Hotel as art

Top to bottomEarlier this week, I was at a conference at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel. Built (I think) when Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, it’s undergoing some serious refurbishment that had half of the atrium level under construction while we were there: only really a problem one day when we were having a meeting in the lobby one floor down, since it’s open between the two floors and the sound of power tools drifted in.

I was reminded somehow of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona: a cathedral that’s been under construction for over 100 years, but which you can walk through and see the odd juxtaposition of soaring pillars, stained glass windows, and guys wearing hardhats — art, construction site and museum all at the same time, although I don’t think that they hold services there.

The Marquis, with its incredible atrium structure (that’s a 5-photo top-to-bottom panorama on the right), has a similar sort of interior feel, with a view down to the construction below. Although more minimalistic than the Gaudi-designed cathedral, there’s beauty in the interior design, especially in the repeating, slightly organic-looking shapes as you look down the atrium from the 40th floor. I could imagine the elevator shaft and the floors spreading out from it as a giant ribcage. An elegant but seemingly vestigial spiral staircase was like the curl of a seashell. A circular viewpoint repeating on each floor appeared as the backbone of a fish. And looking down from the top into the atrium below, an abstract face, like an African mask.

There’s also a large sail-like structure being erected in the atrium, like a miniature version of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai; I’m not sure of the purpose of the structure.

With the atrium suffused with natural light from the giant skylights above and windows at either end, the subdued lighting of the floors appears as a warm glow. From the rooms, which open directly out onto those corridors and therefore to the atrium, there’s the slightly disconcerting effect of opening the door from your very normal hotel room and looking across — and down — the atrium, as if you’d walked through the looking glass into a living piece of art.

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