Inhospitable Hospitality

I am intrigued by the desire to build vacation places where conditions are considered unmelcoming. Is this, by necessity, the wave of the future?

Have you seen the new Bond film? (me neither) They blow up the ESO hotel.  The ESO is primarily used to house scientists working at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.  Conditions there are extreme.  It sits on top of a mountain in a desert (zero humidity) with average wind speeds of 25mph (40KM/hr) and temperature ranges from about 14F to 80F in a single day (-10C to 24C), oh and one last thing…regular earthquakes of 8.5 on the Richter scale.  To keep guests happy they built a steep tropical garden inside the 115 ft-wide transparent dome. This circular courtyard, decorated with palm trees and cactus plants, runs down to a 30ft swimming pool.  It is beautiful.

ESO Hotel Garden

Then there is the Hotel Aire de Bardenas at the southernmost part of Navarre (Spain). The site for the four-star hotel is a wheat field, near a spectacular natural park with semi-desert landscape and again, lots of wind and too much sun.

Hotel Aire de Bardenas - Spain

Those wooden bales are used locally to transport the harvest, but have been re purposed as windbreaks.

I love the creative ingenuity that has gone into these and I love that the architecture was strongly lead by the nature of the landscape and capturing the views, but am not sure I want to go for a stay.  What do you think?

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Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. tina on November 30, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Sure, I’m game. Anything different I like. Hopefully they would offer incentives? (Read cheap)

  2. Michelle Derviss on November 30, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    I choose a hotel by their amenities and aesthetics.
    My partner chooses a hotel by the cheapest price.
    Last year I booked us for a weeks stay at the Grand Hyatt Resort in Kauai.
    The experience completely changed his perspective.
    We were in the midst of some of the worlds most breathtaking natural beauty just a short walk or drive from the resort but the resort was so incredibly beautiful that we never felt the need to jump up in the morning and leave the hotel to go explore the island.
    We did of course go explore the island but also enjoyed our time equally on the hotel grounds which are beautifully designed and maintained.

    I mention this story because the strength of excellent resort design can attract those to even inhospitable locations.
    I have no interest or business in Dubai, but I’d love to go stay at a couple of those resort complexes just for the shear escapism that they present.
    I’d also like to view Dubai’s new architectural petting zoo which is done on the grandest scale ever. Disneyland for architects !

  3. rochelle on December 1, 2008 at 6:42 am

    You are right Tina…I am game for anything…just not sure I would pay a premium for it.
    Michelle – interesting you comments about not wanting to leave a resort…I never though about it in quite that way…hotel developers do really benefit in the sale of Food and Beverage (for example) if their guests feel no need to leave the property.

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