Architectural Tower of Babel

This might be one of the most wicked and outstanding hotels in the world in any category you might think of. An architectural Tower of Babel or a 13-floor living textbook for future-willingto-be architects. A building for anyone passionate about modern design and architecture. A benchmark for a new type of travellers.

Puerta América hotel in Madrid is a unique and innovative project by Silken hotel group. HAving completed 21 more or less standar hotels in most of Spain’s major cities the authorities of the company whose motto says “passion for perfection” decided it is time for a change. Hotel five-star “revolution” was to begin in Madrid. A convenient location in the city centre  in a close vicinity to underground, bus and railway stations was selected. But instead of inviting one architect, a number of artists, architects and designers were invited to take part, to work together to develop something unseen before. And not just “some” architects – these are truly THE biggest names in the contemporary architecture world – Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel to mention just a few. Each of the selected designers was appointed one floor for their design, which resulted in creation of several entirely different worlds, a mixture of styles, material, technologies.

According to the official description, the building is a “space that invites people to dream [..]. Originality, luxury, innovation and formal freedom define a hotel that awakens its guests’ senses. Each of the floors showcases a different concept in hotel rooms. All play with different materials, colors and shapes to create spaces that bring together the best in avant-garde design and architecture, where creativity and the freedom to develop each of the spaces has been the hallmark.

To give you an idea about the momentum of the project, here are just some of the numbers: 3 years of work, entire cost: 75 million euro, 34 thousand square meters of usable area, 342 rooms, but above all – 19 architecural studios from 13 countries filling in every corner of space with an architectural vision of the 21st century.

Here’s a selection of photos, descriptions, ideas that come together in this one of a kind project.

The façade – Jean Nouvel

Multi-coloured shell of the hotel is made of electronically controlled canopies that limit the access of sunlight and that reveal verses from Paul Eluard’s poem “Liberte” in English, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Greek, Russian and Italian. Bright colours, ranging from orange, red to purple and dark blue refers to the “colourful period” in the artist’s work.

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Car park – Teresa Sapey.

The architect also uses colours that serve as a practical map for visitors of the hotel on a two-storey parking intensification of colour points out to an exit. The space is also filled with pictograms – a man with a dog, a pointing finger, deer in run) that suggest the direction of movement. These graphic symbols are also composed from the lines of the same poem.


Reception desk and meeting rooms – John Pawson

Smooth arcs of openwork walls made of fine, vertical oak boards enclose the core with lifts, a reception with changing rooms. Economical operation with natural materials and warm soft lighting introduce the feeling of tranquility into the hall.


Restaurant – Christian Liaigre

Restaurant Lagrimas Negras (Black Tears, also a title of a legendary Spanish album by Bebo Valdesa and Diego el Cigala) combines influences of Spanish design heritage of Andalucia, Catalunya and Galicia by mixing materials and patters of ornaments orginating from these regions.


Cocktail bar – Marc Newson.

Malmo bar designed by an Australian Mark Newson is dominated by a massive counter from a single block of marble from Carrara, weighing 6 tons and measuring 8.25 m. due to its weigh, it was installed before the fasade of the entire hotel was created. The effect of teh bar is completed with 400 thin, laser-cut aluminium profiles that flow smoothly to create the ceiling.

329_lFirst floor – Zaha Hadid

This is the most popular floor among the visitors. Sinuous lines and fluid spaces are characteristic for this one of the most recognized currently architect. Thanks to limitless possibilities created by materials used, it was possible to create an impression of a unique space, in which beds, tables, shelves flow out of the walls. This floor is deprives of any angles which may cause the visitors to loose the sense of orientation. The entire floor has just three colours – it’s either pure white, pitch black or insane red/orange.

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Second floor – Norman Foster

The English lord offers a concept of an “urban sanctuary” that isolates the visitor from the outside’s world. This floor is elegant and the materials used – luxurious: oak wood, alabaster and onyx. The bathrooms are divided into two parts, where the sinks are on the boarder of the sleeping area, and a futuristic shower is also a part of the hall’s wall.

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Third floor – David Chipperfield.

The architect adheres to the idea that a hotel space does not need excessive extravagance, its should expose the most important piece of furniture – the bed. Centrally located sleeping place is covered by a kind of a blue canopy. The floor is characterized by low-key desaign and simplicity, but the materials used are luxurious – again, the Carrara marble, hand-processed terracotta, and black-clue-white colours a la Dolce and Gabbana.

