After trips to the Americas, Georges Nagelmackers, was motivated to create the world’s finest train in the late 19th century. And so, a legend was born. The Orient Express passed through Europe’s great capitals, creating indelible links between the west and the east. It was a magical and epic tale that ended in 1977. In the 1980s, tour operator and businessman Albert Glatt decided to buy up historic rail cars, then creating the NostalgieIstanbul-Orient-Express, a train-cruise experience that ran from Zurich to Istanbul. But it later seemed to disappear. Until 2015, when industrial historian Arthur Mettetal tracked down the cars and Maxime d’Angeac took on the task of reinvention…
all images © Maxime d’Angeac
Maxime d’Angeac; forging the destiny of a legendary train
The architect’s collaborations with the houses Daum and Hermès (in partnership with the American designer Hilton McConnico) have been renowned, along with two decades of prestigious restoration and decoration projects on icon buildings such as the Maison Guerlain on the Champs-Elysées. The great revolutionary artistic movements, including the Italian Renaissance and Art Deco era have served as inspiration, along with travel novels from Jules Verne and Henry Miller, as well as the post-apocalyptic comic book Transperceneige. Now d’Angeac undertakes the project of a lifetime:
Reinterpreting rail history
Maxime says of the undertaking: “The starting point of this fabulous project is a dream. A contemporary story that sprung from the legend of the Orient Express. It’s a projection into an era – the 1920s – and into the culture of luxury and its artisans. It all began with drawings, sketches and models made by hand. The work is meticulous just like it was in the past. By slipping into the shoes of its creators, from René Prou to Suzanne Lalique, I tried to reinterpret the history of this legendary train, not only with nostalgia, but with a desire to extend its history, to transport us to another place. As if it was all a dream.”
“The future Orient Express is first and foremost a technical challenge. It is an object in motion, complex, defined by the beauty of rhythm and by the laws of gravity, traversed by technological revolutions, by the history of inventions and design. From these principles a new and resolutely contemporary project was built. A project on a human scale, inspired by the notion of the Modulor established by Le Corbusier in 1945, by the strict respect of proportions at the source of the design, and the permanent search for comfort on board. Created like a work of art, the future Orient Express train was born from a marvel, the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express, entirely reinvented and equipped with outstanding facilities. From this framework, a decor emerged – one without a defined era, instead inspired by Art Deco, Empire and contemporary styles. The train’s history has been rewritten, this time transcending trends. Nothing is superfluous – each detail has meaning. It is part engineering feat, part dream-inspiring work of art that is the epitome of French Luxury, complete with refined decor, sublimated by the savoir-faire and talent of the finest French artisans.”
The bar and dining cars
Nearly a century and a half since the first incarnation of the Orient Express, this pays homage to its predecessor, not least in the bar. From the rosewood to the marble covering the tables to the bronze of the column capitals, the mood is “travel chic.” Second Empire-style domes of light, rich green upholstery and an all-glass counter (a tribute to Lalique) feature. Each table will have a clock to ring out the time for cocktails and dinner, a button for champagne service and another for a staff member to attend the table for anything else.
The dining space has been inspired by the Lalique tapestry motif (again part of the composition of the first Orient Express trains). The nineteenth century stoneboard technique has been used to make ornaments of moldings and ceiling decorations and, if you look above, you’ll see your own reflection in a mirrored ceiling, crossed by a series of arches reflecting a soft subdued light. Guests take an armchair seat at the napa tables lit by lamps with shades revisiting the original models. And a private lounge revives the original marquetry panels of the train. The kitchen, tucked at the back behind a glass wall opens up, to become a theatre of culinary activity to watch and admire as you journey.
Guests will retire to their suites, where function carries an equal weight to luxurious comfort. Contrasting the prime lines used in rail, circular shapes add softness and balance here. Windows are made to look like moving paintings, while magic mirrors play with perspectives. Precious wood partitions and a leather wall reinterpret Suzanne Lalique’s famous “rail”
motifs. Headboards are covered with wooden embroidery, mother-of-pearl and bronze beads and nooks receive Lalique’s original “Blackbirds & grapes” panels, salvaged from the original Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient Express cars. Elliptical shelves hold newspapers, objects and travel souvenirs in place. From day to night there is a Great Transformation, with a sofa and settee arranged into a night configuration with a 2 x 1.40-meter bed. Finally, the marble bathroom with sliding doors and a dressing room complete the inviting layout.
A theatrical décor and vaulted ceilings are fitting for the train’s thoroughfares. Accented by “flower” lamps signed by Lalique, original pieces salvaged from the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express and an animating carpet, these are places of surprise and a touch of intrigue. Large windows ensure the ever-changing panormas receive their full due, and are framed by embroidered curtains. On a practical note; support bars will be in place to give passengers the opportunity to stop a while, mingle and pass the time of day.
Following the dream
Sébastien Bazin, Chairman & CEO, Accor said of the launch: “We are proud, today, to reveal the first images of the future Orient Express train. A story inspired by a dream, a timeless train, the object of all fantasies and which becomes reality. Maxime d’Angeac’s design awakens the myth with the revelation of its luxury, modernity, and French elegance. Tomorrow, the Orient Express will shine again, proud of its 140 years of history and looking to the future. The legend continues.”
The Orient Express brand has cultivated unique experiences, and collected rare artifacts. Now it’s playing a role in new departures (both literal and metaphorical), like the new Revelation and a worldwide range of hotels (Orient Express La Minerva in Rome and Orient Express Palazzo Donà Giovannelli in Venice will open in 2024).
From the 17th to the 21st of October Orient Express Revelation will take you on a journey of total immersion. Push the mysterious door open and live a unique digital experience as you discover the digital and fantastic carriages that realise the project of architect Maxime d’Angeac.