A group of Viennese architects have begun opening hotel rooms with amenities spread throughout the surrounding neighborhood, according to The Atlantic Cities:
They’ve dubbed the project “Urbanauts,” they say because the geography of the “hotel” encourages visitors to get out and explore the neighborhood. “Our ‘breakfast room’ is a traditional cafe around the corner, our ‘spa’ is the Moroccan hammam two streets away,” says Kholmayr. “We’ve taken the hotel concept and made it horizontal, so the whole infrastructure of a four-star hotel is spread over the surrounding area.”
So far, some 300 guests have bought into the idea — at about $120 Euros per night — and buffeted by their success, the group plans to open another 10 rooms in 10 other abandoned shops later this fall. Atlantic Cities talked with Knapp to learn more about the idea.
What exactly is an Urbanaut?
Nauts means to navigate — so the project is to encourage navigating through the urban space by using the entire neighborhood. We are the gap between the real local and the mainstream tourism. Walking and exploring is important, and so is bicycling, which is why two bikes will be included with every room stay.
What prompted the idea?
We wanted to get behind the empty storefronts, to think about how we could use them. Theresia’s family runs a big hotel in Salzburg and she knows how to sell beds, so she said why don’t we just work around the idea of some sort of a hotel, it will be more easy and direct.
So, then what?
There were basically three phases. The concept came first and we decided that we didn’t want the project to just be temporary, not like a pop-up, but to be a real business. Then, we tested the prototype ourselves, to see if we felt safe sleeping there and so on. Then came the third part when it really became a hotel, when the tourism board discovered us and said it was the equivalent of a four-star property and started marketing us.
But what about working with the other businesses — was that complicated to arrange?
It was absolutely easy. We know these small business guys, we have our office in this neighborhood. We gave each of them a little sticker, and we offer a map online and in the room, which describes the whole infrastructure for the guests. We don’t have any arrangement with these neighbors other than that, we just want their service.
What’s been the guest response?
They really love their experience exploring the area. Many of them have left messages for us on the old typewriter in the room, like “you have to try this great cake at the Cafe Goldegg.” Another time these two guys came from Rome and were hungry, so they checked out the map and went to one of the restaurants. It turned out that it was closed for a private party — but when the owners learned they were from Urbanuats, they were invited to join the party!
Why were you so bothered by empty storefronts?
There are lots and lots of empty storefronts throughout Vienna. The trend started here later than in other places, and it wasn’t until the late 1980s when the first shopping malls came to the suburbs and the little stores in town started to die. Things are okay in what you might call the A area, the main streets, but in the B streets, off of the main ones, and the C ones, further off the beaten track, it’s been tough. So we’re focusing on the B and C streets that are just a short bike ride or walk into the city center.