Top Ten: Space Odyssey
Published: March 2009
By Michael Z. Wise
From a Modernist masterpiece by I. M. Pei to a postmodern classic by Robert Venturi, 10 hotels where style meets substance
Hotel Alpenhof, Austria
Would the von Trapp family have felt at home?Probably not. Adolph Loos's rigorously Modernist rendition of an Alpine retreat, the 14-room Hotel Alpenhof, was envisioned as a sophisticated summerhouse better suited to the strains of Mahler and Schoenberg than to yodeling. The result: an object lesson in the merits of form as function. Built in Austria's mountainous Semmering forest, once a favorite vacation spot of Vienna's upper classes, this 1928 masterpiece retains the original Loos-designed beds and cupboards. Through the dining room's picture window, the hills come alive. Hotel Alpenhof, Payerbach, Austria; 43-2666/52911; http://www.looshaus.at; doubles from $63.
Middleton Inn, South Carolina
About as far from Tara as you can get south of the Mason-Dixon line, Charleston's Middleton Inn is a stark 20th-century counterpoint to the adjacent Middleton Place, a carefully preserved 18th-century plantation. Determined to avoid the ersatz Colonial edifice you'd expect to see on the site, Charles Duell, a descendant of the plantation's original owner, commissioned the Southern architectural team of W. G. Clark and Charles Menefee to design a bold geometric structure. But the interiors make the case for antebellum charm: cypress paneling, hand-crafted furniture, and fireplaces in each one of the 54 rooms. Middleton Inn, 4290 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, S.C.; 800/543-4774 or 843/556-0500; http://www.theinnatmiddletonplace.com; doubles from $159.
Hotel Il Palazzo, Japan
Aldo Rossi's Hotel Il Palazzo, in southern Japan's port city of Fukuoka, couldn't be more majestic. The bold windowless façade—seven colonnaded stories of red Persian travertine divided by green copper-sheathed lintels—is as imposing as a Shinto shrine. Inside, there are Western rooms, as well as Japanese-style suites with tatami mats and shoji screens. Drinks at the first-floor bar come with more than a swizzle stick: the El Dorado displays a golden miniature of the hotel's distinctive front. Hotel Il Palazzo, 3-13-1 Haruyoshi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka, Japan; 81-92/716-3333, fax 81-92/724-3330; doubles from $188.
Hunting Lodge, Poland
In a vast forest in central Poland, Karl Friedrich Schinkel's palatial hunting lodge, built in 1824 for Prince Antonin Radziwill (one of whose descendants later married Jackie O's sister), takes the shape of a Greek cross. Germany's master of Neoclassicism created nothing more idyllic. A festival in honor of Frédéric Chopin, who was once a frequent guest, is held every September. Hunting Lodge, Antonin, Poland; 48-62/734-8114, fax 48-62/736-1651; doubles from $56.
Four Seasons Hotel, New York City
New York's Four Seasons may be I. M. Pei's hommage to the city's Jazz Age skyscrapers, but it's built out of the same limestone the refined Modernist used in his expansion of the Louvre. In keeping with all things grand, a backlit onyx ceiling rises 33 feet above the entrance hall. Approaching the elevated reception desk is a lot like meeting your Maker on Judgment Day, but if you pass muster you'll find the place to be unrepentantly sybaritic—bathtubs fill in just 60 seconds. Four Seasons Hotel, 57 E. 57th St., New York, N.Y.; 800/332-3442 or 212/758-5700; http://www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $675.
Grand Hyatt Berlin, Germany
At José Rafael Moneo's Grand Hyatt in Berlin, Scandinavian cool melts into Mediterranean hothouse. It takes only a quick glance around this compound of sensual minimalism in the heart of shimmering Potsdamer Platz to feel that you've arrived at a Grand Hotel for the 21st century. Moneo collaborated on the interiors with Zürich-based designer Hannes Wettstein to create sumptuous expanses of marble, cherrywood paneling, and red stucco. Bathrooms are a paean to today's Bürger—a deft mix of gray-blue granite, black marble, and stainless steel. Grand Hyatt Berlin, 2 Marlene-Dietrich Platz; 49-30/2553-1234, fax 49-30/2553-1235; berlin.grand.hyatt.com; doubles from $168.
Hotel Camino Real, Mexico City
Illustrating his design credo that "Mexico is not the country of siestas or burros and mañana," Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta's urbane Hotel Camino Real, at the edge of Mexico City's Chapultepec Park, makes innovative use of native materials, forms, and colors. Flamingo-pink honeycombed walls surround an outdoor fountain that looks more like a roiling ocean than what you'd typically find trickling in a hacienda courtyard. Once inside, however, all is sweetness and light. Hotel Camino Real, Mariano Escobedo, 700 Colonia Anzures, Mexico City; 52-5/263-8888, fax 52-5/250-6897; http://www.caminoreal.com; doubles from $156.
Greywalls Hotel, Scotland
Overlooking the greens of Muirfield Golf Course, a half-hour from Edinburgh, Greywalls seems made for the Scottish countryside. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901, it remained a private house until after World War II. Most of the 23 rooms have views of the Firth of Forth, rolling farmland, and the Lammermuir Hills, immortalized in Donizetti's florid opera Lucia di Lammermoor. Greywalls Hotel, Muirfield, Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland; 44-1620/842-144; http://www.greywalls.co.uk; doubles from $324. (Closed from late October to mid-April.)
Mielmonte Nikko Kirifuri, Japan
American architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown have put their trademark Pop-art spin on Japan in a new hotel and spa on the edge of Nikko National Park. The exterior of the Mielmonte Nikko Kirifuri is a streamlined version of an old Japanese village, perfect for the mountainous and misty setting, while the bedrooms are done up in vibrant fabrics inspired by traditional textiles. Best of all, the indoor pool is sheltered by a forest of green and yellow aluminum leaves that could be the handiwork of an Asian Matisse. Mielmonte Nikko Kirifuri, 1535 Kirifurikogen, Nikko-city, Togichi-pref, 321-1421, Japan; 81-288/501-212, fax 81-288/501-213; doubles from $230.
At a time when most architects followed the adage "less is more," the creator of the Fontainebleau, Morris Lapidus, took the view that "too much is never enough." When it opened in 1954, critics loftily dismissed the Fontainebleau as a kitsch extravaganza. Now the sprawling Miami Beach resort has been rediscovered by a new generation of style mavens. The curved façade and marble-pillared lobby are joyful, over-the-top visions of tropical splendor. With this boisterous landmark, Lapidus fulfilled his aim of conjuring up the consummate movie set—check out the sweeping grand staircase that leads nowhere. Fontainebleau Hilton Resort, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Fla.; 800/548-8886 or 305/538-2000, fax 305/673-5351; http://www.hilton.com; doubles from $209.
Michael Z. Wise contributes frequently to Travel + Leisure.