In Depth

A design for the high life: the best hotel architecture

Cutting-edge architectural design is transforming the world’s luxury hotels. Ian Belcher selects some of the most spectacular boltholes

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Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania

Dripping with architectural awards, the sinuous form of Saffire Freycinet suggests a giant manta ray is swimming across the forested Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast. Designed by Robert Morris-Nunn of Circa Architects, a practice renowned for its ecologically sustainable work, the resort forms an organic part of the landscape, referencing the endless movement of the ocean, the sweeping dunes and, in its vast flowing roof held up by curved Tasmanian wood beams, the undulating peaks of the Hazards mountain chain. Beneath it, the 20 suites ripple across the earth like waves peeling off the shore. Add in the massive floor-to-ceiling windows of low-reflection glass, and the divide between the coolly Modernist interiors and the great outdoors slips away. The acclaimed interior design strengthens the union with the shore. Along with generous use of stone and timber, there’s a coastal palette of soft greys, taupe and green and blue, with orange a deliberate nod to the startlingly bright lichen that frescoes the area’s rocks and driftwood.

saffire-freycinet.com.au

North Island - Indian Ocean Seychelles

North Island - Seychelles

Image by Andrew Howard

North Island, Seychelles

Opened in 2002, North Island still sits at the cutting edge of castaway chic. Its sun-pickled, casual-if-eye-wateringly-pricey elegance, beloved of oligarchs and A-listers, is the work of Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, the architects behind Botswana’s much-lauded Jao and Mombo safari camps. Here they have designed an open-sided communal piazza using the Dalí-like columns of takamaka and upside-down casuarina trees, and containing sunken sofas, reflection pools and mother-of-pearl chandeliers. There’s a meandering 45m infinity pool and 11 two-bed villas, each with 450sq m of wood, thatch and tastefully muted earth tones. But for ultimate proof that this is the Christian Louboutin of barefoot luxury, witness Villa 11 – honeymoon choice of Wills and Kate. It tumbles down the forested cliffs with a circular-flow swimming pool, cinema lounge and sunken chill-out reception rooms, along with a humungous bath that gazes across East Beach to Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.

north-island.com

Fogo Island Inn, Canada

What exactly is lurking on the rocks off the east Canadian coast? A maximum-security prison? A high-tech lighthouse? A vast architectural installation? In fact it’s Fogo Island Inn, a deceptively old-fashioned and cutesy title for a £22m, four-storey, X-shaped slice of contemporary architecture that rises up out of the wild landscape with its tip supported on stilts – like the traditional island houses above the rocks. The 29-suite hotel, with its two-storey dining room that overlooks the Atlantic’s migrating whales and icebergs, a top-floor spa with three alfresco hot tubs, and corridors raked with dazzling ocean reflections, is the spearhead of a tourism initiative to restore the fortunes of the island east of Newfoundland. Built entirely by locals, the building’s stark minimalism is juxtaposed with warm interiors manufactured by Fogo’s craftspeople, which includes the furniture, colourful wallpapers, quilts and rugs – essential items for an area that claims to experience seven wild and woolly weather seasons.

fogoislandinn.ca

Amangiri - Fitness-Yoga Studio

Amangiri, Utah

Is it the seductive ochre and cream colouring? Or a trick of the bright, brittle sun that mutates into a divine soft pink dusk glow? Who cares. The stunning linear architecture of Amangiri – Peaceful Mountain – merges seamlessly with the starkly beautiful desert around south Utah’s Canyon Point. That’s exactly as it should be. The 34-suite resort is designed to blend into the wilderness (40km from the closest humanity) thanks to its natural stone hues, but also its proportions, perfectly suited to the immense scale of its surroundings. Amangiri’s pavilion, with suites and plunge pools stretching either side, sits on an escarpment overlooking a pristine valley that’s swaddled by lofty flat-topped bluffs – a spectacular setting for Aman’s trademark pared-back elegance. Of several fabulous features, the swimming pool – set in a sunken courtyard, wrapped around the escarpment with a hot tub underneath the natural rock wall – is a total show-stopper.

amanresorts.com

L’And Vineyards, Portugal

Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan has gone back to the future at L’And vineyards. Blending natural stone, slate and timber with earthy art and contemporary furniture and fabrics – all washed with subtle, moody lighting – his 21st-century reinterpretation of Roman and Arabic atrium architecture defines the communal buildings at the heart of the resort on the rolling plains of Alentejo. Each ofits superbly tasteful 22 suites has massive windows with views across the vineyards and lake to Montemor’s medieval hilltop castle, along with slick Modernist fireplaces, white-walled patios and private terraces. But that’s not the end of it. Ten of them are Sky View suites with retractable bedroom ceilings (along with interior gardens and plunge pools) that allow you to lie under a million-tog duvet of stars courtesy of some of Europe’s darkest, least-polluted night skies. Heavenly indeed.

l-andvineyards.com

© Gösta Fries

Copperhill Mountain Lodge, Sweden

This is what happens when top design hits the piste. Copperhill Mountain Lodge, the work of renowned ‘romantic Modernist’ architect Peter Bohlin and Swedish firm Aix Arkitekter, has both streamlined and supersized the idea of a traditional ski chalet with two slim linear accommodation wings joined at the head. The layout of the lodge, perched on top of Mount Förberget in the world championship ski resort of Åre, creates a vast, airy lobby crossed by mesmerising wood supports above a one-storey slate fireplace and three-storey copper wall. There’s a stunning pool washed with serene mountain light from huge windows, a prize-winning spa with nine treatment rooms that resemble Sami tipis and 112 slick guest rooms clad in Oregon pine. As well as having artworks that include two monumental glowing heads outside the restaurant by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, there’s a tasteful riot of designer furniture, with pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, Philippe Starck and Tom Dixon.

copperhill.se

© José Manuel Bielsa

Hotel Viura, Spain

A striking addition to the recent trend for ultra-modern hotels and wineries to be juxtaposed with traditional Rioja bodegas – witness Frank Gehry’s Marqués de Riscal and Zaha Hadid’s decanter-shaped tasting room at Lopez de Heredia – Hotel Viura is further evidence of Spain’s increasingly alpha design credentials. The startling tumble of white and burgundy buildings next to the 16th-century bell tower of San Andrés church is intended by owner-architects Joseba and Xabier Aramburu to resemble a bunch of grapes, but the angular higgle-piggle suggests the local harvest has been reinterpreted by a tipsy Cubist. And the drama isn’t just outside: seriously hip interiors feature brushed concrete, backlit glass and acres of light wood, alongside contemporary artworks and a wine-barrel restaurant ceiling, while the rooms’ private terraces offer views of Villabuena de Alava’s mellow medieval stone as well as the gently flowing Rioja landscape. Hotel Viura serves as much more than just a base for a superb vino break; it’s also a repository of inspiring design ideas to take back to your own home. Cheers.

hotelviura.com

Ian Belcher is a London-based writer who has stayed in design hotels on every continent (except Antarctica, which he’s visited only by boat). The one he’d most like to visit, though, is in his home town: The Beaumont, with its Antony Gormley room.

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