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Hotel Westend

A conversation with Alexander Strohmer about
»the wild west of Merano, playful colours, and an architectural fin-de-siècle calling card.«

Merano, Passirio Promenade, Pietro Delugan, fin-de-siècle architecture,

Hotel Westend,

Alexander Strohmer

 

Enthroned between poplars, palm trees and the river Passirio sits an Art-Nouveau mansion with a very special architecture. A conversation with Alexander Strohmer about his Hotel Westend, curious glances from the Passirio Promenade, and why the Delugan family is tied to the building forever.

Historic: We are standing in one of the first creations by master-builder Pietro Delugan, whose distinctive buildings characterise the city of Merano to this day. How did he become the architect of what is now the Hotel Westend?

Alexander Strohmer

Host at the Westend

When Pietro Delugan built this house in 1895/96, he named it Villa Delugan. It was designed as a private mansion for himself and his family; they had only just returned to Merano from Switzerland. Delugan wanted the building to become his architectural calling card¾proof of the skill he acquired abroad. And it worked, as his subsequent success shows: He went on to design multiple buildings in Merano, including the Hotel Palace and the extension to the Kurhaus.

What is significant about Pietro Delugan’s style?

It was the great era of the Art Nouveau, the Jugendstil. Delugan is famous for his slightly squiggly style combined with elegant lines. The yellow ochre you see on this building is still the original paint. It’s not regular paint, though, but a kind of lime paint that seems to change according to the weather, the position of the sun, and the shadows thrown by the trees. In the evenings, for example, the house appears to be a pinkish-yellow hue, now in the morning the yellow is bright, fresh. And when it snows, the colour is even different. In a way, this brings the house to life. I keep seeing people who stop on their way over the Passirio Promenade to take a closer look at our mansion.

What is significant about Pietro Delugan’s style?

It was the great era of the Art Nouveau, the Jugendstil. Delugan is famous for his slightly squiggly style combined with elegant lines. The yellow ochre you see on this building is still the original paint. It’s not regular paint, though, but a kind of lime paint that seems to change according to the weather, the position of the sun, and the shadows thrown by the trees. In the evenings, for example, the house appears to be a pinkish-yellow hue, now in the morning the yellow is bright, fresh. And when it snows, the colour is even different. In a way, this brings the house to life. I keep seeing people who stop on their way over the Passirio Promenade to take a closer look at our mansion.

 

You know this house very well. When did your family take over the Hotel Westend?

My parents bought it in 1983, back when I used to work at our original place, the Hotel Europa Splendid. I started running the Hotel Westend together with my mother in the 1990s and took over as its sole manager in 2000. But the Delugan family has been closely connected to the building all this time.

A conglomerate of styles. Inspiring since 1896.

The beautiful Empire furniture is particularly striking. Some of it was made by the famous Viennese factory Julius & Josef Herrmann. How did it get here?

The furniture was left here by the former owner of the hotel. The pieces are slightly oversized, which was popular in her days. There was a time later when it was considered old-fashioned, but luckily, they outlived this phase. Many people appreciate such high-end pieces today. Look here, at the lower end of the bed, these are the original metal emblems with the J. & J. Herrmann logo.

So much of the building’s flair is down to the furniture…

Yes, it’s an important part of its value. Many rooms have hardwood floors from the same period. Wood, of course, is a material that lives. It is a bit footworn here and there, has some patina. I love how the floors crack in the winter when the wood is dry and contracts. It’s beautiful.

Do you have a favourite piece in your house?

There are still the old ‘Bassenas’ on the corridors: wall fountains to get the water for the wash basins. You know, most rooms didn’t have baths at the time. Each floor had exactly one room with a bathtub and another one with a toilet.

It was the great era of the Art Nouveau, the Jugendstil. Architect Pietro Delugan is famous for his slightly squiggly style combined with elegant lines.
 

Alexander Strohmberger
Host at the Westend

It looks like the décor for a period piece…

You know what, it actually was! Director Roberto Faenza liked our house so much that he shot parts of his film Anna B. here. It’s about a young woman during World War II. In the film, however, this house is not in Merano, but in Prague!

The director was particularly fond of our furniture. He had very few changes made. In one room, for example, he had wallpaper applied. It looked perfect, so I left it this way after the shoot.

Hotel Westend

It is as if time had decided to stop for a good hundred years: In the tall rooms of Hotel Westend on Merano’s Passer Promenade, one feels the tranquil pulse of a bygone era. 

Westend

The Hotel Westend has had a couple of illustrious guests, including German poet Gottfried Benn.

That’s right. He stayed here for some time in 1952 and wrote some letters and poems. People still ask me to show them his room.

 

Which was it?

Probably one of the front-facing single rooms. At least that’s implied by the way he described the garden.

Gottfried Benn came down here from the north with its miserable weather. He found Merano bathed in sunshine¾and then, ultimately, he found himself. Many people make this experience, even today, when they pass the Brennero. Bad weather on the other side, head south through the tunnel¾and suddenly the sun is shining! This soul-pleasing experience has stood the tests of time.

Alexander Strohmer
Host at the Westend

Hotel Westend
Via Speckbacher 9
39012 Merano, Alto Adige
+39 0473 447 654
westend.it

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