The complete restoration of a hotel as prestigious as the London Savoy is, at the same time, both a huge and délicate task. For a photographer, the work in progress is therefore a complex adventure. A sloughing metamorphosis revealing the Savoy's skins as they are about to be shed, followed by the others gradually taking their place.
Although the Savoy was the first grand luxury hôtel in London in the 19th Century, it was also the first to be completely fitted with electric lighting and to possess electric lifts, at that time. Its full restoration has to achieve the sense of absolute luxury.
8 minutes permanent projection with music by Sovra Wilson-Dickson.
Savoy existing lettering in Savoy Grill, June 2009
Thames foyer, December 2009
Monet suite 513, March 2008
Marilyn, basement, December 2008
Royal suite, silk-wrapped chandelier, July 2010
Born in 1969 in Dublin.
Lives and works in Hertfordshire.
Savoy – The Restoration by Laura Nobile
When the opportunity arose to photograph the hallowed interiors of world famous Edwardian hotel the Savoy— the epitome of Art Deco luxury and elegance during the three-year long refurbishment—photographer Siobhán Doran rightly leaped at the chance to record its immaculate reincarnation. Improving upon perfection was no small task, yet nostalgia for the old Savoy quickly faded when the renovation was complete. Costing £220 million the resulting opulence was stunning as expected. However, during the time leading up to its great unveiling on October 10th 2010 rooms were stripped, furnishings were wrapped, sold and even discarded. Doran's three-year project exhaustively chronicled every élément of the hotel with revealing, precise and moving results.
The Savoy although synonymous with decadence and privileged living is at its heart a place full of history, stories and more than just a hotel for those who live, stay and work there. To seize this photographically, purely through the building itself was the task, which Doran set herself from the onset. From the classic iconic imagery of the external Savoy lettering resting in the Savoy Grill to the more surprising details of its interiors, Doran administers déférence without sacrificing honesty in her portrayal of the smoke and mirrors that are part of the luxury industry. It is easy to forget that the Savoy is part of a corporate industry, and to get lost in the romantic ideals it so expertly exhibits. We are reminded of the mass production of objects which are placed throughout the hotel in one photograph whereby an entire room is furnished with awaiting exotic ceramic birds and vases poised to furnish the exquisite interiors, setting the stage on which the illusions created by this respected establishment are set.
Doran subtly captures the affair the Savoy has with celebrity through her atmospheric image of the Royal suite with its inspirational views of the Thames despite the walls at the time varnished with nothing but bare plaster. The affair the Savoy has with celebrity is ever present in a quiet unassuming way, such as the Katherine Hepburn room, which receives a similar treatment before Doran's lens. In choosing to photograph an understated still life she exemplifies the careful placement of every object in each room, taking time to look at the detail within. The need for these finishing touches are all too apparent in a picture of the sitting room of Art Deco Guest Suite 958, that would appear to be completely finished albeit for two lampshades which are yet to cover the exposed light bulbs on either side of an armchair, appropriately placed to illuminate the scene of a woman reclining in an equally sumptuous chaise in an oil painting behind it. The foreboding word 'OUT' sprayed in red on the walls of the Monet Suite has equal gravity notwithstanding the poignant mouldings that remain.
Doran's deep understanding, sensitivity and experience has ensured that her photographs of this architectural masterpiece will stand the test of time, just as the Savoy has.
The same project has been published by Dewi Lewis Publishing in 2011.
© Siobhán Doran