Step one foot inside of Amsterdam's stunning Conservatorium Hotel and it's profoundly clear: This isn't just a glossy set of digs with opulent soaps and near-perfect customer service—this is a vacation within a vacation. The Piero Lissoni-designed Conservatorium immediately draws you in with its expansive atrium on the main floor, which is filled with as much light during the day as it is always with well-appointed furniture and stylishly dressed guests. Yet it maintains that untroubled vibe the Dutch are so natural at creating, and that—combined with Lissoni's singular minimalist vision and skill at creating effortless architectural eclecticism—makes the Conservatorium distinctly zen.
Lissoni was a perfect match for the task of renovating the former music conservatorium into a contemporary structure that would reflect both its history and future. As an architect, Lissoni's work is driven by his faithfulness to the existing design and environment—in this case, the work of renowned Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel, nestled in the Museumplein district of Amsterdam amongst other Dutch landmarks. A hundred years later, Lissoni is praised for the same innate ability to create something that is simultaneously as simple as it is functional, just as Knuttel was when the music conservatorium was first built—making for a nearly fated collaboration. Lissoni approached the renovations with the careful intentions he's used to guide many of his past private home projects, indeed turning this hotel into a place you wish you could live forever. Understated, effortless—and undeniably comfortable with the elegance of the finest luxury hotels across Europe—Lissoni turned what remains Knuttle's neighborhood gem on the outside into his own masterpiece on the inside.
Since opening his practice in 1986—which began in furniture design and later added architecture—Lissoni has accomplished a truly astounding number of projects. He's made it this far—far enough to be granted the rare luxury of picking and choosing which projects he takes—by obsessing in making himself better from each build to the next. There is something distinctly "Lissoni" about each project (most notably his exceptional ability to make small spaces feel enormous) which is made more impressive with each example. In this case, the area that was formerly an outdoors courtyard is now wrapped in glass for an extended lounge and brasserie space complete with sky-high ceilings and a continuous glass roof, elegantly supported by dark ironwork.
The metalwork matches his dark, iconic staircases, which he juxtaposes against the glass encasing and original stained glass windows. The lush fabrics and leathers on the otherwise minimalistic furnishings keep the space feeling warm and comfortable without the garishness of so many other hotels. The lounge, though bathed in light for most of the day, is made even brighter by a blooming green space at the center, and glows at night with lamps dangling almost 20 feet from the glass ceiling above. A seat next to one of Lissoni's famous glass bookcases, with snacks and drinks on hand, is the nicest spot you'll find for catching a break in this buzzing city.
The Conservatorium is home to 129 rooms which occupy its eight floors. If you weren't already sold, the rooms will lock you in—no matter how much you plan to spend on their wide variety of suites. With Lissoni, there's no BS; no crown moldings, the structural details are exposed, nothing is masked nor overly ornate. Wake up to a fresh pair of the fluffiest slippers and a cave-like bathroom, complete with stellar showers and robes. Each room has a key-pad to control all the lighting and curtains, as well as call-up housekeeping whenever it's most convenient. As an added achievement, the rooms are kept warm with an eco-friendly heating system that harnesses the naturally occurring ground heat.
The rest of the amenities are the best in the business—as well as the top-notch concierge, their wellbeing center offers a full spa, pool, gym and yoga studio as well as a set of bikes for guests in the cycle-heavy Dutch capital. The dining venues are under the helm of the rockstar Dutch chef Schilo van Coevorden. His restaurant Tunes is quickly establishing itself an Amsterdam culinary highlight. The restaurant's bar, serving a wide variety of gin and tonics, and a smoking lounge above will surely keep you entertained for the night.
Many hotel stays later, we're left dreaming about the nights we spent at the Conservatorium. Tucked into one of the nicest museum districts in Europe, you'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer spot to rest your feet. For Lissoni, there's something special to be said about architects who draw attention away from their own work by providing such a pristine palette for what lies within—the art of creating a space so superior that it makes everything it holds more sensational. We were excited to learn that in 2012 Lissoni Associati inaugurated a new office in New York to follow projects on the American continent. We hope something similar will pop up stateside soon.
Additional reporting by Lauren Espeseth
Photos by Karen Day