it without him. there’s a huge flow of communication between us up to the most minute detail.

how did you select the llove hotel location in daikanyama? [so]: jo nagasaka, who's both a participant in the project and our producer in japan, came across the location. it’s an apartment building from the 1970s that’s owned by nara prefecture. it had been empty for a while when he spotted it.

image: llove design by richard hutten

in japan love hotels have a shady reputation. was it difficult to convince the project’s japanese participants? [so]: to a certain extent, yes. it took jo nagasaka a lot of lobbying. we were always very much aware of the negative connotations and the possible risks involved. that’s why llove needed to be a high-profile initiative with an emphasis on exceptional design. i only asked experienced designers with a certain level of accomplishment to join. because of their elaborate experience, they not only have the ability to create something exceptional but they’re also able to communicate well through their design. it’s there where the added value of lies. besides, what they create would be a true foundation for all others involved.

did the participating designers receive carte blanche? [so]: they simply were asked to design something according to their personal interpretation of llove. but their designs needed to be practical. after all, llove is a hotel. we didn’t have an immense budget for the project so we need to construct it as cost-efficient as possible. [fe]: next to hotel rooms there’ll be a café where people can hang out and meet for a drink and savour dishes from nara. it’ll also be furnished with items from that region. the souvenir from tokyo + amsterdam shop will feature artisanal items from nara and the netherlands. it’s managed by the souvenir shop of the national art center in collaboration with renowned design store cïbone.

are all the designs made in japan? [fe]: it was all conceptualized in the netherlands and most of the dutch designers crafted their contribution here. the japanese designers all made their designs in japan. by the way, have you heard the news about the maritime incident between japan and china? because of that, shipping between the two countries has been suspended. our cargo load of design was about to sail from china to japan when this happened…oh well. the llove pop-up hotel launches on fri - oct 22 and will remain open for one month only. for room reservations click [here]. location: 1-36-10 ebisu-nishi [daikanyama].

image: llove design by hideyuki nakayama