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Olivia Squire is the Editor of THE SHIFT, a blog about contemporary high-end travel trends, news and hot hotels from LE Miami, the travel trade event celebrating the world’s most creative and rebellious travel brands.
2017 is the ‘year of greenery’ according to Pantone, reflecting our urge to go back to basics and recapture the ‘real’ earth. These hotels are helping us to keep it green and serene with their urban interpretations of the natural world.
The ‘Outside In’ House
Airbnb joined up with Pantone to breathe life into this fantastical fairytale, inviting city-dwellers to shed the skins of their daily lives and head into the woods – literally. Step over the threshold and be confronted with a dense forest, before trying to find a frog to kiss in the swampy, lilypad-strewn bathtub; brewing green gin or foraging herbs in the greenhouse; and snuggling up in teepees under the fairy lights. By day, the communal table becomes a workshop for terrarium making and wallpaper painting; and when darkness falls, up to four guests get to experience a happily-ever-after sleepover.
This striking Singaporean beauty is arguably more garden than hotel, with over 15,000 square metres of leaves taking up twice the amount of space as the land it occupies. Outside, zero-energy sky gardens steal the show, with four floors of wave-like formations washing over the windows to evoke futuristic rice paddies and hanging birdcage cabanas overlooking the obligatory infinity pool. Inside, an entire wellness floor provides respite with mini waterfalls, a 300-metre walking track and herb garden, while tree-trunk patterns and rampant foliage twist through the remaining spaces.
Renowned for their knack for seeding stories into their properties, for their Berlin hangout 25hours collaborated with designer Werner Aisslinger to create a half-urban, half-jungle narrative reflecting its location between the city centre and zoo. Concrete, glass and shrubbery clash for a Planet-of-the-Apes-on-acid vision, where fur-lined hammocks and creeper-clad metal trellises are a stylish spot for monkey business. We love the steamy jungle sauna and restaurant NENI, constructed from the parts of old hothouses.
One of the lingering lessons of last year’s hygge mania was that immersing ourselves in nature can be a reservoir for creative inspiration. The Renaissance Barcelona Fira supercharges this feeling with typically Mediterranean flair, installing a vertical garden of palm trees and tropical vegetation that snakes up the building’s central atrium and into the meeting rooms and public spaces. Plant life is a recurrent motif built into the core of the property, from the irresistibly kitschy palm tree windows to the high ceilings of the restaurant, designed to accommodate growing trees.
We’re tempted to rename this cute B&B a non-ironic ‘love nest’, given its romantic backstory and leafy sanctuary vibes. Named after WW1 lieutenant-general Leon Alfons Ernest De Witte, the mint-tiled facade conceals a white and green interior palette in memory of our hero’s parents, Louis De Witte and Elisa Du Jardin. Owners and real-life couple Karel and Annelise occupy the top floor, with two ground-level suites opening on to a verdant, secret garden bursting with unruly plant life. Whether you’re loved-up or flying solo, the invitation to take refuge under its emerald shadows is impossible to refuse.
Kowloon, Hong Kong
The neon-soaked streets of Hong Kong’s ‘dark side’ district, Kowloon, add up to a serious sensory assault. When the industrial artifice gets too much, the calming Hotel Icon is a welcome enclave. The hotel was realised in partnership with a crowd of local and international designers including French botanist Patrick Blanc, responsible for the vertical garden of 8500 plants meandering along the lobby wall in a dramatic flick. Settle in underneath to sip an appropriately coloured juice at café Green, one of several on-site dining spots, before following the garden path to your room.
During the summer month of June, bees and butterflies flutter over Hotel Stadthalle, the first city hotel in the world with a zero-energy balance. They’re chasing the scent of Vienna’s largest lavender field, unconventionally located on the roof alongside flashing solar panels, flamboyant red roses and, if pending plans are approved, three wind turbines. Whilst you’ll want to catch it in bloom, post-harvest the purple flowers are used in cosmetics and toiletries, and the upcycled interiors (think nightstands made from old books) and charming ground-floor garden are a year-round joy.
New York, US
1 Hotels is already setting the standard for urban eco-chic in Miami and NY’s Central Park, so mindful millennials should be flocking to check out its just-opened Brooklyn Bridge outpost. Well-heeled hippies-at-heart and hipsters alike can rejoice in the brand’s signature blend of reclaimed materials and native greenery in a tactile, warm design that encompasses hemp-blend mattresses and rooftop fire pits. The 1 attitude is perhaps best encapsulated in its foodie offering, which here deservedly drops all the right buzzwords – farm-to-table, local, seasonally-foraged – peppered with nostalgic luxuries like takeaway picnics and a lobby farmstand.
Forget Disneyland: Dubai is where hoteliers come to enact flights of fancy that defy belief (and budgets). In this ever-escalating competition to build the tallest, costliest and most fantastical hotel in the world, the Rosemont has thrown down the gauntlet by announcing plans to create an artificial rainforest in the Middle Eastern desert. Early renderings evoke Jurassic Park, minus those pesky carnivorous dinosaurs – think splash pools, adventure trails and waterfalls, with a sensory rain system replicating the steamy humidity of a real rainforest.
The symbiotic relationship between hotel and ‘hood has become a hot topic of late, with brands clamouring to explain how they’ll showcase and support local talents. This new kid on the block in Milan’s emerging quarter of Porta Volta will push the concept to lush new limits when it opens next month, with a design engineered to capture the area’s regenerative spirit. A glass facade is bookended by cascades of jasmine, ivy and wisteria; a public square invites contemplation below; and sunrise/sunset yoga sessions set the tone amid the olive trees surrounding Milan’s first rooftop pool.
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