Standing atop the Puerta America Hotel, enjoying the view of Madrid from the 13th floor bar, I wondered what would be revealed on the floors below? How would each be different? And which would be my favourite?
I wouldn’t normally be so eager to explore every floor of a hotel but this place is different. The Puerta America is a five star luxury hotel with a twist: 19 of the world’s top architects and design studios were given complete creative freedom to develop their own space. Each floor is unique to its designer, creating innovations that are a bold departure from the usual hotel environment.
Embarking on a tour of the hotel – which occurs daily for guests – I was eager to see the best in avant-garde design and architecture. But as I worked my way down through the building, amidst the giggles and gasps of my companions, I felt a little disappointment creeping in.
The spaces were certainly unique: from all black, white or red rooms to three-dimensional metal cubist corridors and space ship like pods, plus a few more conventional-style rooms. There was something for everyone. But, and this is a big but, there were some basic aspects of comfort and functionality that seemed lacking. And as Puerta America claims to offer “an eclectic, daring space that does not sell comfort short” I was surprised.
Square baths offered awkward angles, making them impossible lie down in comfortably; smoked mirrors were a disaster waiting to happen when applying make-up and open space toilets and baths stripped away all sense of privacy between those sharing a bedroom. This was in addition to sometimes claustrophobic corridors and at times over-designed, cramped rooms.
However, there were some great rooms and fortunately mine - designed by Katherine Findlay - was one of them, a serene white pod. Exiting the lift onto a curved white glimmering pastel coloured polka dotted lobby, smooth glossy white walls led me down to my retreat. Reminiscent of 1960s interpretations of life in the space age Findlay’s design felt spacious and the room boasted a wonderful city-scape view.
The Puerta America isn’t only about its rooms though. Complete with gym, swimming pool, and two restaurants, it also attracts a local in crowd who head straight up to the buzzing Skynight Bar.
And the hotel stimulates more than your visual senses: taste buds are in for a treat too. You can pop into the MAD restaurant for breakfast, brunch or a relaxed, informal meal. But for something truly special, make sure you dine at Lagrimas Negras. Following a splendid tasting of over 20 dishes I was impressed at the subtle reworking of classic Spanish ingredients: tapas of grilled octopus within a tomato and potato sauce, and a peppery blood sausage stew being particularly notable. The provision of eau de toilette, toothbrushes, shoe shine and tissues in the loos were a touch that showed attention to customer care.
The Puerta America is proud of that fact that it allowed its designers to do as they pleased. This can be a challenge to your perception of how a hotel – and in particular the room you are to stay in – should be.
The wow! factor went a bit too far for me but despite this I had an extremely enjoyable stay, the overall atmosphere was great and the staff welcoming and keen to make sure guests had all they needed.
It was certainly an experience. As a curiosity the Puerta America works but if novelty is not your thing you’d be wise to seek something more traditional.