Crocodiles, palm trees and circles

Per Sònia Jiménez
26 August, 2019

In 31 BC, Nîmes, in the South of France, became part of the Roman Empire after the city supported Caesar Augustus with troops for the conquest of Cleopatra´s and Marc Antony´s Egypt.

To commemorate the victory, coins were struck in which a crocodile (the symbol of Egypt) is chained to a palm tree (the symbol of victory).

 The Roman soldiers of Nîmes returned with the coins in their pockets and in time the crocodile and palm tree became the symbols of the city.

Caesar Augustus thanked Nîmes for its support with the construction of monuments that can still be seen such as the Fountain Gardens, la Maison Carrée and the Nemausus amphitheatre.

Today, in front of the Fountain Gardens, stands the Hotel Imperator. The hotel has been completely renovated and redesigned by Naço Architectures. The company is led by Argentina-born Marcelo Joulià, winner of many architecture and hotel interior design prizes both in France and Argentina. 

Walking in front of the Fountain Gardens, I see all the bollards carry the crocodile and palm tree of the Emperor Caesar Augustus.

I have been invited here to the Imperator Hotel, which, with its interior redesign has become itself a symbol of modernity and good taste for the city.

I am in front of the main entrance, where I can see a marvelous porch formed by six large circles of differing sizes, black lacquered iron holding transparent glass panes of distinct colours.

I enter and the first thing I see is the coherence in the design: forms, textures, lighting in the hall, in the bar, in the cocktail lounge, in the restaurant and finally in the exterior garden.

The principle leitmotiv is circles, round sinuous forms that remind me of Art Deco.

In the hall and in the bar, the porch circles have become huge lamps, main actors in the space that surrounds them, hanging from the impressive original ceilings with their cornices and plaster reliefs.

At the same time the design of the interior fixtures fascinate me. They too are of black lacquered iron with large panes of glass, the circles rising high and repeating themselves, linking all the elements and spaces.

The furniture is well-chosen, of velvet and natural fibres with sinuous delicate shapes.

The bar is very Art Deco with shining tiling and voluminous textures that repeat themselves throughout.

Behind the bar are large circles that shelter the bottles and once again a large iron lamp with transparent coloured glass.

The whole is complete, coherent, suggestive, daring and chic in just measure.

Given that the Emperor Caesar Augustus used a half circle in the design of the Fountain Gardens, I think the design of the Hotel Imperator would have pleased him greatly.

All that´s missing is, perhaps, a crocodile …