B+K, the anthropologists of design

Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg, co-founders of award-winning international hospitality design firm Baranowitz + Kronenberg, tell about their design approach

Irene Kronenberg & Alon Baranowitz - Photo © Sharon Derhy
Irene Kronenberg & Alon Baranowitz - Photo © Sharon Derhy

Alon Baranowitz runs the creative side of the office, initiating design strategies, spatial concepts and then breaths life and meaning into it all. He is a great fan of building details, construction methods and materials and constantly looking for the new and the next. Irene Kronenberg graduated as an interior designer and has a bird’s eye view; constantly zooming out and able to foresee the unforeseen and send the office in the right direction. She is a natural psychologist with a unique sensibility for understanding human situations, a virtue when designing for people. She elevates anything sensory: colors, textures and materials. They describe themselves as a very globetrotters – they have practically traveled all over the planet. “Our nomadic approach is reflected in our projects, we believe our uniqueness is in the ability to entice and attract people with narrative-driven design, which captures and celebrates the essence of time, place and local communities”. They are Baranowitz + Kronenberg.

You say that “we are not an interior design firm, we are story tellers”.
Being anthropologists of sorts, we focus on never being judgmental or having preconceived ideas or personal preferences for how things should be. This mindset allows us to infuse ourselves seamlessly in any culture and get the very essence of it, turning it into a platform from which we develop our stories. Therefore, the stories we develop are made of indigenous findings and places which we hand-stitch and are made to measure. We have no formula or style, we find the Essence of Place and walk together. We create mini-worlds in which people are cast in compelling narratives that celebrate the essence of our time and the human desire for originality and authenticity.

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You take spaces “to the point of minimal abstraction”, but the spaces you design are not minimal to the extreme though.
“Minimal abstraction’’ should not be conceived literally but rather as a notion that refers to the third principle of our work which speaks about open-ended designs and the multifaceted reading of their nature. In order to achieve that level of expression, we must transcend the narrative to minimal abstraction where the intangible is as inspiring as the tangible.

In your hospitality design ethos, which principles are important for you?
We could really sum up three principles. The most important of all is People. At the end of the day, it’s all about people and their well-being. Then, culture, history, geography, economy and politics that define The Essence of Place. We can never assume ours to be supreme. Wherever we design around the world we act as Anthropologists; we observe, listen, converse with as much people as possible and collect our findings.

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New Chesterfield by Lensvelt

New Chesterfield by Lensvelt

Only when feel well immersed with this new knowledge, we evaluate the project at hand and allow this knowledge to lead our way. The third principle is about creating timeless, open-ended and memorable experiences. The perfect experience we designers can bring about is one that allows for flexibility and interpretation; allowing people to find their own meaning while experiencing space, any space. We believe that in order for an experience to resonate with a personal dimension it can’t be prescriptive or explicit. Personal interpretation is key. The best designs are those which evoke new interpretations whenever we revisit them throughout our life.

You’re also working on retail concepts, as the Âme stores. How is retail design evolving?
Retail design must evolve, as the way we consume, experience and shop shifts. With Âme, we proposed a new way of looking at fine diamond jewellery retail, one that puts the human experience at the centre of every touch point. Âme introduces a space for emotions. It has a holistic approach where the jewellery is as important as the spatial experience, as the texture and materials we touch and as the scent that we smell and the playlist that moves us. Âme embraces the shift of times and celebrates it to the full. It proposes a new retail experience to a category that still has to learn about notions such as intuitive, enticing, informal, performative, sustainable and memorable. We see this as being a part of a whole new way of conceiving retail spaces.

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Your latest project, W Ibiza hotel, has recently opened. Which are the other projects you are working on?
To name just a few, we are developing a new Chesterfield for Lensvelt, the iconic Dutch furniture label. It’s a full collection from chair to sofa and everything in between. The F&B venues in Edition Hotel Milan are in the “oven” and W Prague hotel is in the making right on Wenceslas Square: a great honor to take part in transforming the legendary Grand Hotel Europa into a W. The House of Caesarstone has opened in Tel Aviv and will introduce an innovative social platform that sparks the imagination and inspires people with events taking place simultaneously, spontaneously driven by design and lifestyle themes which echo the life according to Caesarstone.