Lars Stroschen: The Artist who became a Hotelier

Recently, I stayed a couple of days in Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin with a group of about 20 baby boomers.

It was a lot of fun having some members of the group remembering their backpacking and youth hostel days (waaay back!) as the down to earth design of the rooms forced some of us on their old knees to properly enter the bed which was sunken in the floor.

In a separate post I will address some of its features, but now first some attention for Lars, who is the originator and owner of the hotel and with whom I shook hands the day we departed. I asked him whether he liked it to be an hotelier: His answer was:”No, but I liked the making of it, and I have a very nice crew of 5 who attend our guests”.

I had the impression already as he roamed around as if being the ghost host of the hotel during breakfast hours. But indeed his crew is excellent and very friendly and they make the visit worthwhile!

Lars himself explained it as follows somewhere on his site:

Ever since childhood I have always enjoyed doing things that had something to do with sound and images. I had music lessons, started to draw, built my own furniture and took photos like mad. I could never settle for one particular discipline because I loved them all. Because technical innovations were also a great inspiration to me, I soon turned in the church organ for a synthesizer and later shifted from the pencil and the darkroom to computer art.

After school I studied Visual Communication at the Berlin Art College. In my spare time I worked as photographer and sound engineer. During my various travels at this time, I swapped my camera for a microphone and started to collect noises. This material formed the basis for my experimental music and sample-CD projects. My instrument collection grew to a full size, specialist electronic music studio. I then got a job as author of a radio series on electronic music. During these two years I created several compositions for demonstration purposes, several of which got released on CD.

The radio broadcasts also earned me a composition contract for a dance performance at the Berliner Schaubhne (Playhouse Theatre). I got my first recording contract with a Hamburg-based label and shortly afterwards another one in France. From this time onwards, all my projects were published under the name PROPELLER ISLAND. This pseudonym stems from a book written by Jules Verne at the end of the nineteenth century which describes an artificial island that travels with its inhabitants around the world – way ahead of its time! I chose this pseudonym mainly because it sounds good in German and English and because can refer to almost any kind of work – not just music.

Later I founded my own record label so as to be completely independent. Along with the many CDs with music and sound sculptures, I also published (as PROPELLER ISLAND) several sample CDs and CD-ROMs with unusual sound collections.

The only musical excursion without the aid of a ‘propeller’ was with the composer community TONART, which I joined along with other artists in order to publish avant-garde music. We dissolved the group after the fifth CD.

To fund my music projects and my studio, I turned two rooms in my flat into guest’s rooms. Because normal rooms it would have been far too boring, the first rooms of CITY LODGE were created.

The rooms quickly became very popular via the press, especially in England, and soon the letting out became so much work that I had almost no time left for my studio projects. I decided to enlarge the guest room business, thinking that I would be able to hire staff and therefore have more time for my studio. How naive! ….

An old pension hotel in the same building seemed perfect for the expansion. I was lucky, the lease had just run out and it was up for sale. It took over five years to complete PROPELLER ISLAND. During that time I designed hundreds of interior elements, objects, and pictures and drew up new concepts. As a ‘non-hotelier’, I had to learn to think about safety regulations for guests and also convince authorities of the practicality of my fantasy interiors.
It was a long hard road that makes me even more proud of my giant work of art, since so many doubted that I would ever manage to make it work. It is attracting art lovers from all over the worlds- even ‘proper’ architects and ‘proper’ hoteliers! :-))

The only problem is that I still haven’t managed to make enough time for the music – and that is what I wanted to achieve in the first place, didn’t I? … Oh well, c’est la vie!

Lars Stroschen, Summer 2004

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