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Published on : Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Set on the rim of Israel’s Mount Carmel Ridge overlooking vast sloping forests and the Mediterranean Sea, Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel unfolds itself as one of the Middle East’s most ambitious and exciting creative hubs. After eight years of extensive planning and construction, the 95-room Elma emerged from the former Mivtachim Sanitarium, Ya’akov Rechter’s award-winning masterwork of postwar Brutalism. The brainchild of Israeli philanthropist and art collector Lily Elstein, Elma innovatively melds luxury hospitality with a thriving world-class cultural center, while breathing new life into a near-forgotten architectural masterpiece.
Art In Focus
Elma’s conceptual identity is defined by the passion of Original Lily Elstein, who envisaged Elma as “a place where those who enter its doors can find art in every corner and at every moment”. A descendant of the founders of Zichron Ya’akov, the seaside Israeli village where Elma is located, Elstein has devoted much of her life to community work in two chief fields: the integration of immigrants and the promotion of culture. Elma (an acronym for Elstein Music and Art) represents the ultimate expression of the latter, comprising 750 square meters of gallery space dedicated to Israeli and international artists, alongside two state-of-the-art performance halls
The hotel itself exudes the signatures of high modernism—exposed cement, clean white lines, and natural walnut furnishings. Together with architectural firm Baranowitz & Kronenberg, designer Lea Mahler—who previously worked on the acclaimed King David Hotel in Jerusalem—ensured that the interiors echoed the undulating subtlety of the façade of Rechter’s iconic Brutalist structure, which was constructed between 1966 and 1969. Custom-designed textiles developed by designer Neora Warshavsky reflect the area’s aesthetic heritage and traditions.
Upon entering Elma, terrazzo floor tiles and concrete surfaces emanate restrained elegance, while Sigalit Landau’s 26-ton marble “Tzimaon” statue provides a striking introduction to the hotel’s immersive art concept. A curated collection of furniture—minimalist, monochromatic sofas and benches, and oak and walnut stools—harmonizes with the building’s clean design. The spacious rooms, suites, and free-standing cottages are all opulently outfitted with Kilim rugs, natural oak furnishings and original artworks from Elstein’s extensive private collection. The careful placement of the furniture and an abundance of balconies and terraces invite guests to immerse themselves in the breathtaking views of the surrounding forests and the vast sea beyond, perfectly framed by Rechter’s original room partitions.
It is thanks to its outstanding cultural center that Elma transcends the definition of a hotel and becomes a conceptual creative hub in its own right. The beating heart of which, the 450-seat Alon concert hall, was acoustically engineered by specialists Arup and Artec and features a custom-designed Orgelbau Klais pipe organ, alongside two Steinway Concert Grand Model D pianos. An unparalleled platform for the arts within the region, Elma hosts a progressive program of music, poetry and theater performances throughout the year, attracting critically-acclaimed artists and musicians from around the world.
Seasonal, Sustainable, Local
Elma’s stunning surroundings also play muse to the hotel’s Oratorio Restaurant, which pays homage to the region’s natural bounty. Head chef Boaz Dror sources all of the ingredients for his Mediterranean menu from within a 20-mile radius of the hotel, and has built meaningful relationships with local growers and dairy farmers to provide guests with the freshest possible produce.
Some 40 miles up the coastline from Tel Aviv and overlooking a glorious swathe of the Mediterranean Sea, the quaint town of Zichron Ya’akov sees millennium-old sites rubbing shoulders with boutique wineries and progressive museums. Elma itself is set amid 28 acres of lush gardens complete with an outdoor Olympic-sized pool, while an indoor pool and sumptuous spa provide the perfect retreat for the colder months.