The legacy of Olympos Naoussa in Thessaloniki, Greece
Housed in a restored historic building from the 1920s, ON Residence is a hybrid hospitality project that offers a brand new combination hotel with the rebirth of one of Thessaloniki’s icons restaurants, Olympus Naousa. Right on Greek city’s coast, the project unfolds in two layers: the Restoration of the original 1926 building; and the newly constructed extension, which now occupies the top 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 left the building as it was and made a very modern interior design, but that would be like a betrayal of the past.” Interior designer Fabienne Spahn in conversation with designboom. ‘For this reason, the renovation was carried out with full respect for its glorious past as a natural evolution of the original restaurant style as it could have evolved over the years had it not been for its long closure.’
The building that housed Olympos Naoussa has seen several incarnations, each leaving its mark on Thessaloniki’s cultural zeitgeist. Built in 1926 to designs by renowned architect Jacques Mosse, the property served as a beer tasting bar for local brand Olympos and the Naoussa ice cream factory. It first operated as a restaurant in 1927, while the German occupiers converted the space into a cabaret music hall during World War II. After the war, the building was acquired by another owner and its real 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 popular meeting place for celebrities. artists and politicians. The restaurant enjoyed a cult status among locals until it closed in the mid-90s, while the building was declared a heritage site by the Ministry of Culture in 1993. In 2017, TOR Hotel Group CEO Konstantinos Tornivoukas bought the property in partnership with Grivalia Hospitality, giving Olympos Naoussa another chance to start its journey anew.all images courtesy of ON Residence | Picture by Heinz Troll (also header picture)
the restoration process BEHIND ON Residence
The team of architects, designers, owners and experts involved in the refurbishment of Olympos Naoussa, who wanted to “revive” a cultural landmark from a slumber of almost 30 years, focused on finding creative ways to salvage existing structures and original materials , to restore and use. From the intricate floor tiles to the impressive moldings on the ceilings to the elegant wall paintings, the restoration process always followed the same question: How much of the original materials could be saved, restored and reinstated with the help of exact replicas? — faithfully reproduced with the help of experts — to fill in any gaps. Structural elements both inside and out have also been preserved and restored, from the marble staircase to the cast-iron banister and wooden wall moldings. Portions of the lobby walls have been painted entirely by hand, creating intricate patterns that pay homage to the mural discovered during the restoration process.
“The entrance of the building, with its hand-painted damask on the walls, has been renovated to perfection in the traditional way, rather than just having a copy with wallpaper.” explains Fabienne Spahn (Read our full interview with the designer below). In addition to Spahn’s contribution in the interior design, Divercity Architects & Dimitris Thomopoulos were responsible for the architectural development of the project, and Nikiforidis / Cuomo for its outdoor spaces and landscaping.Picture by Heinz Troll
INTERVIEW WITH INTERIOR DESIGNER Fabienne Spahn
designboom (DB): How did the building’s emblematic past influence its rebirth and design vision?
Fabienne Spahn (FS): I believe that the building not only has an emblematic past but is also in the heart and history of most of Thessaloniki’s families. Everyone has fond memories of ON, and it’s passed down generations.
We could have left the building as it was in the past and opted for a very modern interior design, but it would be like betraying the past.
For this reason, the renewal has been carried out with full respect for its glorious past as a natural evolution of the original restaurant style as it might have evolved over the years had it not been for this long closure.
DB: What were some of the challenges and limitations that the building’s heritage status faced, and how did you work around them?
FS: I never find these limitations as a limitation, but as a natural respect for the building’s original aesthetic, which I have found very inspiring since the first visit. I played with the constraints, for example the light green color of the ceiling or the bright colors of the cement tiles, using these colors on the fabrics and decorations.
The fact that the ceiling has not been altered, colors and moldings have been preserved, helped a lot to achieve the expected vintage style.
the restored historical facade
DB: Can you name some of the original architectural elements that have been preserved or replicated in the new design?
FS: The entrance of the building with hand painted damask on the walls. This has been renovated to perfection in the traditional way rather than just having a copy with a wallpaper. The cement tiles have been restored and the missing parts copied. A fantastic job has been done on the moldings. Some of them were created in some parts of the building where they did not exist before due to the architectural rearrangement.
Rooms offer views of Thessaloniki’s seafront
DB: A big part of the ON residence is the iconic Olympos Naousa restaurant, which has reopened after three decades. How did you approach the redesign and how did it affect the overall identity of the project?
FS: As explained, the way it’s being redesigned is a continuation of the past. Still, there is a guideline with the Art Deco style. The further one climbs into the building, the more the style evolves into a new Art Deco vision. I didn’t want to copy the style of the past but kept it as a direction to give consistency to the whole project.
ON Residence Lobby
Tiger Loop Bar
the renovated restaurant Olympos Naoussa