A thousand splendid suns


The Design Agency transforms a 60s office building into a hospitality space filled with the light and spirit of Barcelona.

A short walk from Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batllo apartments, in Barcelona’s Gracia district, the new Generator Barcelona glows like a lantern onto the street. Combining a hostel and a hotel, the accommodation is a reflection of the city itself, an interior filled with layers and styles.

Inside, the aged 1960s office building has undergone a complete renovation by Toronto-based design consultancy, The Design Agency. Having worked with local architects, suppliers and artists, The Design Agency created something truly one of a kind that incorporates vibrant graphics and intriguing lighting fixtures and sculptures.


“With each design we’re repurposing an older building and injecting a new life into it,” explains Anwar Mekhayech, partner, The Design Agency and creative director, Generator.

“We are recycling interesting elements from the demolition, creating new elements that recall the building’s history, and in all cases, we’re creating fun features to draw on the unique spirit and culture of the city.”

Matt Davis, partner at The Design Agency and lead designer for Generator Barcelona, says the team was heavily inspired by the Spanish city when creating the interiors for the space.

“We were struck by Barcelona’s rich planning, architecture, art and design and how its historic treasures are now woven with its energetic contemporary culture, fashion and graffiti. We were also inspired to become part of [its] trajectory of artists and designers.”

Entering through its main doors, a left turn leads guests to the energetic hotel lobby with a rear bar exuding a vibrant mix of textures and patterns with ornate Hungarian concrete floor tiles by Ivanka Flaster, as well as earthy raw materials such as reclaimed wood panels.

Heightening the spirit is the Tres Tintas wallpaper mix on a cut- out, backlit letter wall. Above all this, 300 or so lanterns float like glorious suns, inspired by the city’s annual Festa Major de Garcia by local artist, Julie Plottier. The lanterns are made of stretched polyester dye, veil, taffeta, PVC and pages from old magazines. Barcelona’s energy and sunlight was a major drive for the vibrant colours in the space.

“We are very proud of this project’s sustainable merits,” remarks Jason Gunn, development manager at Patron Capital, the real estate managers of Generator Barcelona.

“By refurbishing a 1963 office building, we have completely upgraded the building’s M&E systems, including installing a renewable power source in the form of photovoltaic cells on the roof and have fitted out 95% of the property with LED lights. We have an Ecolab certificate and EPC rating of grade A, and have installed a Smartwatt Energy Metering System that allows us to monitor and adjust energy consumption across the building.”

Also using sustainable materials for the majority of the furniture, the bar tables are made from recycled elevator parts salvaged from the demolition, while the regular sitting tables and walls of the rear bar are made from reclaimed wooden shipping pallets, providing a casual feel. Also in the bar sits the Generator’s signature ‘G’ logo, interpreted in high energy lights.

The madness of textures and materials plays up an urban flavour, embodying the spirit of the Generator brand which is synonymous with high impact, artistry and fun.

A right turn from the main doors leads to the hostel lobby featuring an internal pavilion inspired by Barcelona’s nautical history. The giant wooden structure recalls the ribs of a ship’s hull. The wooden pavilion has been dubbed The Bird Cage, as association accentuated by its three hanging loungers with neon coloured accent pillows by Barcelona design company, Wouuf!.

The hostel reception features timber and blackened steel, exposed concrete columns and a vintage 1937 Spanish Derbi motorcycle with rare, collectible Gufram rubber cactus.

A feature staircase winds its way up through the Bird Cage to a glass encased mezzanine floor overlooking the hostel lobby. Upstairs, one can find their way to the library or games room through black steel wayfinding graphics.

The library lounge showcases an array of interesting finds from local markets with the main attraction being a photo booth that allows guests to take retro-style photo strips with friends. Guests can also be entertained in the games room that includes a selection of board games, a pool table, foosball table, loungers and Internet stations.

“Generator Barcelona brings to life the design-led vision behind our boutique-inspired approach. As we lead a new era for this industry, our feeling is that the ‘s’ in hostel stands as much for social as for stylish and secure, and design is an important way for us to encourage guests into our contemporary social spaces,” says the Generator’s executive chairman, Carl Michel.

The social and stylish aspects of this hotel-hostel are easy to spot. The secure part of the space offers simple and comfortable sleeping accommodations. The seventh floor twin room maintains a private roof terrace that allows guests to witness the real treasures of the city from above.

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