What lies beyond this hotel’s traditional frontage is stylish, clever – and totally unexpected
Explore a luxury, modern hotel in Barcelona, a boutique getaway in Sri Lanka, and a Dubai restaurant that’s full of design surprises.
It’s the floating catwalk stretching across the light-filled atrium – dramatically connecting the hotel’s Catalan facade to the entrance hall – that first indicates the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, which opened its doors in 2009, will prove full of surprises. This landmark building on the famous Passeig de Gracia was once well-known to city dwellers as the Banco Hispano Americano: in fact, the bank’s old safe boxes have been incorporated in the hotel’s Banker’s Bar as testament to its stalwart past. Now, however, a modern, daring, creative design has breathed new life into the building’s bones. The visionary behind the hotel’s interiors is the Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola. With an exemplary background in product development, this was – astonishingly – her first hotel commission. It was not only a courageous move on her part to take on a project of this scale – the site measures more than 17,000 square feet – but showed belief and commitment from the renowned hotel group who championed Urquiola and her vision. It took three years for the designer to create the hotel’s unique interiors – a delicate balancing act as she sought to allude to the property’s heritage, marry the simple linear lines of the building with a crisp, clean design, and draw on her own perceptions of a grand hotel’s elegance. One of the most striking impressions is the way that Urquiola has harnessed the Mediterranean light to maximum advantage: it pours down from the many apertures in the cathedral-like