Hotels should be exemplars of creativity and individuality
When hotels made a distinction between architecture and 'interior decor' they took a huge step on the road to Disneyland.
I am sitting on the terrace of a hotel in Aberdeen, built in 1993, where the balustrade is Romanesque, the terrace furniture is French rococo and the conservatory is giant English cottage style with leaded windows. This is not a cheap hotel and yet it oozes cost-cutting. I suspect the building was the worst possible design-and-build contract which, in spite of its ugliness, was thought to be redeemed by the decor. The inside is bedecked with swag, ragged walls, tartan carpet (even the lawns are mowed to look tartan), ridiculous winged easy chairs and unnecessary frou-frou bits and pieces. I notice from the framed photographs on the piano that the place has been patronised by Kenneth Clarke, William Hague, Meatloaf and Mrs Thatcher. As well as these luminaries there are others who should be more discerning. Apart from myself (of whom there is no photo), David Bellamy is someone who, I would have thought, might have preferred an altogether more wholesome environment. Worst of all, our current prime minister smiles out from a silver frame.
A good hotel should be of its time. The Victorians built contemporary architecture with contemporary interiors and furnishings.
I recently dropped in for lunch at Burgh Island, in south Devon, which was an absolutely current work when it was built early in the 20th century. It still contains, thanks to the painstaking work of the current owners, a decor which is wholly sympathetic to the 1920s. In its day, it attracted another set of notable dignitaries, such as Noel Coward, Agatha Christie and Mrs Simpson. I assume they went because it was honest and beautiful. Today I doubt you would obtain planning permission for such a place. The only hope would be a cheap copy of south Devonian vernacular. It could even contain artificial stone. I have never understood the predilection for, or indeed the definition of, local vernacular. The prevalent style in Essex is that produced by the mass housebuilders, conforming to an interpretation of the vernacular only under the general term 'cosy'.
The role of the hotel in promoting new ways of living is paramount. Hotels offer architectural possibilities that might spark a demand for a variety of places to live in. I don't mind, even if the result is seen to be bad taste.
Imagine a hotel that provided rooms for five minutes, five hours, five days or five years.
Imagine a hotel that made no assumptions about acceptable behaviour. It could cater for the tradition of full English breakfasts and drinks in the bar at 6pm, followed by shepherd's pie; or for an anonymous rendezvous for a permanent resident.
Different spaces would attract different people at different times. For example, the long, thin cantilevered swimming pool on the roof of the Adelphi in Melbourne is an object that has to be used because it is unique - an escape from the usual quasi-Roman bath.
The whole building could be a test bed for different lifestyles, structures, building materials, food and furniture.
Why do all hotel rooms conform to variations on the standard plan, with the closet and bathroom lining a corridor that leads to a space with a bed and too much furniture? Life is too short to suffer the ideas of other people as to how I should behave in the strange environment of a home away from home.
Our lives are dominated by others, the worst of whom are interior designers who thrive on a lack of original ideas. HOTELS SHOULD EXIST AS TEST BEDS FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY.