Architecturally significant homes aren’t just for coffee-table books. They’re meant to be lived in. By you. Even if just for a few inspiring nights. Here are three design escapes.
Responsible for so much of the modern furniture, typography and architecture we love today, the Bauhaus school in Germany was as influential on the world of design as The Beatles were on 20th-century music. From 1925 to 1931, students there were educated in architecture, industrial design, metalworking, painting, photography and even colour theory and weaving.
And then, in 1933, the school was closed under pressure from the Nazi regime, which considered it a threat, due to its emphasis on individualism, creativity and intellectualism. There were three campuses during its lifetime, but founder Walter Gropius designed the largest one, in Dessau, where you can now spend the night in a dorm room. It’s an easy 90-minute train ride from Berlin’s Zoologischer station – and, upon arrival in Dessau, a pleasant 15-minute walk through the quiet little town over to the campus. The restored Bauhaus Building is one of the greatest and most faithful architectural restorations I have ever seen. I swear to God, the canteen looks like an Apple Store.
The rooms are ridiculously affordable and spotlessly clean, with bare walls and hard floors, yet each also has a beautifully designed (of course) bed and furniture by Bauhaus designers and illustrious alumni. Communal bathrooms are down the hall.
If rising temperatures, ever-more vicious storms and floods and Leonardo DiCaprio haven’t convinced you that climate change is real, perhaps a trip down south to “the last great wilderness on Earth” will do the job. For the past 13 years, explorer and environmentalist OBE Robert Swan has been hosting the International Antarctica Expedition under the aegis of his company 2041 – the name, a reference to the year that a global moratorium on mining and drilling in the white continent will expire.
“The greatest threat to our planet,” Swan is fond of saying in TED talks, “is the belief that someone else will save it.” 2041 is about inspiring activism, and taking ownership of this pickle we’re all in. The journey begins at Ushuaia in Argentina, aboard the Sea Spirit, which sails down the Beagle Channel and into the choppy waters of the Drake Channel, accompanied by landscapes in vivid colours, majestic albatrosses and masterclasses on the history and geology of Antarctica. Eventually, you’ll circle around Cuverville Island, Neko Harbour, Paradise Harbour and Lemaire Channel, all along the western coast of Antarctica – and witness, first-hand, an ecosystem of ice, water and wildlife not yet out of balance.
Expect statuesque icebergs, whales, gentoo penguins and the starriest night sky you’ll ever see. The 10-day journey is not for the fainthearted, of course; but perhaps the hardest part is being accepted for the ride. There’s a rigorous screening process, in which they’ll want to know your intentions; and the cost of the trip has often prompted crowd-funding bids in the past. If you make it through, you’ll want to do more than Instagram the shit out of the place.
Everyone knows that city circuits are the best kind of F1 races to watch. And the latest addition to the 2017 Formula One calendar – the Baku City Circuit – may just be the jewel in the crown. The second-longest racetrack in the world, it snakes past UNESCO heritage sites (the 15th-century Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a vast royal complex, and the iconic 12th-century Maiden Tower), dazzling modern architecture (the glass-and-steel Flame Towers) and the capital’s famed Caspian coastline.
It’s also one of the most technical and challenging tracks out there, offering very little margin for error, thanks to the absence of run-off areas around its angular chicanes. A relatively unexplored Eurasian gem, with a beautifully preserved old city and a futuristic Zaha Hadid designed cultural centre, the millennium-old city of Baku has the potential to turn an adrenaline-fuelled F1 weekend into one of the coolest holidays of your life.
When Pitchfork launched a three-day music festival in Chicago in 2006, it was still just another hipster, music website. A decade on, Pitchfork has become the gatekeeper of the new guard in international music; has had titles like “tastemaker” conferred on it; and its festival is a fantastic showcase of the journal’s accumulated might.
Held annually at Chicago’s Union Park, and in Paris since 2011, it’s got eclectic line-ups, great food and a deeply indie vibe: The sort where, say, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak performed before they became household names around the world; where artists as low-key as Sufjan Stevens give grandiose performances in large feather wings; where pop divas like Carly Rae Jepsen can incite mosh pits; indie songstresses like FKA Twigs turn into A/V phenoms; and where rap meets saxophones, and collaborations tend to be spontaneous and stirring. If you’re looking for an alternative to the immediate release of raging on chemicals and brain-deadening BPM, this is it.
Bhutan, the land of happiness, has not one but two reasons to be happier, as Le Méridien Thimphu and Le Méridien Paro, Riverfront open their doors to pamper you silly.
LE MÉRIDIEN – THIMPHU
A quaint town. Mystical monasteries interspersed with fortresses. Warm, friendly strangers smiling at you when they pass you by. The formidable Himalayas soaring above you protectively. No, this is not a ﬁgment of your imagination, nor is it a dream. This is Bhutan. Set in this “Land of the Thunder Dragon”, is Le Méridien Thimphu – the largest ﬁve-star hotel in Bhutan, a ﬁfty-minute drive from Paro International Airport.
With 78 inviting guestrooms and suites to choose from, the hotel has three F&B options that cater to the most discerning palate. While Latest Recipe serves local and international cuisine and Sese Shamu brings to the table authentic ﬂavours from South-East Asia, Latitude 27 is a cosy café that turns into a bar after the sun sets. Not to forget that the swimming pool and spa are capable enough to keep you in a leisurely trance for as long as you like. For events and weddings, you can always book the hotel’s Tsho-Khang Grand Ballroom, which can seat as many as 300 people.
The ballroom also has a dedicated driveway that allows you to arrive in style. And should you feel like venturing out, the National Textile Museum, Buddha Point and the Arts and Crafts Market are just around the corner, brimming with myths and legends waiting for you to unravel.
LE MÉRIDIEN PARO – RIVERFRONT
Paro is a little haven tucked away in the valley country of Bhutan. At the heart of this beauty is the largest and only global ﬁve-star this township has seen – Le Méridien Paro, Riverfront. It takes 10 short minutes to reach the hotel from the international airport. And once you’re here, you ﬁnd that it is the only hotel with direct access to the lazy Paro river.
So, if you’ve been wanting to have dinner under the stars by the riverside, this is where you can experience it. The hotel boasts a restaurant that specializes in PanAsian gourmet cuisine. It’s well-equipped with a spa, a ﬁtness centre and a swimming pool for you to unwind in. It also has a regal ballroom with a high ceiling and a spectacular view of the Himalayas that gives it a sense of grandeur.
Better still, the main attractions like the Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) or The National Museum are just a stone’s throw away. So, if your idea of an ideal holiday is to dip your feet in the river and get enchanted by nature, you know where to go. If this doesn’t convince you to visit Bhutan, we’re not sure what else will.
Turquoise waters mingling with azure skies. Emerald palms glistening over sun-kissed beaches. The soul-calming roar and crash of the surf – JA Resorts & Hotels beckons you to experience the magic of the Indian Ocean with stunning properties in the Maldives and Seychelles.
JA Manafaru – Maldives
The Maldives can cast a spell on its visitors, making them return to the shimmering atolls, season after season. But JA Manafaru, Maldives — a luxury resort on a 35-acre private island — is a place you never want to leave. A direct seaplane from Male Airport will get you here within 75 minutes. You could choose from seven different accommodation options, as each one has a private pool. We recommend, the Sunset Villa or Sunrise Villa – over-water villas with private decks, inﬁnity pools, i-Spa bathtubs and glass panels in the ﬂooring that let you peek at the marine life.
The resort also has six world-class dining options that cater to discerning palates. But if you’re looking for a tipple, head to The Cellar — an underground wine cave. During your stay, plunge into the depths of the sapphire sea with experienced 5-star PADI and SSI-certiﬁed teams or participate in water sports like windsurﬁng, kayaking, jet-skiing and wakeboarding. But if you’d rather stay on land, lounge by the swimming pools or indulge in relaxing treatments at Calm Spa & Salon. The aromatherapy massages by Elemis are an absolute must.
