Philippe Starck's bigger splash

Buenos Aires' latest wows Ian McCurrach

When Argentina seemed to be sinking ever deeper into financial and political crisis a few years ago, Alan Faena, one of South America's leading fashion designers and entrepreneurs, conceived a luxurious hotel which he hoped would help to restore some of Buenos Aires's former glory.

When Argentina seemed to be sinking ever deeper into financial and political crisis a few years ago, Alan Faena, one of South America's leading fashion designers and entrepreneurs, conceived a luxurious hotel which he hoped would help to restore some of Buenos Aires's former glory.

"I wanted to generate a project that would represent the way the city is looking today," he says. The result is the Faena Hotel + Universe, Faena's claim for which is that it is "much more than just a hotel. It's a cultural centre that has a hotel in it."

The Universe comprises two restaurants, a market place, outdoor pool, terrace, gym, hammam and spa. It also has a small theatre space, El Cabaret, where performances begin next week, El Living, the living room space and library bar where jazz musicians play, and the LEA (Laboratory of Experimental Artists), where Faena supports painters, sculptors and performance artists. "We want to make a mark on Latin American culture and present it to the world," he says.

To turn his vision into reality, Faena courted the designer Philippe Starck, presenting him with material celebrating the history and richness of the city. Many architects and designers were sceptical, believing that Starck's minimalist look, synonymous with Ian Schrager's hotels, was "so last century".

But the Universe is a big departure from Starck's previous work. The design is grand, yet opulent and comfortable. "If you came here and didn't know that Philippe had worked on the project you probably wouldn't realise," Faena says. "Instead of his trademark white, we have red, and the design is much, much heavier. It's full of the passion and blood of our Latin culture, the melancholia of the tango."

The hotel is housed in the El Porteno building, a seven-storey grain silo built in 1902, in the heart of Puerto Madero, the regenerated docklands area on the edge of the city. Guests arrive via an 80-metre long corridor of engraved glass and velvet curtains in deep gold, which Starck calls "Le Catedral".

The 83 guest rooms fuse imperial style with contemporary extravagance, using dark lapacho wood and sandstone flooring. Marble, gilt, crystal chandeliers, etched glass and modern Rococo-style furnishings, including 18-carat gold swan chairs, are in abundance. Each room has a large TV, DVD and CD player.

Pampering is easy in the vast glass-walled bathrooms, which can be enclosed by red velvet drapes. Each has a massive bath with claw feet and separate cubicles for shower, lavatory and bidet.

The hotel has many features that will no doubt be copied by others. Already, the jet-set are dropping by in their droves, attracted by the high style and low prices. Apart from the room rate, minibar and laundry, which are charged in US dollars, everything else is charged in pesos making it as cheap as chips.

The atmosphere by the pool is very much party - during my visit,the head count of well-heeled and well-honed gay men was high.

Faena has plans to open in other cities, and a second, smaller Universe is likely to open in Rio de Janeiro's trendy Ipanema in late 2006.

The writer travelled as a guest of British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com), which offers returns from Heathrow to Buenos Aires via Sao Paulo from £697. The Faena Hotel + Universe (00 54 11 4010 9000; www.faenahotelanduniverse.com) offers doubles from $300 (£167) per night, including breakfast and transfers.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable