On The Road
The World’s Best Hotels For Architecture Lovers
From a brutalist ski resort to a vineyard by Mr Frank Gehry, the design-led luxury places to stay in New York, Berlin and beyond
The Silo Hotel, Cape Town. Photograph by Mr Mark Williams, courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Good architecture and pertinent design should be embedded into hotels at a cellular level. Sadly, that’s not always been the case. But today hoteliers realise that this is the only way forward. Even French cheap-and-cheerful brand Ibis has committed to redesigning all of its global hotels in the next three years. Starchitects have sometimes excelled at hotels – look at Mr John Portman’s thrill-ride atria at the Atlanta and San Francisco Hyatts in the 1970s, Mr Oscar Niemeyer’s Nacional in Rio or Zaha Hadid Architects’ forthcoming ME Dubai. As well as flashy new builds, such as the Alwadi MGallery in Doha and the Intercontinental Wonderland in an old quarry outside Shanghai, hotels work well as conversions – Malta’s Cugó Gran Macina in a former dockyard crane block and Sydney’s Ovolo 1888 in an old wool warehouse show the potency of industrial buildings, while London’s forthcoming Standard outpost used to be council offices and Israel’s Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel was once a sanatorium. Design-led brands, such as Germany’s 25hours, with its new hotel The Circle in Cologne, are showing how important the right finishing touches in a hotel can be, and how architecture and design attracts a cultured guest. Here are five more hotels where aesthetics take centre stage.
Terminal Neige Totem, Flaine, France
Restaurant, Terminal Neige – Totem, Flaine, France. Photograph courtesy of Terminal Neige – Totem/L. Di Orio, C. Arnal & DR
If you like your ski resorts to be as cheesy as raclette, don’t bother coming to Flaine – stick to Mayrhofen. If, however, you feel your pulse quicken at the sight of a modernist marvel crouching in the mountains, rather than a twee pine Alpine apres-ski dive blasting out Mr Phil Collins, then Mr Marcel Breuer’s purpose-built 1969 ski resort will allow you to revel in brutalism on the black run. At its centre is the Totem, part of The Maison & Hotels Sibuet group’s new Hotel Terminal Neige line. Mr Breuer designed everything from the door handles to the window frames, and in a stroke of genius he cantilevered the entire hotel out over a cliff. Go down below the building and look up for an Instagram photo guaranteed to garner triple-figure likes. The hotel was fading in its forties and totally refurbished in 2017. If anything, the new look makes even more of the concrete soul of this building by revealing bare walls and revelling in period details; adding in more colour and comfort. Vintage fabrics and furnishings in yellows and oranges bring the Don Draper era alive. Out on the slopes outside there are Mr Pablo Picasso sculptures you can ski past.
What to pack
Marqués de Riscal, Elciego, Spain
Exterior, Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Elciego, Spain. Photograph courtesy of Marqués de Riscal
This hotel in the Basque Country has Mr Frank Gehry’s fish fingers all over it. The Canadian architect’s well-documented ichthyomania was responsible for rebranding an entire city – the nearby mini-metropolis of Bilbao, which went from being on no one’s radar to everyone’s in 1997 when he built the Guggenheim there with a similarly deconstructed, sea-life sensibility. Here at Elciego, just inside the Basque border, but very near to Logrono, the capital of La Rioja and within the latter’s wine region, Mr Gehry designed a showstopper of a place to stay. It is in the vineyard of the historic Marqués de Riscal company and a part of Marriott’s flagship Luxury Collection federation of independent upmarket boutique hotels. The wavy, irregular titanium panels that form the fierce facade are coloured in silver, pink and burgundy, evoking – of course – eels, cod and maybe even the waves of the Bay of Biscay. The colours nod to the wines produced here, which, incidentally, are multi award-winning. Inside, thousands of bottles are displayed like trophies in the restaurant and the 43 rooms are decked out unfussily in whites and browns, with interiors by Ms Alex Perinat and Mr Javier Muñoz.