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Fourth floor – Plasma Studio: Eva Castro & Holger Kehne

This is the most insane floor, in my opinion (and I’m probably not the only one to think so). Young architects joined the project from a competition. They reinterpret the idea of hotel space – in the corridors and halls they offer a futuristic, 3-dimensional forms from satin stainless steel, based on the geometry of triangle. It’s easy to completely lose orientation of what is floor, wall and ceiling. Broken forms, this time made of glass, are also found in rooms.

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Fifth floor –Victorio & Lucchino.

This floor is an explosive mixture of styles, colurs and materials. In the hall a visitor is met by two white marble sphynk and red velvet armchairs. Every room was designed separately, using different fabrics – cotton, velvet, linen – and art deco furniture. Walls are decorated by megapaintings by Sergio Cruz that combine florist motives with elements referring to Jackson Pollock’s action painting. Some claim that the eclectic style almost borders with kitsch.

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Sixth floor – Marc Newson.

This floor is a triumph of luxury and comfort of simplicity – although, at first a visitor is shocked by the effect of the hall with red-painted, lacquered wood. The room are calm, dominated with individually designed furniture with black upholstery and a free-standing bath, which – thanks to floding, vertical partitions – can become a part of the bedroom.

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Seventh floor –  Ron Arad.

Snow-white corridors lead to rooms full of characteristic to Arad ovoid forms. Central part of each room is a wall from which a large oval bed, desk, bath and sink grow out. Mirrors are surrounded by light bulbs to resemble a theatre dressing room.

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Eighth floor – Kathryn Findlay, Jason Bruges

This is a space as if taken straight from science fiction films. In the hall, equiped with leather seats, are surrounded with memory walls made of panels from fiber glass on which a projection of blurred shapes of a passer-by, registered a split second earlier by cameras. The corridors, for a change, offer a flock wallpaper – a futuristic interactive installation that, once it registers movement of a passer-by – activates a ray of blue light moving just above the floor. In the rooms a visitor will see a bed hovering above the floor – as it is attached to the ceiling with a metal construction – which also constitutes a bed.

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Ninth floor –  Richard Gluckman

The architect carried out a concept of a “matrioshka” – box inside a box – thus in the rooms one will find many niches, compartments and recesses. Rooms are in two colour versions – blue on the North side and yellow on the South. This space is very neat and clean, using a combination of both luxurious materials such as Spanish granite and very usual ones such as plastic, aluminium and mat glass.

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Tenth floor –  Arata Isozaki.

This project showcases a clear inspiration by the Far East. Minimalist concept is based on contrast choice of colours, lighting and materials – bright hall changes into dark corridors, bright bathrooms contrast with dark bedrooms. Rooms are equipped with traditional Japanese partitions sohji that limit excessive penetration of sunlight. Once your eyes get used to teh darkness tou will see a palette of shades of grey, black and brown and factures of elegant materials: carved wood. In bathrooms the visitors have a cuboid bath, you can also use traditional clothing – yukata. All these elements combined create a sense of diving into the world of orient that offers comfort.

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Eleventh floor – Javier Mariscal and Fernando Salas.

Work of two Spanyards – a renowned graphic designer and an architect. The hall welcomes the visitor with a colourful sculpture by Mariscal. In the rooms the elements that stand out are hand painted flower motifs on the walls, floors from multi-coloured terracotta and design’s classic furniture.

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Twelfth floor and penthouse – Jean Nouvel.

This is again the work of the famous Frenchman. Designed in cooperation with renowned photographers – French Alain Fleischer (east apartments) and Japanese Nobuyoshi Araki (West apartments). The walls in the dark hall again bring the text of the poem present of teh shell of the bulding. Between the doors appear projections of round pictures. In the rooms huge photographies  located on ceilings, walls and movable partitions, that allow a free arrangement of space. Another interesting element is the lighting of the ceilings – on a delicate net different pictures – projections appear. Lying in a bed and watching them a visitor has an impression of watching scenes as if taken from Luc Besson’s “Grand Bleu”. An immense bath made of corian, located centrally in the room, makes a huge impression. Of course, the apartments located on this floor, have impressive panorama of Madrid.

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Additionally, the hotel is surrounded by a garden by B + B Studio that is to serves as a space accessible for all the locals living in the surrounding area. A pine wood was planted here, accompanied by light pergolas and wooden installations protecting the plants. The surface was covered with a special kind of sand used on corrida arenas which creates an interesting effect, juxtaposed with the neighboring brick buildings. The garden is characterizes by simplicity and multiple concentric natural forms. A single contrasting element in the garden is a sculpture by another architecture legend, Oscar Niemeyer. A red, steel, 5-meter tall sickle is – according to the author – a metaphor of courage and idealism, but others claim it is a reflection of ideological beliefs of the Brasilian architect, known for his fascination with communism and friendship with Fidel Castro.

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