LXRY Q&A: Michel Regembal, Architect for Iberostar’s Grand Packard Hotel
What happens if you were asked to design a new building in Old Havana?
Would you preserve the former building?
Would you conserve the heritage of the area?
Would you pay homage to the city of Havana or just tear it all down and just build something new?
These are just a few of the thousands of thoughts and decisions that Michel Regembal, architect for the beautiful Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel in Havana, Cuba, had to make.
The French architect had that and many other challenges to face, especially in a completely different cultural, political and environmental climate.
We wanted to interview him to learn more about how he viewed the new Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel in old Havana. Here is our exclusive interview with Michel.
Our Interview With Michel Regembal, Architect for Iberostar’s Grand Packard Hotel
LXRY: Can you introduce yourself and how did you come to Havana?
MR: I’m a young architect (laughing), 73 years old. In France where for 30 years I had the opportunity to carry out several major projects, my playground then turned international. Cuba became one of them. This country is so endearing that working there has given me my second youth.
I believe the reason I was welcome in the heart of Havana to design several projects and in particular, the Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel is due to my expertise with large projects in complex historic sites. My French partner (Bouygues) trusted me and I was able to quickly win over our Cuban client. It is a great responsibility and an exciting challenge because it’s about contributing to the rebirth of a beautiful city that is so fragile and damaged!
LXRY: What was your conceptual approach?
MR: I do not theorize much; I am rather guided by intuition and emotion.
It is what we feel for the design and what we hope to offer to those who will experience the final project.
Each plan is a new challenge guided by the site and the history of the place. It is also a prototype with no room for error! It is based more or less consciously on past experiences and projects that have shaped you.
Here, I took inspiration to integrate aspects of the project at the school of the Legion of Honor at the foot of the Basilica of Saint-Denis completed in 1984, I staged the theme of lightness by thinking back to the roof of the Stade de France from 1998. I finally reinterpreted the Beaugency Media Library to crown this spectacular architecture with a three-story cantilevered penthouse. The architectural style and references are the result of this analysis.
LXRY: What does this new design bring to the city of Havana?
MR: The image of a rebirth.
This bold design was geared towards several objectives:
- Gently repair a battered city.
- Affirm the rebirth of a site.
- Make history without provocation.
This required modernity and assumed risk-taking.
I think we did it.
Once the building was completed Eusebio Leal (legendary Historian of the city of Havana) sent me this message: “The eternal city of Havana will always be grateful to you”
It’s a compliment that touched us deeply.
LXRY: And the conservation of this ancient wall?
MR: Its conservation and its use as a major design element was an obvious decision.
The Cubans sustained and supported it for almost 20 years. We were not about to get rid of it!
On the contrary, it was the founding base of the new project.
It made all the daring possible!
It allowed the modernity of the project.
The vertical gardens that line it today echo the vegetation that once invaded it.
A way to keep the roots of history.
LXRY: What was the biggest challenge?
MR: The technical challenge of the three-storey attic overhang.
The solution was the choice of a metal structure incorporating invisible oblique tie rods.
Thanks to this device, no post obstructs the panoramic view between the sea, the Morro Castle and the Bay of Havana.
LXRY: Is there anything more you could learn to the public and future customers?
MR: Did you know that the name of the Hotel comes from the Packard luxury automobile showroom formerly located on this site?
The Hotel Biscuit which came afterward had Marlon Brando among others as a regular customer!
So, for an exceptional evening, come by the Packard to the Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel. At sunset, enjoy a good cigar and a Mojito by the reflection of the pool!
The Bottom Line
We would like to thank, Michel Regembal for their time and for chatting with us about this transformative hotel in Havana, Cuba.
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