The Dream Hotel

A prominent group of globe-trotting architects and designers helps us create the ultimate hospitality experience.

Architects and designers tend to travel a lot, and stay in a range of hotels, from the dreary and banal to the grand and luxurious. Because they’re experts—the ultimate end users, with discerning eyes for both aesthetics and amenities—we were interested in learning about their singular experiences. So we reached out to more than 20 architects, designers, and design directors, and asked them to name their favorite hotels and hospitality spaces (lobbies, pools, bars, etc.). We created a kind of mythical hotel from their responses—a dream hotel, if you will—composed of the new and the old, the contemporary and the traditional, the vernacular and the sublime. Taken together, their picks offer a glimpse of some of the world’s greatest hotels. These selections also serve as a handy guide, should you be traveling and looking for something authentic, unique, surprising, or spectacular.

The Puli Hotel
Founder, Crème Design
“The lobby of the PuLi Shanghai has a dramatic entry sequence, and almost a chameleon-like quality about it. It’s a grand but sensible space, capable of transforming from light and airy during the day to warm and moody at night.”

Hotel Unique
São Paulo
Founder, Karim Rashid Inc.
“I love Ruy Ohtake’s Hotel Unique in São Paulo, Brazil. The round, two-meter porthole windows have this beautiful, unconventional way of displaying the city; it’s like looking out of a big telescope. The upside-down half-pie appears as if it’s floating between two thin, monumental slabs of concrete. The fabulous end rooms have curved floors that ride up to infinity, giving this sense of nirvana. I feel like I am in heaven.”

The Connaught
CEO, Maharam
“The staircase at the Connaught carries one back in time with great charm, recalling the days before the advent of elevators. The risers are low, making for an easy climb; the banisters and corridors are brightly varnished mahogany, as if in a beautiful old ship; and the carpet is dense wool velvet, which makes the entire experience a great pleasure, even after a big dinner.”

More Favorite Staircases:

Hotel Josef, Prague
“Eva Jiricna’s glass staircase is a thing of beauty.”
James Biber, president, Biber Architects

The Hudson (escalator), New York City
“With the most incredible reception desk ever built, as the prize at the top.”
John Christakos, cofounder and CEO, Blu Dot

Le Royal Monceau, Paris
David Rockwell, founder and CEO, Rockwell Group

Guest Room
Singita Game Reserves Lodge
Kruger National Park, South AfricaKruger National Park, South Africa
Creative Director, Doyle Partners
“At the Singita Game Reserves lodge, even your trip to the bathroom is part of your safari. The cabins are built into a hillside, so most of the rooms dangle over a ravine, offering great views of the river with hippos, rhinos, monkeys, and all sorts of flora and fauna. You shower outside, on a narrow deck, screened from faraway neighbors by a branch-and-twig fence that looks like eagles built it. The water simply pours down through the slatted deck, and your vista is unimpeded. Don’t leave anything on the deck, or the spacious porch, that you don’t want to share with the monkeys, and be sure to latch the door so that your cabin isn’t visited. Though monkeys have been known to make off with jewelry and glasses, our intruders only took our tubes of toothpaste—leaving the brushes and floss behind, so we can only wonder about the state of their dental hygiene.”

More Favorite Guest Rooms:

Benesse House Museum, Naoshima Island, Japan
“Just enough warmth inside, but you still know where you are (on top of a mountain).”
Sam Hecht, cofounder, Industrial Facility

Maritime Hotel,
New York City
“I love the sound plug they deliver for the window. It’s like sleeping in a vault.”
Roman Alonso, creative director, Commune

Hotel Krafft,
Basel, Switzerland
Naoto Fukasawa, industrial designer, Naoto Fukasawa Design

Founder and CEO, Rockwell Group
“The room feels spacious and generous without being off-putting. It’s elegant and very discreet, much like Thai culture itself. The single, uncluttered bench in the center of the room—upholstered in fabled Jim Thompson silk—gives you a grand but relaxing place to sit down. Having designed many bathrooms, I know that space is the ultimate in luxury.
I also like having a separate shower room. This one feels spa-like, with the dramatic lighting and beautiful ceramic tile. The lighting is terrific, which is a hard thing to get right. Having the perfect blend of face and down light is critical. Since I work in residential and hospitality, I love hotel experiences that blend the best of both worlds.”

