A new benchmark for international design
by Giuliana Fratnik
Some think it looks like a slice of water melon, others a crescent moon, others still a ship. Unsurprisingly, we like to go for the maritime take even though the architect has never revealed the source of his inspiration for this spectacular building. Whatever it may be, Sao Paulo’s Hotel Unique, a Design Hotels™ member (you can book through www.designhotels.com), is widely applauded as one of the world’s most original designs. It is the work of Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake, who is renowned for his singular, dynamic style which has produced such dazzling buildings as the Istituto Tomie Ohtake (named after his artist father) in the same city and the spectacular Pantanal Aquarium in Mato Grosso.
The Hotel Unique is also one of the hubs of the Sao Paulo movida. Located in Jardim, one of the city’s most beautiful quarters, it has two huge 25-metre high and 50 cm thick walls at either end which hold aloft a massive inverted arch-style structure clad in green, weathered copper and dotted with large porthole-style windows. The reception, bar and lobby are all in the glassed-off areas at either end, their ceilings mimicking the curved shape of the exterior. The interiors were designed by João Armentano. Spectacular dizzyingly high hollows and corridors deﬁne the curved design reﬂected in each of the unique rooms and become features in their own right.
The furnishings and seating in the public areas are modern, verging on the minimalist, but the 96 bedrooms have a much warmer, cosier feel thanks to the extensive use of wood for the ﬂoors and the use of muted neural colour palette. The rooms at either end of all six ﬂoors also have a unique quirk of their own: their ﬂoors follow the curved shape of the façade, giving them the feel of a (very high-end!) skateboard park. The weathered green of the cooper that clads its exterior aside, the Hotel Unique really is green to its core. Its water comes from an artesian well and is used as efﬁciently as possible. Its energy use (air conditioning included) is monitored by the Building Manager System, an automatic programme developed to keep energy wastage to a minimum.
Waste oils are donated to a NGO which converts them to additives for biodiesel while the part-used guest soap is collected and recycled to wash ﬂoor cloths. However, the coolest and most famous areas of the Hotel Unique are the rooftop bar, the restaurant and the pool in the penthouse on the top ﬂoor and the roof. The Sky Bar is regularly listed as one of Sao Paulo’s top 10 attractions while the restaurant combines ﬁne food with a panoramic location. The city views from the rooftop pool alone make it worth a visit.