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Poland's Blow Up Hall 5050: Half luxury hotel, half digital art installation

Stashed in: For Milo, ART, Architecture, Design, Europe

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I'm here to visit Blow Up Hall 5050, one of the most unique hotels in Europe, attached to one of the "best shopping malls in the world" and a pet project of Grażyna Kulczyk, the richest woman in Poland.

Until 2006, Kulczyk was also married to the richest man in Poland, but while her ex-husband's business ventures are quite dry – oil, gas, coal power, mining and beer brewing – Grażyna sees herself much more as a passionate patron of the arts.

She calls her signature approach to business the 5050 model: everything should be 50 percent art, 50 percent business, each side supporting the other. In this spirit, she bought up the crumbling carcass of a gigantic old brewery in 2003 and began development on a mammoth 120,000 square-metre complex that houses two high-class shopping malls, a free art gallery where Kulczyk shows her personal collection of modern art, and the Blow Up Hall hotel.

Not sure I'd want to stay in a place that's only half business, even if the other half is art.

Poorly worded advert.  

Yes, it should be ALL BUSINESS, with art wherever you go...

Walking in the front door, you're immediately struck by the grand entrance hall, complete with its four levels of brickwork and artworks ranging from the giant "Red Dwarf" at the back of the hall, through a number of artworks including a Spencer Tunick, to the spinning light installation above you.

Blow Up Hall 5050 - the entrance hall (Photo: Loz Blain/

There's no check-in desk, just a concierge who confirms your booking and hands you your room key – an iPhone 5. It's yours for the duration of your stay, it comes pre-fitted with a Polish sim card and you can use it throughout the city.

From there you step into the lobby - and into the key Blow Up Hall artwork itself, designed by digital artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and inspired byBlowup*, a British art film of the 1960s. Most of the room is in dark shadow, barring a starkly lit path up the center leading to a series of large screens in which your own image is digitized and split up into a dizzying pixellated array.

Blow Up Hall 5050: the main artwork (Photo: Loz Blain/

From there it's up the elevator into a dark and disorienting hallway, at which point you start up the "room finder" app on your iPhone. There are no room numbers, just video screens outside each room. With the room finder app running, each room screen stares blankly back at you with a grainy and distorted image of yourself, until you reach your own room, which displays a welcome message. Then it's time to click the "open door" app and let yourself in.

iPhone app helps you locate your room (Photo: Loz Blain/

The idea behind this odd check-in process is to fully immerse the guest in the artwork, with your own image becoming part of the walls themselves from the minute you step into the lobby.

Once you're in your room, the experience is a lot more normal, although each room has been designed independently and they vary hugely. All follow a similarly monochromatic theme, with occasional violet accents, and every room we saw looked fantastic.

* Background information on Blow-Up, the movie:

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