Enchanted Island Resort by JA, Seychelles
This otherworldly archipelago of 115 islands, is something out of a dream. But if you’re looking to fulﬁl a Castaway fantasy, stay at the Enchanted Island Resort – a secluded hideaway, just 15 minutes away from the main island. The word “exclusive” doesn’t even begin to describe it. With only 10 Creole-style colonial villas, each one featuring private beach access and an inﬁnity pool, amongst several other luxuries such as a private sundeck and a French bathtub overlooking the endless ocean, as well as a personal butler at your beck and call!
Better still, if you’re a group of 24 people, you can call this private island resort your own. Book it for your next big family vacation. The island resort also has a gym, a restaurant and bar, a Yoga Pavilion, a library and the Serena Spa. But if you’re looking for privacy, an in-villa barbeque experience can also be arranged. The resort also organizes excursions for those who wish to explore neighbouring islands.
Each December, as winter’s chill envelops Newfoundland and Labrador, in far eastern Canada, its residents prep their candy-colored houses for a series of masked visitors. The practice may sound slightly sinister, but Mummering, as it’s known to the area’s English and Irish descendants, is a joyous, Halloween-style ritual. Brought over from Britain in the 19th century, Mummering deals in the art of disguise, where groups of friends or family members travel door-to-door in their neighborhood, cloaked head to toe in costumes. The trick is for the host to identify each Mummer, at which point everyone celebrates with some whiskey or a slice of Christmas cake.
If you’re not a Newfoundland and Labrador native, the best way to join in the spirit of this quirky custom is by making a trip to the province’s snowy’ capital, St. John’s, where an annual Mummers Festival begins in late November. Over two weeks, it features various events, such as an Ugly-Stick Workshop, in which participants embellish sticks with bottle caps and tin cans meant to create a mighty racket during the festival’s culminating Mummers Parade, with hundreds of costumed souls marching through town. After the parade, crowds gather to unmask, mingle, and drink Purity Syrup, a sweet, fruit-flavored concoction similar to punch. Think of it as the biggest holiday block party you’ve ever seen.
HOTELS: Lopota Lake Resort & Spa – A lakeside resort in the Kakheti region, known as the Napa Valley of Georgia.
Rooms: This old Soviet printing plant in the capital has been turned into a high-design hotel where le tout Tbilisi goes to hang out. The property’s second location in Kazbegi offers breathtaking views of one of the highest peaks in the Caucasus Mountains.
RESTAURANTS: Cafe Littera – The beautiful garden setting is as enticing as chef Tekuna Gachechiladze’s light-handed takes on Georgia’s classic comfort food. You can also learn to whip up your own khachapuri at Gachechiladze’s cooking school and cafe, Culinarium.
O, Moda, Moda: This mash-up of cafe, art gallery, and vintage clothing store feels like a little bit of Brooklyn in Tbilisi.
The microclimate that surrounded us there in the Kakheti region is one of Georgia’s kindliest, which explains why the wide plain stretching out from the hills is lined with row upon row of grapevines. Georgians have been making wine all over the country for some 7,000 years, but Kakheti is deemed the best place for it. Many households still make their own wine the old-fashioned way, fermenting the juice with its seeds and skins, then filtering it and burying it to age in large clay amphorae called kvevri. Traditional Georgian wine often has a fresh, raisiny flavor, and the natives knock it back by the pitcher.
The man who transformed Georgia from a nation of casual tipplers into a formidable wine exporter, Alexander Chavchavadze, introduced modern European wine-making methods to the country in the early 19th century. But that wasn’t the half of it: he translated Voltaire and Victor Hugo into Georgian; he brought Georgia its first grand piano and its first billiard table; he fought Napoleon as a Russian officer, and later championed Georgian nationalism against Russia. In short, Chavchavadze spun the whole country around so that it faced west instead of east.
