The Ambassade Hotel is made up of 14 canal houses dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, nearly all of them connected. Over the years, the internal structure had lost something of its original character, so in 2014, Cruz y Ortiz were commissioned to remodel the public areas and create more unity. The design was to incorporate a brasserie and lounge/bar, and give pride of place to the extraordinary collections of signed books and COBRA art.
For Antonio Ortiz, a loyal guest, the commission had a special significance. He knows the Ambassade Hotel’s unique character well: stylish yet homely, both classic and timeless, with impeccable service from approachable staff. ‘Remodelling historic buildings is a challenging process,’ Ortiz says. ‘What function should go where? How do you harmonise the interior with the architecture? What’s more, according to planning law, individual buildings have to remain recognisable as such from the outside. To bring this all together in a good design requires a lot of careful tuning. It makes the process an exciting journey of exploration.’
To reveal the original layout of the houses, Cruz y Ortiz reduced the size of the existing openings in the dividing walls, and added a new one. The passages were aligned along a single axis to create unity and coherence among the different spaces. ‘With historic buildings, this is the desirable and respectful approach,’ Ortiz says. ‘The connections between the buildings were actually reduced, so they are more individually identifiable, but still form a whole.’
The Ambassade Hotel’s inextricable association with art and literature is evident throughout. Guests are welcomed at the entrance by a COBRA sculpture in a gold niche – a subtle but telling prelude to the rest of the rooms, where art is beautifully integrated into the interior. The extensive collection of signed books has been given the space it deserves in the fittingly named Library Bar and Library Lounge.