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Monday, December 10, 2007

Four Hotels

In many large cities hotels are not only places to stay, but also places to eat, drink, and even be seen. Q! in Berlin, Germany features a Hadid-esque design by Graft, where floors, walls, and ceiling of the renovation flow seamlessly into each other, a design not only eye-catching but obviously in tune with larger trends in architecture and interior design. This aesthetic starts in the lobby and extends even to the sinuous furnishings, though it's the rooms, and their integration of surfaces, lightings, and furnishings, where the skills of the architects are most apparent.

Also in Europe is the Hotel Omm, located in the equally hip metropolis of Barcelona. Designed by Juli Capella and located in the city center, this design takes on a greater urban presence than Q!, with its clever facade of solid panels "peeling away" to create windows and balconies giving it a varied appearance based on the direction of the viewer's gaze. Like Q! the hotel features places to eat and drink in luxury, though here a rooftop terrace provides another means of interacting with the urban context. With a pool, a bar, well-designed trellises, and ample seating, the rooftop is a magnet for guests as well as architecture buffs taking in the view of Gaudi's nearby Casa Mila.

While these next two hotels may feel "half a world away" from the urban, European hotels above, they all fall under the shared trait of using architecture and design as a means to draw people to the hotel as much as to the greater place. Amankora in Bhutan by Kerry Hill Architects is a great of an exotic locale that provides an infinite number of reasons for a visit, but without the proper arrangements, many with the money may not make the trek. But rather than plopping down anonymous luxury, Kerry Hill works the contemporary and the traditional together into a pleasing fusion that captures the quiet essences of life in Bhutan, without making guests "rough it" during their stay.

Lastly, Wrotham Park Lodge in Australia's Outback is the most remote, the smallest, and the most exclusive of this small sampling. Designed by Justin Long Architects, the ten guest quarters and "homestead" are outfitted with just about every modern amenity, but the architecture could be best described as minimal vernacular, with corrugated metal roofs overhead and sliding glass walls that allow the large verandahs to become an extension of the guest's quarters. In this case (and in all cases, to varying degrees), the design is about the connection between the visitor and the context, making the traveler feel welcome and in touch with the place, if only briefly.

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