Saturday, 13 December 2008

Hotel Bristol, Merano, by Elisabeth Hölzl

Hotel Bristol, published by Folio Verlagsges, documents the death throes of the hotel in the mountain spa town of Merano, near the German border in Trentino Alto-Adige. Photographer Elisabeth Hölzl, who was born in the town in 1962, spent two years taking pictures of the abandoned Hotel Bristol and its gradual demolition. The hotel was famous before the war, and re-opened in 1954 as one of the most modern and elegant in Europe. It was refurbished by its owner, the Genoan shipbuilder Arnaldo Bennati, who wanted to turn Merano into a second St. Moritz. According to a catalogue for an exhibition of the photographs published online by Berlin's Galerie artMbassy, "The Bristol reflects the decline of a decadent Habsburg Monarchy, the megalomania of of Mussolini’s fascism, the infamous treaty of 1939 between Hitler and Mussolini, the brief sparks of Italian national pride in South Tyrol after World War II, and mass tourist invasion that radically changed the face of the Alps. Stars and starlets, gamblers and speculators, Europe’s moneyed aristocracy, and a future pope – they all appeared at the Bristol."
. For 15 years, the Bristol, in the middle of the town, stood empty – "Its white marble was filthy, its shutters hung crooked, its windows were as blunt as blind eyes. In 2006, the excavators and pneumatic hammers shattered the last residues of a dream. Buildings are designed as strong images that must be replaced by others as soon as they have lost their signal character... They are like old ocean liners – no one would bother restoring or converting them. After they have been used, ships become scrap metal, and hotels are gutted and torn down."

(Arnaldo Bennati was not entirely unsuccessful as a hotel owner. In the 1930s he bought the Bauer Hotel in Venice, which today is run by his granddaughter)
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