Blow Up Hall 5050 – a hotel as an interactive work of art
A visit to the Polish city of Poznan, just 270 highway kilometers from Berlin, is worthwhile in many ways: Poznan’s beautiful old town is reminiscent of Krakow. Only everything here is smaller and much more tranquil than in the tourist hotspot on the Vistula. Comparable to Krakow is also the hearty typical food, which can be found in many restaurants together with well-brewed beer. But probably the most unusual hotel in Poland can be found in Poznan. It’s called Blow Up Hall 5050 and it offers more than you’d expect from a five-star boutique hotel. It’s an interactive work of art with 22 luxurious rooms, a bar, and an excellent restaurant. Blow Up Hall 5050 is located in the center of Poznan and is part of Stary Browar, an award-winning shopping and cultural complex behind lavishly restored industrial walls. The hotel offers a combination of luxury, innovative technology and a personal artistic experiment. Guests not only experience art, but also participate in its creation.
Cult film as namesake
The inspiration for the hotel’s name comes from a cult Italian-British film. Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blowup in 1966, which is also the name of the project around which Blow Up Hall 5050 was designed – an electronic installation by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, whose works have been exhibited at London’s Tate Modern and the Venice Biennale, among other venues. The number 5050 stands for at least 50 percent art enjoyment, which guests can experience in addition to the usual amenities at this hotel.
Different from others: no keys, no reception desk
Instead of a key, guests receive an iPhone, which they must use to find and open the door to their hotel room. The individual hotel rooms and suites do not have a number. This preserves the privacy of the guests. The cell phone as room key and concierge replacement has already been in use since the hotel opened in 2008.
What is still unusual today, 10 years later, was truly innovative and courageous at the time. Right at the opening, the hotel hosted participants of the World Climate Summit. However, the hotel guests, including former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, were not in the mood for an interactive search for their room. Since then, at least a small desk has been placed directly in the imposing entrance hall. And it doesn’t take long for a friendly concierge to come around the corner and give you the iPhone and some coordinates for the room search.
Art from the lobby to every hotel room
The extensive art collection makes Blow Up Hall 5050 a unique place. Inside are large-scale photographs by Vanessa Beecroft, photos from Spencer Tunick’sinstallation in San Sebastian, installations by Piotr Uklańskis and a sculpture by Sylwester Ambroziak. Photographs by Jadwiga Sawicka, Maurycy Gomulicki, Mariko Mori and images of the interiors of the Paris National Archives by Patrick Tournebouf are also on display. Sebastian Hempel ‘s will-o’-the-wisp installation in the hotel lobby consists of two fluorescent lamps that rotate each day to illuminate the Blow Up Hall 5050 spaces.
The bar in the hotel Blow Up Hall 5050
The hotel in the center of Poznan also has a unique bar. The way to this bar leads up the red carpet at the level of the old granary. This is where the barley was stored in the days of the Hugger Brewery, which is now only called Stary Browar, meaning Old Brewery. The bar is on two levels and offers a gigantic view into the top of the granary. Old gears, cranes and transport rails are still clearly visible. With these dizzying heights, it’s also a good place to blow off steam. The bar is the only bar in Poland where smoking is allowed. The Davidoff Lounge is a luxurious place for lovers of good taste and cigars. The bartenders mix cocktail classics to molecular cocktails on demand.
The restaurant is one of the best in Poland
The hotel also has an excellent restaurant. Tomasz Purol has been the head chef there since 2013. The native of Poznan is a star in Poland. and known from television shows. Among his squad, the restaurant was named one of the top 100 best restaurants in Poland in October 2017. Purol combines traditional Polish elements with hints of French cuisine. In 2017, Purol also published its first cookbook.
Tomasz Purol’s cookbook, entitled Wochenmarkt (Weekly Market ), is devoted entirely to vegetables that have been forgotten even in Poland, such as Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, salsify, kale and rutabaga. However, he emphasizes, the book has nothing to do with diet or renunciation, but with not forgetting old traditions and reviving them. In Poland, parsnips were once used primarily as animal feed. Turnip was considered a poor man’s food and war food. Purol says it is important to get these ideas out of people’s heads, so the vegetables that have almost disappeared from everyday cuisine provide the individual chapters in his book. Tomasz Purol explains to me that for each vegetable he has developed ten recipes consisting of appetizers, main dishes and even desserts. Thus, for dessert, kale is served with cake, caramelized carrot with fruit, and Jerusalem artichoke with fig.
