Rooms of Design

Here's part two of my two-parter on Hotel Puerta America in Madrid, Spain. See part one for the corridors.

Jean Nouvel's penthouse should be familiar for those that have seen his Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the ceilings were covered with stills from movies. Here, the imagery covering the dark surfaces appears aquatic, ironic for the top floor of hotel rooms.

On the 11th floor, Mariscal and Salas continue their whimsy. Each surface seems to be a different pattern or canvas for exploration, though its cohesion into a whole is not very successful.

Arata Isozaki's rooms recall traditional Japanese architecture without copying it. The screen at left is the most important device for this effect, while also removing the room from the hotel itself by creating its own shell separate from the container.

Richard Gluckman's rooms use glasses of varying transparencies and artificial lighting to create soft effects in the different rooms.

Kathryn Findlay's 8th floor rooms are whiter than white, a perfect setting for a whitening toothpaste commercial. The hygienic character of the rooms awaits the splashes of color that come from human presence.

Ron Arad's floor is another white room, though splashes of intense red are also present. Arad picks up on the curving walls of the elevator lobby and corridor by curving just about everything in site.

Marc Newson eschews the intense red of the corridor for a more subdued palette of blacks and whites, understandable, as red isn't ideal for sleeping. For the most part this design is simple surfaces and custom furnishings, the latter of which can't carry the space.

The fifth floor by Victorio and Lucchino is super-saturated, like every surface was awaiting some color and the designers didn't say no.

Plasma Studio's rooms aren't as crazy as the corridors, but the various reflections and refractions created by the triangular "pleats" in the walls continues some of the corridor's disorienting effects.

Somebody forgot to tell David Chipperfield to work on the rooms, too. Sure the floor is nice, but the blank white walls and out-of-place ceiling plane don't interact with the space enough to create a cohesive whole.

Norman Foster's rooms are also overly simple, limited to blacks and whites, with some illuminated onyx for effect.

Finally, Zaha Hadid's rooms tie together with the corridor better than any other architect. Hadid designed everything down to the sheets (Will we be seeing this at a Target in the near future?). The awkward fit of the television illustrates that her organic flow isn't something that's widely embraced by most of popular culture; people still opt for rectilinear rooms and furniture to match.

Update: Plenty more pics at this page (thanks Alejandro!)


  1. About Hadid's room: Is that bed slanted towards the foot of the bed? And if I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream, how would I know?

    I'd stay in Arata Isozaki's room. Dark and warm, not black and cold.

  2. Greats posts! Keep up the good work! I think I'd like to stay at Isozaki's room...ready to go?

  3. Hi John,
    Great post as always. I stayed in this hotel, I slept in a Hadid room and in a foster room. It was very interesting to notice how in the Hadid room nothing was broken, while the Foster room had some broken bits and pieces. The Hadid room is intimate I was quite surprised and even considered that if I could I would have a residential interior designed by her, however some things just don't work like the danger posed by the whiteness, you tend to loose coordination of distances you don't know where to step going into the bathtub and so on. Also there is poor usability in the bathroom and storage, but this can be forgiven since it is a hotel room that is being cleaned daily. The Norman Foster room was experienced after and it made me realised the cost of the fluidity in Hadid's room since the straight lines made the space feel much bigger than the curved ones, and in fact the bed in the Foster room is bigger because the spatial layout allows for it. Also the Hadid room is quite conventional in the sense that you have storage by the door, a bath -room, also as you enter and then the bed -room. The Foster room is on the contrary all square but totally fluid, the entrance becoming room becoming bathroom becoming shower and only the toilet is kept separate in a small milky glass cubicle.
    Remember your post about architecture photography, where you posted your own picture of a building vs. the official picture submitted by the architects? Well you have the exact same situation here, The Puerta America bedrooms are very small, really small. the hadid room felt like the cabin of a cruise liner. These official photos use the wide angle lens to its maximum effect. But something else of interest must be said about them, you describe the Foster room as overly simple and in fact the photo makes it look that way, but actually the creamy white walls are actually leather, and you can smell it, I think this gives another dimension to the design of the space. As I said before the shower room flows into the main space and its floor is a grille, there is not difference of levels bewteen the wood and the grille, you step right into the shower the water dissapears under your feet. The TV and all storage (must be 5 times more storage than in the hadid Room) is all concealed behind the leather doors (housewife comment here: around handles you can see dirty finger marks staining the leather, this is awful). The hughe closet doors can be pulled open with your little finger. So I would say that the norman Foster Room is full of delightfull details. I could just keep on writting about all this stuff... One more thing Marc Newson's hallway is orange colour not red and it seems to me to be the most radical, so clinical very kubrick but orange not white, and a nice touch by numbering the rooms with the stencil font used by Corb.

  4. bryan-It's hard to tell if it's slanting, what with those fluid forms and the fisheye lens that ludwig mentions. A water bed would be perfect for that room!

    g-That's my favorite room, too. It's like a traditional ryokan but with a designer phone and plasma TV.

    Ludwig-Thanks for the first person commentary on the design. This definitely shows that imagery is not substitute for interacting with spaces, particularly apparent in the leather smell of Foster's room (I wonder how long that will last?). And those details you talk about in the same room definitely don't come across in photographs. The predominance of - and more importantly reliance upon - imagery is very interesting to me, and something I'd like to explore in more depth.

    Getting back to the Hotel, I noticed Hadid's rooms also are in black. I'm curious how that would compare...if anything it might be more disorienting as shadows and reflections might be less prominent.

  5. Just a quick question for architects and there still a 70's purist aesthetic to white or what?
    Great post!

  6. Thanks for posting that Ludwig.

    I remember we picked a hotel in Seattle off the internet (Vance Hotel) and the rooms were different in picture than in person.


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