Set at the edge of the desert in Spain’s northern Navarre province, Aire de Bardenas’s prefab pods are designed around the windows, with their views of the wheat fields and wind-scoured rocks outside. The setting, plus nooks with mini-mattresses and lounge pillows, make this possibly the world’s best hotel for getting a bit of reading done.
Built on steel stilts above the fragile bush of Australia’s Red Centre, the fifteen cabins at Longitude 131 combine the traits of a cutting-edge cube hotel (an environmentally friendly design, a lunar-landscape setting, walls of glass and an open plan) with canopied safari tent–style roofs and décor à la British Africa. It’s a combination that works surprisingly well, helped along by views of Ayers Rock in the distance
Technically these beachside villas are closer to cuboids, but even the geometry buff is probably more interested in the way the slate-grey structures taper off toward glass walls overlooking the Andaman Sea. The layout takes advantage of the natural slope of the beach, each villa graced with an uninterrupted view of the sand and surf.
Areias do Seixo Charm looks a bit like a Tetris game come to life, only the pile of blocks here is made of glass and polished concrete. And somehow it also manages to seem like an outgrowth of Portugal’s rugged Atlantic coast, with gnarled, salt-bleached tree limbs for support beams and towering glass walls that bring the outdoors in.
Here’s yet another designophile’s hideaway in an unexplored corner of Spain. Perched at the edge of a bluff in under-appreciated Matarraña province, each wood-clad cube at Consolación contains a guest room with sunken slate baths and all manner of high-tech electronics.
Call it an exercise in misdirection — a Shanghai hotel with the word “Himalayas” in the name, and it’s from the Dubai-based Jumeirah group. If that’s insufficiently mind-bending, it also happens to take the form of an enormous cube cased in tubular neon lights, a very long way from those little eco-bunkers in the desert.
In case it wasn’t already clear that rural Spain is the champion of the high-design box hotel, here’s an entire stack of precarious-looking cubes in the form of Rioja’s Hotel Viura. With an 18th-century church as its neighbor, the hotel isn’t the first thing you’d expect in a traditional Spanish wine village, but its unusual layout ensures lots of corner-office views of the town and nearby mountains.
Not to knock on Marrakech’s medina — you’ll spend time there no matter what — but a little breathing room nicely offsets that density, if we do say so. Turns out there’s also metaphorical space to play with the idea of a box hotel, here reconfigured as a Modernist cluster of forms and outcroppings for an exterior most refreshing. An eclectic art collection similarly enlivens the interiors.
The needle is still shifting, so to speak, so suffice it to say that airport hotels need all the architectural ingenuity that can be mustered. Trust citizenM to shake things up, though not quite how you’d expect; on closer glance, this seemingly staid rectangular prism skews closer to “shipping-container chic” than “interrogation chamber,” outfitting each pre-fabricated unit with the latest tech and gleaming future-mod charm.
Cube as in Rubik’s, if the photos didn’t give that away; come nightfall, the façade’s motley cast swaggers knowingly into the iconic. Inside, the aesthetic goes full tri-dimensional, pairing the decadent with the absurd in a parade of over-the-top visual puns. Squares may be, well, square, but anyone can tell you that a cube knows how to have fun.