After many years of complete abandonment, the Riviera Grand Hotel, a historical hotel complex in the southern Italy Salento area, comes to a new life after a challenging renovation and a radical interior redesign.

Project name: Riviera Grand Hotel
Client: CDS Hotels Ltd
Architect’ Firm: Tomas Ghisellini Architects
Contact e-mail:
Lead Architects: Tomas Ghisellini, Alice Marzola, Lucrezia Alemanno, Daniele Francesco Petralia
Project location: Santa Maria al Bagno (Lecce), Italy
Completion Year: 2016
Gross Built Area: 10,200 sqm
Photo credits: Tomas Ghisellini, Lucrezia Alemanno

Riviera Grand Hotel by Tomas Ghisellini Architects - Sheet3
©Tomas Ghisellini, Lucrezia Alemanno

The property, located along one of the most extraordinary coast stretch of Ionian Salento, just close to the sea, is a sort of village made by thin coastal “towers” connected at the base by a plate of services and common areas. The towers, looking at the nearby gulf of Gallipoli, accommodate rooms offering stunning panoramic views over the Mediterranean Sea.

Outside, spectacular environmental terraces on different levels feature pools, tennis courts, belvedere, cafes, and open-air restaurant, banquet facilities, solarium, meadows of lush Mediterranean vegetation and scented pine forests inhabited, here and there, by rocky outcrops.

Riviera Grand Hotel by Tomas Ghisellini Architects - Sheet4
©Tomas Ghisellini, Lucrezia Alemanno

The project, silent and delicate, regenerates the splendor of the complex without upheavals, retaining the overall essence of the original rationalist composition, indeed pushing the architectural vocabulary to an elementary and almost “archaic” simplicity. The built bodies are sheathed in seamless white plaster; porous borders in golden local stone intervene decisively in defining profiles and silhouettes; painted terracotta decorations dot the theories of loggias and balconies, giving the façade the appearance of an elegant three-dimensional embroidery.

The results of a few but strong design choices are amazing: from the coastline cliffs, as well as the waters of the sea, the complex appears in the guise of a tiny but dense “white city” perched on rocky slopes and masses of trees. The hotel exudes the dreamy charm of the candid Apulian historic settlements, so deeply rooted in the collective spirit and exercises over places the magnetic power of the great Mediterranean architecture.

Riviera Grand Hotel by Tomas Ghisellini Architects - Sheet6
©Tomas Ghisellini, Lucrezia Alemanno

Once reached, the Riviera reveals an articulate spatial composition made by architectural scenes and changing altitude levels offering visitors continuous discoveries of views, forests, panoramas, horizons, and unforgettable landscapes.

Interiors, similarly rigorous and essential, reinterpret in a contemporary way the traditions of the coastal Salento architectures: chromatic freshness, glazed ceramics, canopies, almost impalpable fabrics, local stones and surfaces where white descends as liquid build a soft and iridescent perceptive scenario.

Riviera Grand Hotel by Tomas Ghisellini Architects - Sheet7
©Tomas Ghisellini, Lucrezia Alemanno

The settings, freed from any excessive densification as well as the predominance of dark colors as a legacy of the past, explode with light and colors.

Soft ceilings, evanescent curtains and rains of flying “lanterns” draw cozy and tranquil spaces; build up the impression of magical places and yet so familiar, embracing, domestic in away.

Architectural choices, constructive and specific technological solutions and expedients, give the complex an attitude of high responsibility as regards the protection of the environment and the reduction of energy consumption.

Tomas Ghisellini Architects

Tomas Ghisellini Architects is an Italy and USA based group of architects, designers, and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research, and development.

Founded in 2009 after winning several competitions for public and private works, all completed or being built, TGA has become one of the Italian leading firms of a new generation of architects, repeatedly attracting public attention and achieving several awards, prizes and international acknowledgments.

Among lots of other recognitions, TGA’s work has been awarded by Renzo Piano within the most recent edition of the Renzo Piano Foundation Award, has received the Dedalo Minosse international prize and has been shown at MoMA New York within the successful international Cut’n’Paste Architecture exhibition.

The Office in Based in Italy (Headquarters in Ferrara, Satellite in Lecce) and the USA, where a smart office has been recently opened in Houston TX.


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