If the Bank Holiday has left you hankering for a final summer break, but a long weekend at Ian Schrager’s Miami Delano hotel seems too much of an extravagance in these financially nervous times, then fear not – there are a good number of less well-known architectural gems where you can escape and find a little creative inspiration at the same time.
Top of the list is Gio Ponti’s stunning 1960s modernist creation, Parco dei Principi (tel: +39 081 878 4644), set in a suitably stunning location on the Neapolitan Riviera cliffs of Sorrento, Italy. Making the most of the natural backdrop, Ponti set the hotel right on the cliff’s edge, backing it with 81ha of exotic gardens and pool, but it’s once you get through the doors that the real jaw-dropping starts. The lobbies are decorated with mosaic murals through to the 170-plus rooms, each boasting a unique floor and private balcony. The result is a cool space alive and vibrant with colour and material; top stuff and, with double rooms starting at 198 Euros, affordable stuff, too.
If you don’t like spending your Friday night at an airport, France might be a better option, especially now Eurostar gets you from London to Marseilles in under seven hours. And it’s in Marseilles that you’ll find Le Corbusier’s grand paean to communal living, The Unite D’Habitation, or Cite Radieuse. The complex is out-of-bounds to visitors, so staying in the compact (and, at 60 Euros for a double room, very cheap) Hotel Le Corbusier (tel: +33 4 91 16 78 00) on its third floor enables you to explore this gem to your heart’s content, including rooftop gym, crÃ¨che, bar, canteen and colour-flooded foyer.
If seven hours on a train is even too much, head for Brussels or Paris. Sadly, the hotels designed by Art Nouveau great Victor Horta and his biggest French fan Hector Guimard have disappeared, but a trip to the wonderfully baroque Hotel Metropole in Brussels will reward fans of Horta, who can take in his original house and studio in their transformation as MusÃ©e Horta (tel: +32 2 543 0490).
In Paris, Horta’s influence is evident in Guimard’s Metro entrances, but if they leave you hankering for more you can probably sneak into Guimard’s light-filled Castel BÃ©ranger, an apartment block at 14 Rue La Fontaine (XVI Arrondissement, M° Ranelagh), one of the first Art Nouveau buildings to be constructed outside the movement’s Belgium home.
But if immersing yourself in great architecture needs to be a calmer, get-out-of-the-city kind of thing, then how about a week in a Frank Lloyd Wright house? For this you have to venture a little further afield, namely Oak Park, Illinois, US and the tiny Cheney House Bed & Breakfast (tel: +1 708-524-2067). At $155 (£102) a night for one of the three suites it’s not B&B cheap, but it’s an authentic Wright house furnished with his pieces and a great base from which to soak up the 25 Wright buildings in the area. And should the romanticism of his turn-of-the-century Prairie Style lead to an unplanned offer of matrimony, you can nip off to his Pope-Leighey House in Woodlawn Virginia (tel: +1 703 780 4000) and even get hitched.
If you’ve recovered your senses by then, just hold a small cocktail party instead and toast yourself on not being in yet another Ian Schrager hotel.