In Barcelona’s El Born, hoteliers Petz Scholtus and Mari Rodríguez Marañís have launched eco-friendly and stylish apartments. Yök Casa + Cultura enriches the buzzing tourist landscape with a welcome sustainable option.
The grand 19th century building that houses Yök Casa + Cultura is already stunning in itself. Once inside, you find three cool, stylish, and – above all – sustainably designed “casas” for four to eight guests, described as “private homes with hotel-like service and social fun.” All this is surpassed only by Yök’s fabulous roof terrace with panoramic views stretching from La Sagrada Familia all the way down to the Mediterranean.
smart magazine: Mrs. Scholtus, what’s the idea behind Yök?
Petz Scholtus: Yök Casa Cultura is a new way of staying in Barcelona. We realized that it was getting difficult to find and experience the real Barcelona as a tourist because of all the mass tourism. But this real Barcelona still exists. There are all the locals with their individual lives and it is an amazing city. When you stay at Yök, you can get in touch with us and the locals. We don‘t want to create another tourist bubble – it’s all about the right mix of residents and tourists.
smart magazine: There is a manifesto on your website. What is this all about?
Scholtus: We focus on three important topics. Barcelona, sustainability, and design. First of all, it’s important to us to embrace local culture. We want to make it accessible. We involve residents and our neighbors in our project. Then, we also want to make it as sustainable as possible. We work with local products, we use eco-designs, and we tried to avoid any toxic materials during the renovation and interior design. But since I am also a designer, it was clear that design would also play a very important part.
smart magazine: Do you think there is a need for this kind of tourism?
Scholtus: Absolutely. Successful start-ups like trip4real or even Airbnb prove that tourists don‘t necessarily want to stay at a hotel. Visitors like to get in touch with locals who can share their knowledge and experience.
smart magazine: Could your concept serve as a blueprint for other cities?
Scholtus: Sure, the concept should work somewhere else as well. One key aspect is that you need to know, understand, and love your city in order to run such a place. If you stay in one of our apartments, you will really feel and experience that you are in Barcelona and not in New York, Tokyo, or Berlin. Barcelona is a great city, but many hotels look the same. So, there is definitely a market for something different here.
smart magazine: What typical features or characteristics of Barcelona can be found at your place?
Scholtus: Our interior design – as well as the historical building from 1900 – is very important. But even more importantly, Yök is about us. Either I or my partner Mari will take care of you. There are no receptionists. It is a personal experience. If you like, we can have coffee together anytime and we love to share our insights with you.
smart magazine: How does a designer get into the hotel business?
Scholtus: I started out as a professional product designer. But after a while I was getting bored. I love the process of design. But it is not very sustainable since you are always creating new stuff that people don’t really need. In 2006, I realized the R3project, which involved renovating my private apartment in a sustainable manner. I started a blog about this project to share the progress und results with friends. Unintentionally, the project then received a lot of press and attention. Many people came by to take photos and asked me what it felt like to live in such an apartment. So, I started to think a little bit bigger. That’s how the idea for a hotel came about.
smart magazine: In your opinion, what exactly makes design sustainable?
Scholtus: Sustainable design takes care of the environment. You need to be aware of the whole life cycle of design. Where is it made? What kind of materials do you use? You also need to be aware of the production process and not just the use of a product – you need to know what happens with the product when it’s not being used. Sustainable design covers a very broad field. It is still a huge challenge to produce something that is 100% sustainable. You have to be creative; you always need to seek out solutions to make it happen.
smart magazine: Do you set out to prove that sustainable design no longer needs to be plain?
Scholtus: It has always been my mission to show that sustainable design does not need to be any uglier, more complicated, or more expensive than conventional design. We don’t have to convince people who already know about sustainable living. Our goal is to win over all of those who do not care about it yet.
smart magazine: Our final question might have been your very first. Why Barcelona?
Scholtus: This city has a lot of culture, interesting architecture, and history. At the same time, there is also a lot of nature. Barcelona is close to the mountains and close to the beach. We have excellent food and there are many creative people in Barcelona, even though it’s not easy to start a business at the moment. If you live in Barcelona you learn to live in the moment and become more relaxed. You learn not to get stressed and how to enjoy time with your friends.
Yök Casa + Cultura
All the photos, incl. the header image: Lars Borges