Traditional Polish cuisine at the highest level
For lunch, however, the more traditional Polish food with lots of meat and rich sauces awaits us at Hotel Blow Up Hall 5050.
Chop of zlotnieka pork – a traditional Sunday dinner
Destination Stary Browar – The Old Brewery in the center of Pozna?
Blow Up Hall 5050 opened in 2008, but its architectural roots go back much further. For the hotel is part of a huge industrial complex. In 1844, Ambrosius Hugger, a native of Baden-Württemberg, built a brewery in Posen. His sons Julius and Alfons expanded enormously and a huge industrial site was built in 1876 as part of a major investment. In 1918, Gebrüder Hugger Bierbauerei AG produced 17,000 hectoliters of beer. For today’s use, which is based on the idea of a combination of culture and commerce, the industrial building was extensively reconstructed and preserved. Today, a beautiful, bright red brick building stretches across several streets.
Stary Browar, the Old Brewery, almost seems like a city within a city. But not at all with a fortress character, but very inviting and attractive. Many tourists today often come to Poznan just for the Stary Browar. The shopping and business area consists of about 100 stores on four floors, offices and numerous restaurants, bars and cafes. The Stary Browar also includes exhibitions as well as an art courtyard, which hosts concerts, theater and other events from various cultural fields.
Polish entrepreneur Grazyna Kulczyk as a patron of the arts
Bringing art and entrepreneurship together is an idea that Polish entrepreneur Grazyna Kulczyk has been pursuing her entire career. However, the trained lawyer initially focused more on business. In 2003, Stary Browar, her largest investment to date, was opened; in 2008, the associated hotel Blow Up Hall 5050. In 2017, Kulczyk, who is considered the richest woman in Poland, sold Stary Browar to an investor. However, she remained the owner of the hotel, where she makes a pretty clear statement for art as a patron and collector of contemporary art.
Blow Up Hall 5050 was built from scratch with demolition materials and only the brick facades were preserved. Due to the fact that the interiors were ruined and had no aesthetic value with ordinary plastered small ceilings, the architects decided to take a special step: The building of the hotel should be extended by one floor because of the differences in levels and functions, but not upwards as usual, but downwards. Today, the imposing staircase not only takes you up to the luxurious bar. Guests can also turn left at the top and enter through a door directly into the shopping mall.
The art in Blow Up Hall 5050 – why a cult movie became the namesake
The history of the Blow Up installation is interesting. The intention of artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is to create a platform for public participation. The hotel guest should not only experience art, but also participate in it. At the heart of the architecture and performance is his interactive work using the latest technologies. At London’s Frieze Art Fair, entrepreneur Grażyna Kulczyk discovered this work by Lozano-Hemmer. She could imagine bringing such a project to life in the place that combines art, hotel and shopping center. She commissioned Lozano – Hemmer to create the project Blow up, designed specifically for the hotel Blow UP Hall 5050. It is an interactive installation that uses computer monitoring systems to create fragmentary mosaic structures. The guest experiences how the image they see turns them into an object that is processed further and further. When a guest enters a hotel, more than 3,000 virtual cameras share his image, which we can observe on a plasma monitor. The work refers to the idea of universal surveillance. It is inspired in part by Antonioni’s film Blow up and in part by the essence of extension, which allows hidden meanings to be uncovered.
The woman who collects breweries
Grażyna Kulczyk, by the way, has a new brewery project in the works quite recently. After the Polish government showed no interest in her extensive collection of Polish and European contemporary art, the entrepreneur is now investing millions in an old brewery building in the village of Susch in the Lower Engadine. Breweries seem to have brought her luck. The museum will open near Davos in 2018, and already there is a sense of optimism in the sleepy Swiss village thanks to the investments of the rich Polish woman.
I’m almost inclined to compare this story to Dürenmatt’s Visit to the Old Lady. But the rich patroness from Poland certainly has no old scores to settle in Susch and is not looking for revenge there, but only for a representative and unique setting for her art collection. It will be interesting to see how this brewery project develops.
The cost of half board was not calculated by the hotel