I was looking for a hotel shaped like a perfume bottle the other day. Afternoon lulls induce quite the creative tizzy, as images of a giant spritzer atop a skyscraper manifested at the back of my mind. Naturally, I had to immediately browse around online to get it out of my system. Disappointment, as you might have guessed, reigned supreme for this particular shape (architects, I'm looking at you), but I did stumble upon some other, rather quirky designs.
Hotel Marques de Riscal, Spain
When architecture legend Frank Gehry designs a hotel, you have to sit up and take notice. The five-star property in Elciego easily stands out amidst the region’s vineyard-dotted landscape with its undulating structure and curly metal ribbons, and is inspired by another Gehry favourite—the Guggenheim Museum, situated beside the Nervión River in Bilbao.
Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, Australia
The hotel is located in a small township surrounded by the enormous biodiversity of Kakadu National Park. Every part of this ‘crocodile’ can be accessed by guests. The structure pays homage to the protected area’s diverse wetland, river and sandstone habitats.
Hotel Inntel Zaandam, the Netherlands
Part of the renowned Inntel Hotels chain, this property near Amsterdam has shown up in every ‘weird hotel’ list ever since its opening. If you think the building looks like someone hastily mixed up blueprints, you’re not far from the truth. The structure is meant to be a playful stack of the traditional Dutch architecture found in the Zaan region.
Hotel Silken Puerta América, Spain
While the exterior somewhat resembles a Pantone shade-card, the inside bears an unexpected surprise: each floor has been designed by a different firm, thereby guaranteeing a different set of colours, shapes and materials. The luxury hotel in Madrid brought together 19 architectural companies from 13 countries during its design process, including Pritzker-winning architects Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel.
Elephant Villa at the Kumbuk River Resort, Sri Lanka
The eco-lodge’s claim to fame is this 40-feet pachyderm built out of biodegradable materials. The elephant’s upper deck houses two bedrooms, a lounge and a toilet, while the ground floor is a dining-cum-living space. The rustic accommodation in Buttala reflects its gentle neighbours—the wandering elephants of Yala National Park.
Háng Nga Guesthouse and Art Gallery (Dalat Crazy House Hotel), Vietnam
The ‘Crazy House’ is a haunting fairytale structure designed after Háng Nga, the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Resembling a giant banyan tree, the hotel in ÄÂÂÂÂà Láº¡t showcases sculpted design elements in the form of animals, spiderwebs, mushrooms and caves, reminding visitors of expressionist paintings, the surreal works of Salvador Dali, and the whimsy of Walt Disney. Vietnamese architect Nga produced paintings instead of blueprints, which local craftsmen transformed into the bizarre yet organically-flowing structures we see today.
Tianzi Hotel, China
The bearded figures are meant to resemble three iconic gods (the Sanxing) dating back to the Ming dynasty. From left to right, the deity Shou is associated with longevity; Fu represents fortune; and Lu represents status. Given that China announced restrictions on ‘weird’ construction in 2016, it’s unlikely Beijing will see other, similarly-modelled buildings anytime soon.
Needless to say, all of these properties are heavily Instagram-worthy, their funky appearances now part of decades-strong brand USPs. A Hard Rock hotel in Florida was the latest to grab headlines with its guitar-shaped architecture. But traveller reviews show that despite the eyeball-grabbing designs, the service at these hotels is anything but a gimmick—their hospitality remains top notch, so that guests can continue to enjoy the best of both worlds.