5.7.19 / Paris / France

Cyril Aouizerate Blends Philosophy and Hospitality with the Expanding MOB Hotels

Creating a “theater of life” at each hotel

As the boutique hotel concept grows in popularity, fewer hoteliers approach it with the individualism of the industry’s forebears. But Cyril Aouizerate still lets his eccentricity fly freely, and allows his innermost thoughts and feelings to be expressed through MOB Hotels of the People. The French polymath began his career as a philosopher (in order to become an “official of humanism”) before learning about urban development and embarking on a journey into the world of hospitality. With support from renowned experts including Michel Reybier (La Réserve Group), Steve Case (AOL, and Revolution LLC), Philippe Starck (designer), and Glyn Aeppel (Glencove Capital). With two successful hotels in Paris and Lyon, Aouizerate is gearing up for his first international expansion, with properties in Washington D.C and Los Angeles. It’s an exciting phase for MOB and Aouizerate, so we caught up with him to discuss his start as a philosopher, how MOB captures the spirit of his grandmother’s kitchen, and the excitement of coming to America.

Tell me a little about your background. What were you doing before MOB, and what made you decide to go into hotels?

Originally, I wanted to be a self-proclaimed “official of humanism.” I wrote philosophy books on memory, delusions of identity – but apart from my mother and my father…few readers! By the biggest chance I had the opportunity to cross the path of a man named Alain Taravella, who explained everything to me regarding how to create an urban project from A to Z. After working by his side for almost five years, I decided to create a universe at the intersection of my skills in urbanity and philosophy: the hotel industry. For me, it is not a business sector but a mission in the noble sense of the term.

[Cyril Aouizerate]

What kinds of hotels were you a fan of prior to starting MOB?

The most beautiful hotel I have ever been able to see was my grandmother’s dining room. She unintentionally made me understand that you can accommodate (for an exceptional meal) 50 people in a humble two-room apartment one evening every week and make it feel like in the most beautiful place in the world simply by the love that emerges.

How do you think that feeling has manifested in the spaces at MOB?

Through generosity and simplicity. The first “wink” at my grandmother’s influence is based on our Mediterranean food – a warm cuisine with spices that awaken life. But it does not stop at the kitchen. During the day, we have many instances where we offer our guests moments of pure generosity (complimentary). Cakes that we put in our communal space, films that we broadcast in our indoor cinema, small gifts that we give when our guests leave the hotel. Everything is based on small gestures that help to create real connections between us and our visitors.

[MOB Paris]

What is Paris’ hotel scene like? What did you think was missing?

Paris is the theater of monopoly. So is France today. Major financial and industrial brands in the hotel industry have been keeping the market under lock and key for too long. As soon as a small group of hotels appears, these groups of chains prefer to buy them for the price of gold rather than to accept their novelty concepts. Nevertheless, today there are also freelancers who are trying out new paradigms and we are from this tribe.

In what way is MOB breaking away from the hotel traditions in France—the “theater of monopoly,” as you say?

We are “MOB Hotel” more so to defend a new way of life than to be another name in the hotel industry. Our commitment to ecology makes our actions a completely different paradigm than hotel chains. For instance, CASA 93, the fair trade fashion school housed on-site at our Paris location, is meant to be a genuine catalyst for progress rather than a marketing ploy.

[MOB Paris]

[Cyril Aouizerate]

You seem to be really ambitious in your scope – you’re putting energy into things like a cinema, restaurants, potential co-working spaces, and more. Do you see the hotel as a platform for creative expression more than a place to stay?

Of course – a hotel cannot be just a place to sleep. Culture in the broadest sense is the salt of the desire to travel. My role is to create the conditions for a theater of life in our hotels. Everything is considered so that the traveler can best feel the vibrations of the city and its inhabitants.

[MOB Paris]

What excites you most about coming to America? What kinds of challenges are you facing with such a different market?

The United States was for me the theater of my intellectual emancipation. Europe often underestimates the artistic and intellectual production of America. I realize the abundance of intellectuals, writers, painters and graphic artists of exceptional talent here in this country. So, we understood the challenge of coming to the United States and making MOB Hotel a supportive stage for American artists. For those who struggle to express an often iconoclastic vision of life, MOB will serve as a sanctuary, a place of expression.

[MOB Paris]

[MOB Lyon]

How is the design changing with each new hotel you open? Do you find that each one captures a different element of your personality?

Everything changes, because we are always working on different projects. In Bordeaux, we are working on installing a MOB in an old grain hall. In Paris, we are developing in a building listed as a historical monument of the Gare de l’Est train station. In Los Angeles, we are building in this fascinating Chinatown district…how could we be disrespectful enough (like many hoteliers) and repeat the same decoration, the same spirit? I respect the sites and neighborhoods we arrive in because they have a history, a social reality, and a future to build. Wherever we go, we try to act as a conduit of this advancement alongside the inhabitants and elected officials.

Travelers are more knowledgeable about hotels and culture than ever before, how do you keep MOB distinguished?

By being ourselves. That is to say, continuing to work with my teams in the direction of generosity and simplicity. I think these qualities are the ones that travelers are looking for. Culture is the essence of my life…it is not an alibi like some hotels trying to buy an image. I believe that at MOB we are first and foremost cultural actors.

[MOB Paris]

[MOB Lyon]

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