There’s a scene in The Simpsons in which a cartoon rendering of architect Frank Gehry casually tosses a piece of paper onto the ground, gives it a look and then says to himself “Frank, you genius! You did it again!”
That joke is probably funnier seeing it than reading our recounting. And it’s certainly funnier if you are familiar with certain Gehry-designed buildings—like the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., the Experience Music Project in Seattle and, especially, Bilbao Spain’s Guggenheim Museum—which really do bear some resemblance to crinkled paper (if you squint a little).
To Gehry’s critics his designs are unstructured monstrosities that don’t blend into their natural surroundings. Spot Cool Stuff has some sympathy for this view. But there’s also something very cool—or at least undeniably distinctive—about his work.
Especially when you can spend the night inside one of his creations.
As you can in the Hotel Marques de Riscal in Elciego, Spain.
The Marques de Riscal is one of those hotels that’s impossible not to notice if you are in the same town as it. Elciego is an old, sleepy, low-rise village in Basque’s wine growing region. On a slight rise at the edge of Elciego’s stone-building center is Gehry’s modern, shimmering, multi-angled building. It was originally designed as a corporate headquarters but the clamor to see the inside was so great that the Starwood hotel chain sensed an opportunity and purchased the property.
While the outside of the hotel might look out of place the service and atmosphere inside is distinctively Basque. On the hotel’s top floor is an absolutely superb (and equally as expensive) restaurant that features local food—and the best views over Elciego. Homage to the region’s wine growing heritage is integrated into a stay at the Marques de Riscal, from the interior’s burgundy colored walls to the hotel’s wine tours to it’s excellent spa that features treatments with grape extracts and bathing in a combination of mineral rich hot spring water and wine. (And here we thought “wine therapy” involved drinking the stuff).
A stay at the Marques de Riscal can be excellently combined with a day trip to the Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum in Bilboa, 82km (51 miles) north of Elciego.
Note that the hotel is really two buildings connected by a glass walkway. We suggest the rooms in the “Gehry Wing” because, well, that’s the point of staying at the Marques de Riscal, isn’t it? We also like how several of the Gehry Wing rooms have walls that match the curvature of the building’s exterior. That said, some hotel guests prefer the rooms in the “Spa Wing” partly because they are quieter (the Gehry Wing rooms are below the hotel’s raucous restaurant) and partly because these rooms have a view of the Gehry building itself.
Whichever of the Hotel Marques de Riscal rooms you stay in you’ll never look at a crumpled piece of paper on the ground in the same way again.