December 18, 2019

10 Most Unusual Projects of 2019

We’re finding friendly spaces in unlikely places. From shipping containers to actual caves, here are the top 10 unusual design projects we covered in 2019.

Loong Swim Club in Suzhou, China by X+Living, Best of Year Honoree for Kids’ Zone

Wavy leather-upholstered lounge seating and the pool’s dropletlike iron drums recalling condensation signal an aquatic theme at the parent-child swim center integrating leisure and entertainment. Read more about this project

Amazon Spheres in Seattle by NBBJ

Buckminster Fuller would likely approve. The Amazon Spheres, on the Seattle campus of the online retailer’s headquarters, are three conjoined domes in low-iron glass and painted steel. Designed by NBBJ, they total 70,000 square feet and function as an experimental workplace for Amazon employees (the restaurant, Wilmott’s Ghost, is open to the public). “It’s nature as an experiential conduit for productivity and wellness,” NBBJ interior designer Tara Schneider explains. Read more about this project

Schmatz Shipping Container Beer Hall in Tokyo by I In

Three young Germans opened a food truck in Aoyama in 2014, dishing up sausages and Bergbaum, Hafenstoff, and Edelweiss draft beer brewed in-house. Five years later, the trio have 14 locations, including a new one tucked into a shipping container in a prime location near the Toyko Dome stadium. Read more about this project

AutoCamp Yosemite by Anacapa Architecture, Geramia Design and M-Rad Architecture

No one visits Yosemite National Park to stay inside. The whole point is to commune with nature, the Sierra Nevada Mountain landscape specifically. Which was the driving force behind AutoCamp Yosemite, a hotel by Anacapa Architecture and Geremia Design. Although “high design” and “boutique” could be used as descriptors, it’s no typical hospitality project. The 102 rooms are a collection of custom Airstreams, luxury tents, and freestanding cabins. Read more about this project

Aquatio Cave Hotel & Spa in Matera, Italy by Simone Micheli

Tuscan born and raised, Simone Micheli had ventured down to the Basilicata region, at the arch of Italy’s boot. “I was somewhat familiar with Matera,” he begins, referring to the hill town known as the city of sassi, or rocks. Here, grottoes were inhabited by humans from the Stone Age through, surprisingly, the 1950s. This is where 35 guest rooms and suites ascend the rocky face of the hill at the Aquatio Cave Hotel & Spa. Beneath the carved-out vaulted ceilings, some of them clad in limestone, most of the flooring is the existing stone, cleaned and polished. That changes to a newly made substance in the guest rooms and suites. Called coccio­pesto, it is a terrazzolike com­posite consisting of tiles that have been broken into small pieces and mixed with mortar, then packed down. Read more about this project

Drawing Hotel in Paris by Nido Architecture

When they were commissioned for the interiors of the Drawing Hotel in Paris, Nido Architecture co-founders Chiara Patrassi and Alexandra Bernaudin found them­selves teamed with an unusual set of collaborators: the hotel’s owner and director Carine Tissot, who is also co-founder of the city’s annual Drawing Now Art Fair, and the six contemporary artists she had given carte blanche to decorate the hotel’s hallways. Read more about this project

BnA Alter Museum Hotel in Kyoto

Immersive art has taken on new meaning in Japan. It’s thanks to Kenji Daikoku, Keigo Fukugaki, Yuto Maeda, and Yu Tazawa, the multidisciplinary co-founders of BnA, their hospitality company that aims to showcase and support local emerging talent—a portion of profits goes to each artist—and galleries while providing guests, or patrons, the unique experience of “stay­ing in an art piece.” The concept has expanded to Kyoto with BnA Alter Museum, the largest hotel so far, occupying a 10-story, 18,000-square-foot building by Toyo Architects and Engineers Office. Read more about this project

Sister City by Atelier Ace

A trendy 200-room hotel on the Lower East Side isn’t so unusual. And neither is it being fitted with gleaming cherrywood details. Classy and tasteful, check and check. But tranquil in-room services in partnership with the Headspace guided-meditation app? A lobby sound installation that creates “music” based on the weather? Original, hand-stamped Isamu Noguchi lanterns? All starting at $150 a night? Now we’re talking unique, and that’s the vibe at Sister City, the 80,000-square-foot property on the Bowery from Atelier Ace, the creative agency that launched the game-changing Ace Hotel in Seattle in 1999 that’s grown to a chainlet of nine sites worldwide. Read more about this project

Randy Polumbo Converts 1899 Lighthouse Into a Green-Powered Artist’s Retreat

Internet shopping has reached a whole new level with Plum Gut Grotto. Sculptor Randy Polumbo was searching government websites for old fuel tanks for a future project and ended up purchasing Orient Point Light, a 19th-century lighthouse off Long Island, in Plum Gut Harbor, that he’s spent five years converting into an artist’s residency. Read more about this project

IvyStudio Gives a Montreal Dry Cleaners a Parisian Pied-à-Terre Ambience

Lugging one’s dirty laundry to the dry cleaners isn’t exactly as glamorous as a visit to a chic Parisian pied-à-terre—but why shouldn’t it be? For Les Nettoyeurs White’s first flagship, a construction just a few years old in a residential neighborhood on the south shore of Montreal, IvyStudio took inspiration from classic French apartments. Read more about this project

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