This patriotic polymath is regarded today as a kind of Georgian Thomas Jefferson, and Tsinandali, his estate built in 1818, is his Monticello. The two-story structure mixes Italianate stonework with a wooden, Ottoman-style loggia in an elegant multicultural mash-up. The garden, much celebrated in its day, reminded contemporaries of Richmond or Kew in England, but with a wilder soul. Dum as pere called it, simply, the Garden of Eden. The spirit of Georgia lives here.
Paintings along the walls inside chronicle the great man’s life and melodramatic death. We see Chavchavadze in his horse-drawn carriage just as his scarf is caught in the spokes—ironically, he had brought the horse-drawn carriage to Georgia, too. Moments later, he was pitched headfirst onto the pavement, dying a few days afterward.
What happened to Chavchavadze’s home in the aftermath of his death echoes strikingly today. In 1854, the Muslim insurgent Imam Shamil swept across the mountains from neighboring Dagestan and raided Tsinandali, a reprisal for Russian expansion in the Caucasus. Shamil’s men burned parts of Tsinandali and took Chavchavadze’s daughter-in-law Anna hostage, along with 23 others. Shamil held his prisoners for nine months while Alexander’s son David scraped and borrowed the money to ransom his wife (it bankrupted him).
A painting at Tsinandali records the eventual hostage exchange, which took place on a river raft. Georgia’s past is never far away— its people refuse to let it go. In Tbilisi, which lies under the ancient gaze of the ruined Narikala fortress, this past is particularly present. I love the city for its smoky evocation of bygone centuries and cultures. Tbilisi is poor and run-down in many places, but its magnetic pull is somehow stronger for all that. Indeed, Georgia’s ongoing culture wars have left Tbilisi with a handful of sleek Modernist monuments that, while forward-looking, can appear jarring in a city so comfortable in its old skin (the locals wickedly dubbed a recent wavy-roofed footbridge the “Always Ultra” for its resemblance to a maxi pad).
The Rooms Hotel Tbilisi has managed to strike a nice balance. Like its Kazbegi cousin, it has taken a hulking Soviet shell—it used to be a printing plant for the newspaper Pravda—and made it funky inside. In the lobby hangs a large self-portrait by the flamboyant Georgian painter Eteri Chkadua—in this one she’s riding backward on a zebra. The hotel’s courtyard attracts Tbilisi’s smart set, who come to drink mojitos and nibble very good fish tacos.
You’ll find the same kind of cosmopolitan crowd in the spacious garden behind Tbilisi’s Writers’ House, a handsome Art Nouveau mansion built in 1903 by the man who brought brandy to Georgia (after his death, Georgia’s Writers’ Union took it over). Chef Gachechiladze now leases it for her restaurant. It’s one of the loveliest spots in town, surrounded by high walls hung with black-and-white photographs and lined with clusters of pretty people on wooden benches set around low tables. We dined there on a balmy August night under a full moon that shone through the branches of a towering pine tree.
As soon as she opened, in May 201S, Gachechiladze started taking heavy flak from the guardians of classic Georgian cooking. She puts mussels instead of meat in her chakapuli, a stew made with sour plums, tarragon, and white wine. She just happens to like mussels. In Minghrelia, Georgian cooking’s heartland, they eat a heavy porridge called elarji made of corn-meal and cheese. Gachechiladze lightens it and fries it up in croquettes. It all tasted mighty good to me, but tweaking traditional recipes is not something Georgians applaud.
One could argue that Santa Fe has already gotten its reset in the form of Javier Gonzales, So, the city’s first openly gay mayor. He was elected in 2014 after running on the slogan “Dare to grow young,” a reference to the town’s aging population (the median age is 44, seven years higher than the national average) and youth exodus (the under-45 population has sharply declined in the past decade).
On a bright, breezy day in early May, I met Gonzales at his office in city hall. Long-limbed and handsome in cowboy boots and jeans, he told me that Santa Fe “can’t be afraid to move forward” on issues that matter to people in their 20s and 30s: affordable housing, job growth in industries other than tourism and government, green energy, and nightlife. Gonzales plans to bring more film and digital media to town, not only to increase employment opportunities but also to diversify the cultural landscape, which leans disproportionately toward crafts and visual arts. He has challenged the city’s institutions to support creative work that is more inclusive, and “not just for the patrons,” as he put it.
