Us and Theme

If Venice, the Wild West, or Asia can be themes for parks, casinos, or hotels, then why not contemporary architecture? “Theming” has, after all, been a part of architecture for quite some time, as the interesting collection of essays Variations on a Theme Park, edited by Michael Sorkin (New York: The Noon Day Press, 1992), makes evident. Even Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli can be seen as a theme park of sorts, so architecture is on some level intrinsically bound with the very idea of theming.

What is significant about Hotel Puerta de América in Madrid, in which each of its 14 levels is by a different architect or designer, is that it is a theme hotel whose theme is precisely contemporary architecture and design. Of course, merely having interiors on different floors designed by different architects or designers does not necessarily a theme hotel make. What makes Hotel Puerta de América one is the fact that clients choose which designer they would like to sleep with when they make a reservation.

In most hotels, choice is normally limited to amenities, degree of luxury or size. But here, the design–specifically the designer–becomes the object of choice.

There are lots of theme hotels designed by well-known architects and designers. But the themes of these hotels are “Santa Fe” or “Swan Lake”: the architecture may be themed, but the theme in such cases is not architecture itself.

Curiously, the Hotel Puerta de América does not bill itself as a theme hotel. The word “theme” is absolutely nowehere to be found in the hotel’s promotional literature or on its website. The prices are also quite a bit higher than a “normal” theme hotel. Perhaps this explains why.

Oh, in case anyone is wondering, the rooms with the highest occupancy rate are Zaha Hadid’s.

About Rafael Gomez-Moriana

I am an architect, writer and educator. rafagomo.com chronicles my architectural making, writing, teaching and curating activity, while criticalista.com is an archive of my writings as well as a platform for venting personal rants and observations. I studied architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and at the Berlage Institute (the Netherlands). I direct the University of Calgary’s architecture term-abroad program in Barcelona and teach at CIEE, and have previously taught in the Metropolis Masters Program in Architecture and Urban Culture as well as at Carleton University and the University of Manitoba.

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