The heritage of Olympos Naousa in thessaloniki, GREECE
Located in a restored 1920s landmark building, ON Residence is a hybrid hospitality project that offers a brand new hotel with the rebirth of one of Thessaloniki’s iconic restaurantsOlympos Naoussa. directly on the Greek city’s coast, the project unfolds in two layers: the restoration of the original 1926 building; and the newly built extension, which now occupies the upper floors. The design vision behind ON Residence was guided by a harmonious balance between the building’s architectural history and modern decorative features, while the eclectic result restores the property’s status as one of Thessaloniki’s landmarks. “We could have kept the building as it was and have a very modern interior design, but it would be a betrayal of the past,” interior designer Fabienne Spahn tells designboom. “Therefore, with respect for its glorious past, the renovation has been done as a natural evolution of the original restaurant style, as it could have evolved for years without its long closure.”
The building that housed Olympos Naoussa has gone through several incarnations, each of which has left its mark on Thessaloniki’s cultural zeitgeist. Built in 1926 to designs by renowned architect Jacques Mosse, the property served as a beer tasting room for the local brand Olympos and the Naoussa ice cream factory. It first served as a restaurant in 1927, while during World War II the German occupiers turned the space into a cabaret music hall. After the war, the building was bought by another owner and its true rise as a culinary institution began in 1958. During the restaurant’s golden years, Olympos Naoussa became the heart of Thessaloniki’s jet-set society and served as a favorite meeting place for celebrities, artists and politicians. The restaurant maintained cult status among locals until it closed in the mid-1990s, while the building was declared a cultural heritage site in 1993 by the Ministry of Culture. In 2017, the CEO of TOR Hotel Group Konstantinos Tornivoukas bought the property in partnership with Grivalia Hospitality and gave Olympos Naoussa another chance to start his journey again.all images courtesy of ON Residence | image by Heinz Troll (also header image)
the restoration process BEHIND ON Residence
The team of architects, designers, owners and experts involved in the renovation of Olympos Naousa were ready to ‘wake up’ a cultural monument from a nearly 30-year slumber and focused on finding creative ways to transform existing rescue, restore and use structures and original materials. From the intricate floor tiles to the impressive cornices and moldings on the ceilings and the elegant murals, the restoration process always followed the same line of inquiry: how much of the original materials could be preserved, restored and put back, using exact replicas — faithfully reproduced with the help of experts — to fill any gaps. Structural elements both inside and out have also been preserved and restored, from the marble staircase to the cast-iron balustrades and wooden wall mouldings. Portions of the walls in the lobby have been completely hand-painted, creating elaborate patterns that pay tribute to the mural discovered during the restoration process.
‘The entrance of the building with hand-painted damask on the walls has been perfectly renovated in the traditional way rather than a copy with wallpaper’ Fabienne Spahn explains (read our interview with the designer in full below). In addition to Spahn’s contribution to the interior, Divercity Architects & Dimitris Thomopoulos were responsible for the architectural development of the project, and Nikiforidis / Cuomo for its outdoor spaces and landscape design.image by Heinz Troll
INTERVIEW WITH INTERIOR DESIGNER Fabienne Spahn
design tree (DB): How has the building’s emblematic past influenced its rebirth and design vision?
Fabienne Spahn (FS): I believe that the building has not only an emblematic past, but also in the heart and history of most of Thessaloniki’s families. They all have fond memories of ON, which will last for generations.
We could have kept the building as it was in the past and decided to do a very modern interior design but it would be a betrayal of the past.
This is why, with respect for its glorious past, the renewal has been done as a natural evolution of the original restaurant style, as it could have evolved for years without this long closure.
DB: What were some of the challenges and limitations the building faced due to the cultural heritage status of the building, and how did you resolve them?
FS: I never feel these restrictions as a constraint, but as a natural respect for the original aesthetic of the building which I feel very inspiring since the first visit. I played with the constraints, for example with the light green color of the ceiling or the bold colors of the cement tiles by using these colors on the fabrics and decorations.
The fact that there was no transformation on the ceiling, preserving colors and moldings helped a lot to achieve the expected vintage style.
the restored monumental facade
DB: Can you name some of the original architectural elements that have been preserved or replicated in the new design?
FS: The entrance to the building with its hand painted damask on the walls. This one has been perfectly renovated in the traditional way rather than just a wallpapered one. The cement tiles have been restored and the missing parts have been copied. A fantastic job has been done on the stucco. Some of them were created in some parts of the building where they did not exist before due to the architectural reorganization.
rooms offer a view of the coast of Thessaloniki
DB: A big part of ON residence is the iconic restaurant, Olympos Naousa, which has reopened after three decades. How did you approach the redesign and in what ways did it affect the overall identity of the project?
FS: As explained before, the way it was redesigned is a continuation of the past. Yet there is a guideline with the art deco style. The more you climb into the building, the more the style evolves into a new vision of art deco. I didn’t want to copy the style of the past, but keep it as a direction to get consistency throughout the project.
ON Residence lobby
Tiger Walk Bar
the renovated restaurant Olympos Naoussa