Polly Brown / Xenia Hotels:

Time Travel Branding and the Nostalgia of Leisure Aesthetics

Athenian art director Nikos Georgópoulos and photographer Polly Brown travel back in time to create an ambitious fictional image series about the once glorious, now abandoned Xenia Hotels.

In the early 50s, after two world wars and one civil war, the Greek state was effectively bankrupt. On that basis, the government decided to initiate the ambitious Xenia project; a nationwide hotel construction programme aimed at creating accommodation infrastructure for the development of a tourist industry to contribute to rebooting the economy. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the 59 Xenia Hotels that were built thrived. Although widely celebrated for their glorious post-war modernist architecture, they however never had a consistent visual identity. Each hotel used its own typeface, logo and promotional literature with widely varying aesthetics. By the 1990s after decades of mismanagement, the Xenia project became inextricably linked to the financial meltdown and fell into administration.

Within the Xenia project, Nikos Georgópoulos attempts to create a cohesive yet fictitious visual identity for the now derelict hotel chain. By using extensive archival referencing and typography, Georgópoulos creates the hotels’ logotype, amenities and promotional literature, all presented as props within a past that never happened.

By blurring the boundaries between tourism, graphics, and fiction, the project advocates design as a form of speculative research. The accompanying image series by Polly Brown evokes a nostalgia, surreality and attentive concern for detail that meditates on the identifiers of cultural tourism, hotel theory and the dream-like escapism of leisure aesthetics.