The future is already here. At least you could be forgiven for thinking so if you've booked into any of the latest generation of ground-breaking hotels including the new eco-conscious Aria in Las Vegas (arialasvegas.com); Japan's new pod hotel, 9h Kyoto (9hours.jp), where each stay is confined to an efficient nine hours; or Poland's "electric art hotel", Blow Up Hall 5050 in Poznan (blowuphall5050.com).
In these pioneering properties, guest room doors and dinner orders are commanded by iPods, and bedside consoles control everything from wake-up calls to the contents of your minibar.
So are future hotels one big 1950s Technicolor dream come true? Yes and no. In many ways the future is as green as it is chrome and glass. Take Brazil, a country with an innovative design community that is currently attracting the attention of visionary international architects. In the run-up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, we can expect vanguard hotels from this corner of Latin America, and all the signs point to a focus on sustainability. The Warapuru Eco-Resort Hotel, from the Anouska Hempel Design stable (anouska hempeldesign.com/hotels/warapuru), has a rainforest-clad roof and Bond villain hideout aesthetic, a long-awaited project finally slated for completion this year.
Design Hotels (designhotels.com), originally synonymous with high-concept, ultra-modern, minimalist tourist addresses, is currently moving toward a less Kubrick-esque view. Its annual Future Forum this year follows the theme of Hybrid Thinking, bringing experts from far outside the field of architecture, design and hospitality to the table. "We're going beyond the idea of 'interdisciplinary' as you'd understand it from an architectural perspective," explains Design Hotels' Bernd Neff. "The forum will draw on a huge multi-industry pool to define an entirely new hotel experience – seen in such properties as the Life Medicine Resort, Austria, where a hospital has been combined with a luxury hotel and a Michelin-starred restaurant."
We've already seen the rise of barefoot luxury resorts and rustic luxury hotels along with low-key community-based tourism. A natural extension of these concepts can be found at one of Design Hotel's newest members, Sextantio Albergo Diffuso. The fading fortunes of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a 16th-century hilltop village in Abruzzo, Italy, have been revived with this new hotel, scattered across multiple buildings throughout the hamlet and drawing on locals as staff. The village has been spruced up, its medieval origins recalled in everything from the décor to the food, which is grown locally and adheres to 16th-century principles and recipes.
But what of the Jetsons' futurism that's long pervaded the image of the 21st-century hotel? Flying cars aren't here but the flying cruise soon will be. Aircruise is a luxury hotel airship concept developed for Samsung Construction, the people responsible for Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building. With equally lofty ambitions, the kite-like hydrogen and solar-powered Aircruise (seymourpowell.com) will make leisurely transatlantic trips before anchoring above iconic city skylines. Just as peripatetic is the solar-powered Alpine Capsule (rosslove grove.com), the construction of which is due to start this year. It looks more like an Anish Kapoor sculpture than a hotel, with rounded mirrored surfaces offering 360-degree views of wherever you want in the world, given that this lightweight lodging is entirely portable. The hotel, in effect, can come to you.
The Galactic Suite (galacticsuite.com), which is due to take bookings in 2012, will lift the weekend break to new heights: a floating space station in Earth's orbit with room for up to two couples. A four night all-inclusive break will set each passenger back £2.8m because it includes an 18-week astronaut training programme and hotel transfers in a billion-dollar space shuttle. Bearing in mind that the Galactic Suite orbits the Earth at almost 19,000mph, the four-night break would actually include round-the-world trips every 90 minutes and the chance to see 15 sunsets daily.
From up above, to down below and a whole generation of underwater hotels. Masked in mystery, not least its exact location, the Poseidon Undersea Resort (poseidonresorts.com) will have a lift taking guests 40ft under the surface of the South Pacific to suites encased in clear acrylic, four inches thick. The planet's largest planned underwater hotel is Hydropolis (hydropolis.com), in coastal Dubai, with 220 pod-like Plexiglas seabed suites and an undersea train transfer to the shore. Dubai's economic meltdown notwithstanding, the hotel is due for completion in 2013.
And water brings new life to a disused quarry in China, in the shape of the Songjiang Hotel, run by Intercontinental and designed by the British architects, Atkins (atkinsdesign.com). The hotel is embedded in the quarry wall and has a restaurant set under the flooded, lake-like quarry pit. Up above, a grass roof completes the organic-looking design and also serves as a filter for rain water.
The recent winner of the coveted Radical Innovations in Hospitality (radicalinnovationinhospitality.com) award is also a large-scale recycling project. With some several thousand oil rigs soon to be out of commission in the Gulf of Mexico, Morris Architects (morrisarchitects.com) has decided to convert some of them into hotels. Wind- and wave-powered, the rigs already have mini-marine eco-systems attached to their underwater structures, so there will be an inbuilt "reef" to explore, plus a man-made beach on the roof. Neighbouring rigs are planned as restaurants, casinos and nightclubs.
Closer to an immediate reality is the world's first revolving hotel, offering a room with all the views, on Croatia's Solta Island. Brainchild of London-based architect Studio RHE, this multimillion-pound project should be realised by 2012 and will incorporate a 61-metre-high, three-storey rotating section with 50 suites. Feeling queasy? Don't. The hotel will make just 1.3 rotations a day (almost imperceptible) and the suites will be accessed from a static, central hub, home to reception and swift lifts to the ground floor. Who needs flying cars?Reuse content