W: what is it good for?

A building has been going up–or did it come from outer space?–on Barcelona’s Sant Sebastià Beach that is popularly refered to as “Hotel Vela” (sail hotel), but whose commercial name is actually Hotel W Barcelona. That’s right: W, as in Dubya. Just what has ex-president George Bush II got to do with this hotel? Probably nothing, since he’s in the oil-and-war business. But it seem ironic that the name of this hotel would inadvertently honor the most despised US president ever: this building is turning out to be the most despised new construction in Barcelona since work began several centuries ago on the Citadel.

And just as the atrocities committed by Bush junior and his band of inept cronies prompted all sorts of protest, resistance and terrorism movements throughout the world, this building has similarly given rise to an anti-hotel neighborhood group that organizes events such as this one

as well as a Facebook group called GAHV: Grup Anti Hotel Vela Barceloneta (Anti Hotel Vela Barceloneta Group) with over 500 members.

The reason the building is despised is obvious enough: it is a huge, pretentious, badly proportioned and unsightly behemoth that casts a shadow on Barcelona’s most frequented and beloved public space: its beach. It is situated only meters from the coastline, which together with its soaring height means it can be seen from just about anywhere in the metropolitan area. In short: it is a big fat pig of a building whose curving profile resembles a beer belly more than it does a sail. Oh, did I mention that the building is ugly?

What everyone is perplexed about is this: why was there no public consultation process or environmental assessment before permission was granted for this project, and why was it exempted from Spanish coastal setback laws?

There is little that can be done at this point about Hotel W, save throw a bomb at it. Let it serve instead, for the many architecture students that visit Barcelona, as a perfect example of how definitely NOT to situate, proportion, or design a building–just as Dubya’s presidency serves as an example of how NOT to run a nation. As with any done deal, one has no choice but to make the best of it.

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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