Pardon the existential question but: what exactly is a wall for?

To most, its main function is to partition for whatever purposes behind the wall: to isolate, to privatise; to barricade, to separate and expel. Still, for the space they do enclose, walls also serve as the canvas – and define the character of a cavity, for both the people inhabiting it and those tasked with decorated it.

What if it goes one step further? What if walls can provide a portal – a glimpse into environments, whole cultures and individual ideologies, outside and beyond the capsular refuge or confinement?

But then that might become too imposing, invasive even.

Especially for a place set out to be hospitable – a hotel, for instance – designing the space and striking a balance is a delicate matter: you wouldn’t want its projection so overstimulating that it’s tattooing on retinas, nor should it be so inconspicuous and unprovoking that it doesn’t even get a shrug.

I reckon I encountered that somewhere in between during my stay at Hotel Adriatic in Rovinj, Croatia.

A study in gold: When a wall does become a canvas, it can become the centrepiece dominating all vertical surfaces – but it may also be the connective tissue of the aesthetic theme within a space. While it’s Croatian artist Zlatan Vehabović’s musings of technological peaks of the 21st century, the painting doesn’t beg to be scrutinised: seen as a magnified tabletop object, fused with the gilded colours of the room, or probed for its hidden meanings – whichever eases into your mind.
Tricks of light: “Igor Eškinja produces abstract shapes in a shade of cyan-blue, rediscovering this photographic technique achieved through a chemical reaction that blends natural sunlight and emulsion.” How I’d like to liken these to is the refraction of light as it skirts, contorts and radiates within a volume of saline water – much like the Adriatic facing this seafront property.
Corner of the eye: Even if it’s supposed to blend into the overall furnishing doesn’t mean the artwork should remain untraceable. The eye can be subconsciously drawn to the only hues standing out among a room’s greyscale palette – in this case, French artist Charles Munka’s one-paged, brush-stroked travel journals.
Domiciliary individuality: Each guest bedroom are devoted their own personality from furnishing down to the hand-sized elements. But the true stroke of absolute individuality isn’t the placements of inanimate objects, but the reactionary behaviour of temporary residents – for instance, their individual sentiments dedicated to and enveloped in each room’s unique guestbook.
Semi-open kitchen: Although walls may be purposed to separate rooms, they can do so all whilst augmenting and connecting the spaces divided. The semi-reflective panelling circulates light and optically expands the brasserie, while the translucent and opening leaves it still umbilically attached to the gastronomic spectacle. The brasserie is also where the experiential When “Artist Meets Chef” events take place.
Indoor woodlands: The dining space wall is adorned with snapshots of Rovinj archipelago’s gardens, taken by Sofija Silvia (whose surname, coincidentally, originates from the Latin word for ‘forest’); they’re like magical portals peeping into the lusher part of Rovinj, enticing you to remotely explore the forestry – or take your posterior off that armchair and discover the real thing yourself.
Bar the focal point: Cascading along the stacks of liquor collections are the acrylic splatters of Croatian artist and designer, Saša Šekoranja; inspired by the arboretum of Rovinj, the fluid striations also appear to reflect the liquid function of the bar.
Linear thoughts: The latest instalments inside Hotel Adriatic’s lounge area explore the abstract expressionism of a single stroke on each canvas, as envisioned by visual artist Goran Petercol. They’re just lines, you might argue – but at least that got you thinking.

What walls invoke may be the need of seclusion or escape. Function or aesthetics. Backdrop or spotlight. Spaces may be contemplated presently or in retrospect. Whole rooms and buildings may be merely dwelled in, or poised to challenge and enhance one’s thinking. And none of that is imposed upon the beholder, only echoing and complementing the current state of mind – one that’s seeking sanctuary within the walls it’s interacting with.

After all, that’s precisely where the soul of great design lies.