More Favorite Bathrooms

Barceló Raval, Barcelona, Spain
“The freestanding shower capsule is unconventional, but very functional.”
Moritz Waldemeyer, designer and engineer

Opposite House, Beijing
“All wood!”
Bjarke Ingels, founding partner,
Bjarke Ingels Group

Mandarin, Los Angeles
Jessica Helfand, partner, Winterhouse Studio

Canyon Point, Utah
Principal Designer, Amy Lau Design
“The hotel’s natural materials and textures are designed to blend with the surrounding landscape. The modern interior’s concrete walls and stone floor are juxtaposed with picture frame windows that showcase amazing panoramic views of the dunes and plateaus of the Utah landscape, which serve as a beautiful, natural artwork.”

Another Favorite View

Ciragan Hotel, Istanbul
“The blue of the Bosphorus meeting the sky, the infinity pool blending with the sea—breathtaking.”
Ayse Birsel, cofounder, Birsel + Seck

Plaza Athénée
Executive VP, Ligne Roset
“Classic atmosphere, great food, and Patrick Jouin’s design strikes the perfect balance—it’s elegant, and the French decor is delicate without being too ostentatious.”

More Favorite Restaurants

Hôtel Costes, Paris
“Both intimate and grand theater at the same time.”
Jerry Helling, president and creative director, Bernhardt Design

The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, California
“Miraculously, the soda fountain hasn’t been destroyed.”
Roman Alonso, creative director, Commune

Nimb Hotel, Copenhagen, Denmark
David Obel Rosenkvist, vice president of sales, North America; Fritz Hansen

Top of the Standard
New York City
Founding Partner, Bjarke Ingels Group
The Standard has managed to achieve something highly unusual with the hotel and, especially, the bar. It has a 1950s feel and style that doesn’t seem like a pastiche but like a genuine, well-kept specimen from that era. It is, in a way, the architectural equivalent of the film adaptation of American Psycho—a film that doesn’t only take place in 1980s New York but, strangely, feels as if it was made in the 1980s. In general, I’m not a big fan of retro or eclecticism, but, magically, they pulled it off here.

More Favorite Bars

The Bowery Hotel, New York City
“Old World gentlemen’s club vibe without trying too hard.”
John Christakos, cofounder and CEO, Blu Dot

W Seoul-Walkerhill, Seoul, South Korea
“Minimal yet vibrant.”
Karim Rashid, founder, Karim Rashid Inc.

Bulgari Hotel, Milan
Daniela Coletta, U.S. managing director, B&B Italia

Therme Vals
Vals, Switzerland
President, Biber Architects
”The finest pool in any hotel—and perhaps the finest pool anywhere—is at the Therme Vals, the Peter Zumthor ‘water poetry’ in Vals, Switzerland. There are multiple pools at different temperatures, indoor and outdoor pools, and water experiences of every variety: fire hose power showers, needle showers, and steam rooms of graded temperatures leading directly to hell, all wrapped in an architecture of the sublime.”

More Favorite Pools & Spas

Regent Hotel (hot tub),
Hong Kong
“It’s fed by the overflow of two tubs, one hot and one cold. So you regulate the ideal temperature just by moving a little bit to the left or the right, all while having the most exhilarating view of the Hong Kong skyline.”
Stefan Sagmeister, graphic designer

Pitrizza Hotel,
Porto Cervo, Italy
“A saltwater swimming pool carved out of granite.”
Claudio Luti, CEO, Kartell

The PuLi Hotel,
“The most beautiful mile that I have ever swum.”
Stephen Doyle, creative director, Doyle Partners

The Raleigh Hotel,
Miami, Florida
Bonnie Siegler, cofounder, Number 17

Hotel Le Corbusier
Marseille, France
Architects, Urban Designers, & Planners
“The roof terrace at the Hotel Le Corbusier in Marseille is one of the best spaces of all time. Used by both the building’s residents and the hotel’s guests, it packs a bunch of activities in one space, like a running track, children’s day care, a wading pool, and an outdoor theater, and offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s so good, we can even forgive Corb for blocking out the view of the city below.”

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