What to pack
Michelberger Hotel, Berlin, Germany
Luxus bedroom, Michelberger Hotel, Berlin. Photograph by Mr Philipp Obkircher, courtesy of Michelberger Hotel
The quintessential hipster bolthole, Berlin’s Michelberger has long been the natural choice for clubbers, art lovers, lovers on a budget and bands on tour. Part of its decade-long appeal was the original design by Mr Werner Aisslinger, which mixed the now very overused words “shabby” and “chic” before anyone had thought of that: a luxe lobby contrasted with rooms that had something of the “banged together by Ikea” spirit. It was a philosophy that worked well and won many fans. Now though the Michelberger, like Berlin in general, of course, has headed upmarket. At the top of the old lighting factory right next to the Wall, the Spree and Warschauer Straße station, 23 new suites from Mr Jonathan Tuckey offer not-very-Michelberger traits such as space and comfort: heavy grey drapes, comfy chairs and panoramic views. That old Michelberger spirit remains in the unadorned planks of plywood that still poke out and the fact that no reviewers are ever invited in gratis (a rarity in hospitality). Journalists who want to write about the hotel must pay their own way – very Berlin. The lobby has been refreshed, too: Dane Mr Sigurd Larsen has crowbarred in retro amber chandeliers manufactured by Berlin Art Glas and wooden sofas topped with cosy cushions to make this renowned date venue even more convivial and enticing for starting a potential love affair.
What to pack
The Times Square Edition, New York, US
Lobby staircase, The Edition Times Square, New York. Photograph by Mr Nicolas Koenig, courtesy of Edition
It’s incredible to think that Times Square was once about sleaze and high times – The Deuce’s flophouse cinemas and sex shops and Mr Ian Schrager’s disco Studio 54 were just around the corner. Now it is more concerned with the M&M’s Store and musicals. But wait – maybe it can be more? Mr Schrager’s baby is The Edition brand now, in all its global glory, and with the Times Square newbie he’s taking a punt on the cool kids being tempted up from the Lower East Side and Tribeca into tourist central – the most visited place in the entire US. The square itself has been renewed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta. Now’s the time for a new hotel to face the music. Opened this spring, the interiors include oak floors, leather chairs and green walls oozing with plant life. A minimalist monochrome palette is broken up with ficuses, red curtains and marble bars. It’s all contained inside a new 39-storey skyscraper called 20 Times Square by Platt Byard Dovell White Architects of New York, which includes shops and restaurants at the base, wrapped in one of the world’s largest LED walls. The skinny skyscraper above that features that most Manhattan of luxuries – a roof terrace for parties.
What to pack
The Silo, Cape Town, South Africa
Family suite bedroom, The Silo Hotel, Cape Town. Photograph by Mr Mark Williams, courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Around the world, since the 1980s, old dockyards have become the developers’ dream: huge swathes of land near to city centres with space to build, adorned with industrial carcasses ready to be reborn in the name of the post-industrial aesthetic. To wit: Cape Town’s old port has seen all manner of attempts to rejig it, from the tacky 1980s po-mo shopping malls and aquariums of the V&A Waterfront to something rather more highbrow – The Silo. Standing in the shadow of the famous Foreshore Freeway Bridge (aka the Unfinished Bridge) – those off-ramps that feature in more adverts than you can shake a stick at due to South Africa’s low filming costs – The Silo is an undeniably spectacular contribution to a skyline which includes such not-very-subtle elements as Table Mountain. Maybe this great concrete beast is, in its own way, trying to stand up to that very mountain. The references in Mr Thomas Heatherwick’s design seem clear enough: concrete impersonating the rocks beneath our sneakers and bulging windows emulating the diamonds that sit even deeper, and which made South Africa rich (at least some South Africans, anyway). Squatting on top of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, this immodest pleasure palace in the 1924 grain silo boasts six floors of luxury, including handmade furniture by Moorgas & Sons of Cape Town.