I thought about this mandate at the opening of “Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico,” on view until Mar ch at the New Mexico History Museum. Rather than the white, middle-aged crowd you might expect to see at an exhibition in the city’s most touristy district, the attendees were young, tattooed, and diverse. One was Julia Armijo, a seventh-generation Santa Fean who had come with her daughter, Justice Lovato, the founder and president of a local car club called Enchanted Expressions. Lowriders, Armijo told me, are works of art that are “built, not bought.”
Perhaps the best example of Santa Fe’s broadening definition of art is the ascent of Meow Wolf. The collective’s bowling-alley complex, which, in addition to the House of Eternal Return, contains studios, offices, and a youth-education center, is four miles across town from the Plaza, in the Siler Road District. The area, which was once dominated by auto-repair garages, metal shops, and old manufacturing buildings, has swiftly become a creative hub. Several small theater companies have sprung up: Teatro Paraguas, which performs in a black-box space; Wise Fool New Mexico, a nonprofit circus troupe; and Adobe Rose Theatre, which opened in January’ in a former door factory. The Arts and Creativity Center, a city-backed development prow ding live-work spaces for artists, could be completed there by next summer—a major step toward making Santa Fe, a town that depends on art, more hospitable to the people who create it.
Vince Kadlubek, Meow Wolf’s 34-year-old CEO, radiates the entrepreneurial savvy of Tim Ferriss and the monomaniacal intensity of Captain Ahab. As the collective’s chief fund raiser and spokesperson, he is superhumanly busy. At 9 am. on a Tuesday, he had not yet slept. Seated in aback room of Meow Wolf headquarters, Kadlubek, who grew up in Santa Fe—his parents are retired public-school teachers—expressed both pride and frustration in his hometown. “The cultural identity of Santa Fe was so valuable, and powerful, and controlled, that it had very’ little ability to change, to be agile,” he told me. A decade ago, like so many young Santa Feans, he moved away—in his case, to Portland, Oregon—but he returned after a year.
“I played this out in my head,” he recalled. “If Santa Fe keeps the same old identity, it becomes less and less attractive to anew generation. The demographic that is attracted to it grows older and older, and we just start to see the vibrancy—the actual health and sustainability—of the city that I grew up in and love start to come into question.” He pounded a fist on the table. “When I got back, I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something’.”
In 2008, he founded Meow Wolf with 11 other artists. In a former hair salon, the group hosted shows and punk-rock concerts while developing its signature creative style: immersive, colorful, multimedia, hyper-collaborative. Initially, Meow Wolf “had zero entry’ point into the art world of Santa Fe,” Kadlubek told me. But eventually the establishment took notice. In 2011, the Center for Contemporary Art commissioned the group to create the Due Return, an interactive 5,000-square-foot ship with a backstory about traveling through time and space to an alien planet. The project was a hit, and brought commissions for installations in Chicago, Miami, New York, and elsewhere.
Around the same time, Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin, though a sexagenarian himself, had grown concerned about his town’s lack of youthful vigor. So in 2013, he purchased a dormant 128-seat, single-screen theater, the Jean Cocteau. On a spooky, windy night, I attended a showing of Blue Velvet. It was instantly clear to me that the theater also serves as a youth hangout. There are board games and a wall of books signed by authors, like Neil Gaiman and Junot Diaz, who have given readings. In addition to popcorn with real butter, the concession counter sells com dogs, turkey Reubens, and deep-fried Twinkies. “Is George ever here?” I asked a girl with a half-shaved head. Yes, on Wednesdays for game night, she told me. “He really loves this place.”
