At Three Design Hotels, A Sense of Place Rooted in the Local Environment

Hotels are often transitory, sometimes liminal, spaces. But three recently opened or newly renovated ones are rooted in their local environments, taking design cues from their surroundings and creating a distinctive atmosphere. You’re not just anywhere, or even in-between, you’re there: in Fukuoka City, Japan at Hotel Il Palazzo, in Tomales Bay, California at Lodge at Marconi (above), and at Otro Oaxaca, you’re firmly in the southern Mexican city.

With its rather majestic mix of European and Japanese design approaches and elements, Hotel Il Palazzo was initially envisioned by Italian architect and designer Aldo Rossi and opened in 1989, with contributions from Ettore Sottsass, Gaetano Pesce, Shiro Kuramata, Ikuyo Mitsuhashi, and Ikko Tanaka, as well as Shigeru Uchida, who founded Uchida Design. The firm oversaw the original interiors of the hotel and has led this latest redo, maintaining Rossi’s stripes and columns, as well as the red, blue, and green colors of the hotel’s public spaces, while introducing a new glowing cobalt corridor that serves as an entryway – to the hotel, yes, but maybe even to a different dimension. In the El Dorado, a below-ground lounge, a central golden façade pairs with an installation by Uchida called “Dancing Water” while the guestrooms, in contrast, are a study in calming neutrals.

The rugged landscape and earthy tones of coastal Northern California provide the inspiration for the Lodge at Marconi. On 62 wooded acres within Marconi State Historic Park, and perched above Tomales Bay, the 45 guest rooms are cozy and home-like, if your place were expertly designed by Brooklyn-based Home Studios. It’s the studio’s third hotel project, and here they’ve thoughtfully redesigned, with Oliver Hospitality, what had become a corporate retreat center. The emphasis is highly local, with nods to Third Bay Tradition architecture, in which the built environment follows from the land (Sea Ranch in Sonoma is an exemplar of the style). And natural woods, like cedar paneling and lots of oak, complement tiles from the Bay Area’s Heath Ceramics. A collection of freestanding buildings that work as one, the Lodge has a bit of a summer camp vibe – but upscale. Though like summer camp, there are no TVs; you’re meant to truly immerse yourself in your surroundings, which you might do by the firepit in the outdoor courtyard, designed by Anooshey Rahim, of Bay Area-based Dune Hai.

Somewhere between the glamour of Il Palazzo and the rustic airiness of Lodge at Marconi is Grupo Habita’s Otro Oaxaca, a gorgeous combination of materials and textures and light that reflects its location. Local architects led by João Boto Caeiro of RootStudio designed the space, a series of courtyards and a rooftop terrace, with a floor plan inspired by the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mitla. Materials like brick and limestone that echo those of the Church of Santo Domingo, which sits across the pedestrian-only plaza, and raw concrete and reclaimed wood add even more depth. RootStudio worked with Carlos Couturier on the interiors – 16 rooms, including multistory suites that have their own dip-pools and terraces – featuring custom furniture and décor sourced and produced in the region: wooden tables made by local carpenters mix with quilts, textiles, and handmade ceramics. As much as the hotel grounds you in Oaxaca, it still has otherworldly touches, like the underground Otro Mundo spa, with a pool that calls to mind a cenote – and, like the subterranean lounge at Il Palazzo, feels thoroughly transporting.

Lodge at Marconi by Home Studios

Photos by Brian W. Ferry

Hotel Il Palazzo by Aldo Rossi + Uchida Design

Photos by Satoshi Asakawa

Otro Oaxaca by RootStudio