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Hotel designer promotes jazz in Bern

Marianne Gauer is an internationally respected designer of hotels.

It’s a little known fact that the woman behind an acclaimed jazz club in Bern is an award-winning hotel designer who also finds time to run her own hotel chain.

But Marianne Gauer says Marians Jazz Room at the Hotel Innere Enge is more of a hobby than a business.

She set up the venue in 1992 together with her husband, Hans Zurbrügg, who founded Bern’s International Jazz Festival 28 years ago.

Hundreds of legendary musicians have played there in the intimate setting much appreciated by lovers of jazz, both tourists and locals.

The Hotel Innere Enge is one of six hotels the couple own and run in Switzerland.

Gauer also runs a hotel design business she founded in the early 1970s, scooping up contracts for the Hilton in Hong Kong, the Swissotel in Beijing and the Westin Awaji Island Resort in Japan.

Her design work has won her a string of awards, such as the Golden Roof Award in Switzerland and the Asia Pacific Interior Design Award for a Japanese resort.

Hotels with a soul

Gauer has a straightforward approach to the multi-million dollar contracts she gets to refurbish old hotels and design resorts from scratch.

“You give something like a soul to a hotel – it’s different every time and that’s how you can expect a hotel to survive and live on for many years,” she explains with enthusiasm.

“I think you need to have a passion for your profession and then when you do something, you do it well,” she added.

The entrepreneur left her hometown, Bern, in 1968 to work for a renowned firm of architects in Copenhagen.

After winning a major contract in Singapore for the Shangri-La Hotel, she set up her own design business in Singapore in 1971.

Changing habits

Gauer says she was forced to confront numerous difficulties during her years as a businesswoman on her own in Singapore and Hong Kong.

“People would look at you very strangely [and ask themselves] what is she doing here?” she remembers.

“Of course, I was still very young and that was my handicap, because there were other designers who were more famous, more established and much older than I was.”

She says times have changed dramatically since then, with a whole new breed of traveller requiring a different approach to the hotel business.

“The habits of the guests have changed over the years, and [you have to] have a sense in what direction human beings are developing,” she says.

“A hotel is almost like a city because it touches all kinds of living moments: [it’s where] you eat, sleep, dance, have meetings and do your shopping and so on.”

“There’s a whole life going on in a hotel.”

swissinfo, Tania Peitzker

Marianne Gauer set up her hotel design business in Singapore in 1971.
Within a decade, Gauer Design Far East Ltd became a name amongst large hotel chain owners around the world.
Soon after acquiring and refurbishing Hotel Innere Enge in Bern in the early nineties, she and her husband Hans Zurbrügg founded Mari(H)ans Jazzroom.
Gauer divides her time between Hong Kong and Bern, where she plays host to well-known jazz musicians in her free time.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR