A capital of culture: Marlon Tate’s identity for The Twenty One draws on the hotel’s history
In a sense, the seed of the idea that fuelled the rebrand of the boutique hotel, The Twenty One, was sown in the very first meeting between the client and Nikos Georgópoulos, Founder & Creative Director of London and Athens-based creative agency, Marlon Tate. Initially owned by famed art collector Dakis Ioannou, the hotel passed on to luxury brand Moda Bagno in 2021, who forged a new direction for the place, but also faced a new challenge.
When the client expressed their concern that the hotel’s location in the upscale suburb of Kifisia in Athens, albeit posh and beautiful, did not offer any direct links to culture – as opposed to other boutique hotels in the city centre that would highlight their hop, skip and a jump away distance from the Acropolis, for example – Georgópoulos looked around, and had an idea. He argued that if customers wanted to stay in a cool hotel next to the Acropolis, they would just do that. The reason why they would instead choose to stay at The Twenty One is because of its location, and the luxurious experience the hotel offers. The hotel’s name nods to its 21 rooms, kitted out with beautiful furniture, and is home to a famed restaurant, that for years, has been a dining spot for successful individuals from all over the world. “So in a way, The Twenty One produces culture. They are an institution (and I say that exactly in the same way the lobby boy Zero said it to concierge M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel’s elevator scene),” Georgópoulos tells us. “It doesn’t matter that The Twenty One does not offer direct links to cultural attractions, because it is a cultural attraction itself!”
The idea of positioning The Twenty One as a nexus for culture drove the identity, which took on a copy-forward, surrealist approach, drawing references from 1960s conceptual art and concrete poetry. The team at Marlon Tate wrote a slew of slogans and words, which when stitched together “looked like conceptual poems that Lawrence Weiner could have written in the 1960s.” The elegant, pared-back stylistic treatment lends the identity, the wayfinding system – and the overall space – a gallery-esque feel. “We thought maybe instead of a rigid system we could express the identity in a surrealist way. We decided to create 21 films with these words and slogans, one for each room, as you would expect to see in a cultural institution,” explains Georgópoulos.
The refined, tasteful approach is underscored by the use of Greek Fonts’ CF Panoptik, and a considered colour palette inspired by the materials and finishes of the hotel’s interiors. “Since the 1960s conceptual art reference was central to our narrative, we really wanted to evoke that same look and feel; that sort of basic, almost undesigned typography that celebrated conceptual artists in the US from that time,” reveals Georgópoulos. “To me, when I look at Futura two things spring to mind: one is space exploration, and the second is conceptual art in the US back in the 1960s. CF Panoptik was a great fit. What Greek Fonts was able to do with this particular typeface was an evolution of the popular Futura, somewhat less geometric, yet equally clean and quite proportionate.” All the elements – from the typeface, the films, the poetic yet surrealist narrative, the palette and the treatment – come together to paint a new picture of The Twenty One, one of culture and quiet luxury.