The house of eternal return. Santa Fe’s unlikely new cultural destination, is a two-story Victorian built by the art collective Meow Wolf inside a converted old bowling alley owned by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. The decor recalls the 1970s, with faux-wood paneling and afghan-covered bed
s and a hamster cage in a child’s bedroom. You follow various passageways—through the fireplace, the refrigerator, a closet—and find yourself in fantastical worlds that cling to the periphery of the house like moss. The
re’s a forest of neon trees. A Star Trek-ian spaceship. A mobile home plunked down in the middle of a desert.
The 22,000-square-foot installation is a haunted house without the monsters, an amusement park without the rides, an acid trip without the drugs. It is embedded with clues about the mysterious fate of a family who lived there. You can choose to simply steep yourself in the abstract visual stimuli, or you can attempt to piece the narrative together. In an upstairs office, I found the Perry Mason crowd: visitors of various ages pulling books from shelves, riffling through spiral notebooks, unpinning papers from a bulletin board, and clicking through files on a computer.
“It’s, like, a lot of Illuminati stuff,” Anna, a blond 16-year-old, said with teenage earnestness. She could have been discussing Dungeons & Dragons. “It’s about the occult or time travel,” said her friend Sabrina, an 18-year-old with a pixie cut who was flipping through a legal pad like an extra in a crime show. The House of Eternal Return looks exactly like what it is: a surreal fantasia concocted by a group of 150 artists with a $2.7 million budget. Though it’s nothing like the soothing pastels and bright landscape paintings on display at Santa Fe’s many galleries and museums, visitors have flocked to it. In the six months after it opened in March, the exhibit brought in 350,000 visitors and revenue of $4 million.
Santa Fe’s boosters like to say that more art is sold in Santa Fe than in any American city other than New York or Los Angeles—a surprising claim when you consider that the town’s population barely grazes 70,000. Collectors from all over the world travel to buy at its internationally renowned summer fairs: the Traditional Spanish Market, the Santa Fe Indian Market, and the International Folk Art Market. Santa Fe also has more than 200 galleries and a dozen museums. Much of the work is characterized by an overwhelming Southwesternness. One friend, an editor at the Santa Fe-based Outside magazine, summed it up as “burros with sunsets.”
More than a million tourists come each year in search of this Southwestern aesthetic. Santa Fe, a guidebook by longtime resident Buddy Mays that I picked up in the gift shop of the New Mexico History Museum, explains that the town’s quaint image was deliberately crafted as a means of driving tourism. Beginning around 1912, the year New Mexico was granted statehood, civic leaders sought to define Santa Fe’s architectural style, set restrictions on signage, and draw attention to Hispanic and Native American arts. The idea was to give the city a historic regional identity and the patina of an exotic travel destination.
The plan worked. Too well, some would argue. For years, Santa Fe has been trapped inside its own successful branding. Besides the art, there’s the ubiquitous turquoise jewelry and the inescapable red and green chiles. There’s the low-slung-, mud-brown adobe architecture, the result of a strict zoning ordinance passed in 1957 that remains in effect today. There’s the pervasive undercurrent of New Age spiritualism. Since the early 1980s, when an Esquire cover story called it “the right place to live” and areal estate boom brought a wave of second-homers and celebrities (Sam Shepard, Ali Mac Graw, Jane Fonda, Val Kilmer), Santa Fe—or the idea of it, anyway— has been entrenched in the popular consciousness.
Countless articles have praised its clean high-altitude air, tasteful old-world aesthetic, and quiet rhythms. Magazine spreads pay homage to “Santa Fe style,” a term (codified by a popular 1986 coffee-table book of the same name) that describes the town’s characteristic mix of Pueblo and Territorial Revival architecture and an interior-decor approach that favors folk crafts, Native American artifacts, and Western accents, like bleached steer skulls. Many locals told me that they try to avoid their town’s most popular destinations, like the Plaza, the historic downtown square, and Canyon Road, the row of galleries that was once an artists’ enclave. Once in awhile, they might go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to see the paintings that are so foundational to Santa Fe’s identity. But, my editor friend told me, “We’re due for a reset. It’s just been Georgia O’Keeffe straight through.”