ON THE SCENE: NEW OPENINGS NOV 2015

The slippery slope towards December’s box-opening consumerist celebration now traditionally begins at Halloween — November and the two weeks of December that precede Silly Season™ bypassed in a haze of ‘it’s getting a bit chilly’, relentless telly adverts, and German Markets. If you haven’t heard Noddy Holder bruising his lungs by now then you can count yourself lucky.

Caga Tio
Caga Tió

One thing of positive note that rears its head at this time of year is an inclination to look forward. A new year is soon upon us and, amidst end-of-year-lists wrapping up your year into bite-sized chunks, there’s a sense of cobwebs being blown, of the future edging nearer.

And 2016 is a year to look forward to. In between cars driving themselves and replacement bodies being 3D-printed, there are a whole host of new openings sure to stir up some seasonal spirit among the creative class — and it is with a hint of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that we temper this edition of On The Scene.

Let us begin in a city where the demons of consumerist Christmas continue to be held back to a bearable minimum. The capital of Catalunya prevails with tradition — as anybody who knows about Caga Tió will attest — and the Barcelona-way remains evident, even amidst weekly new openings.

Casa Bonay
Casa Bonay

Swanky new hotels are still cropping up, despite tougher regulations from its new leftist mayor — Soho House has been mooted for some time, whilst the rumour mill hints towards a forthcoming Edition — but it is the imminent arrival of a 67-room hotel project that is causing most interest … not least for its commitment to bring the local creative community together with its forward-thinking guests.

Casa Bonay’s public spaces will see local third-wave coffee pioneers Satan’s Coffee Corner brewing throughout the day; a cold-pressed juice bar from another local institution, Mother; there’ll be a restaurant; curated library; rooftop bar and herb garden, and plenty of space to hang. Because hanging is what creative Millennials do with aplomb. Brooklyn-based designers Studio Tack have been brought in to revise the 19th century building, but plenty original features remain — a common trait in the city’s new openings. If it ain’t broke, does it need fixing?

Bar But, Barcelona
Bar But, Barcelona

We don’t need to look through the eyes of Christmas Future to see the evidence of updating Barcelona’s iconic buildings with a daubing of contemporary vision. Up the road in Gracia, newcomer Bar But is a congenial café brought to life in collaboration with Neus Casanova of Estudi De-Goma; a bustling spot, all white-washed exposed brick and natural wood.

Stretching the city’s traditionalism a tad, Wer-Haus is such a fresh opening that the paint could be still wet. And fresh it is, in more ways than one. Gallery; cutting-edge fashion; art books; artisan coffee; startling interiors. The ice cool aesthetic might be conceived in New York, or Berlin, but born in Barcelona, Wer-Haus’s vision of the contemporary concept store retains a charm that similar outfits around the world oft-struggle for.

Wer-Haus, Barcelona
Wer-Haus, Barcelona

On opposite sides of the world, hotel openings embedded in tradition take cues from yesteryear whilst revelling in the decadence of contemporary aesthetic: London’s infamous celeb-den The Arts Club adds six carefully-considered bedrooms to its Mayfair swankathon, whilst Sydney’s The Old Clare Hotel is the result of a AUS$2 billion redevelopment by master hotelier Loh Lik Peng; bringing a ruck of new restaurants to its exquisite space — not least Jason Atherton’s Aussie debut.

The Arts Club, London
The Arts Club, London

Quick question: can we do a story on hot openings this month and not mention Faena Hotel Miami Beach? No. OK, here goes — Alan Faena’s unfathomably large ‘district’ is just that, a district. It is a complex so damn big that the city has designated it as its own neighbourhood. Art centre, public spaces, restaurants and retail; all anchored by a hotel that redefines luxury. But you already knew that. Plenty of people, in plenty of places, have written all that needs to be written about one of the most ambitious ‘hotel’ projects of all time — all that remains to be said is that it is officially opening incredibly soon.

But what does the Ghost of Christmas Present have to offer in international hotel openings? We’ve had a box-fresh Barcelona concept store — but where can you lay your head on virgin high-thread-count pillows?

1 Hotel Central Park, New York
1 Hotel Central Park, New York

Just a few short months old, 1 Hotel Central Park continues the fledgling sustainable hotel brand’s ascendency. The vision of Starwood Capital Group CEO, Barry Sternlicht, 1 Hotels seeks to change the face of both corporate and personal environmental responsibility in the hotel industry — the eco-chain going as far as sand-timers that shame you for spending over five minutes in the shower. A winning combination of good intentions and good looks, the timber and ivy-clad Sixth Avenue hotel is green in appearance and spirit, and a timely reminder that we owe it to future generations to do the right thing.

W, Amsterdam
W, Amsterdam

Of course, Starwood have been big news of late — the mega hotel brand being acquired by a mega hotel brand … Marriott stumping up over $12 billion to create the biggest hotel chain in history. One brand now under that umbrella is W, who have recently continued their European adventure; crashing into Amsterdam with a typically glitzy affair. Two grand old buildings neighbouring Dam Square have been transformed by local studio Office Winhov, with interiors put together by Tel Aviv’s BK Architects, and its prime locale is celebrated by an upside-down check in — W Amsterdam’s lobby occupies the top floor, with panoramic views of the city.

CityHub, Amsterdam
CityHub, Amsterdam

The Dutch capital is buzzing right now — the Student Hotel fuses short-term stays for no-frills, design-savvy travellers with a longer term option for students who favour cultural opportunities over bongs and slug trails in the kitchen. CityHub takes the no-frills one step further, offering an amalgamation of Japan’s infamous capsule hotels and forward-thinking, tech-heavy urban exploring … everything from in-room lighting to local knowledge is available via a smartphone app, and design in communal spaces is strong given its 50€ per night price point.

Food and drink offerings in the city are flourishing too — beer den HOPPA!, given the royal orange look by by prolific local design studio concrete, and super cool coffee shop (not that type of coffee shop) Toki updates Amsterdam’s hipster credentials with collaborators from London to Detroit.

HOPPA!, Amsterdam
HOPPA!, Amsterdam

Over 700 miles southwest takes us to the grandiose of Vienna and a grand renovation for a hotel whose name befits all that overt grandness — Grand Ferdinand. Which is all very grand. Obviously. But, get this; your ‘grand suite’ might set you back 3,000€ a night, but the exceedingly fabulous Ferdinand also offers the opportunity to bed down for a 100th of that … and you don’t need to do the dishes.

Grand Ferdinand, Vienna
Grand Ferdinand, Vienna

Ornate design needn’t come at a premium in 2015 — the Ferdy allowing thrifty guests to enjoy its handsome refit from bed dorms at just 30€ a night. The lines between design-led luxury and design-led budget have well and truly been blurred. Welcome to the travellers market.

Which brings us to a close. As 2016 draws upon us — and dreams become reality — technology, and choice, and a savvier customer ensures that the shape of hospitality will continue to evolve; quite where, we don’t know. The sheer breadth of new and near openings that lie on the cutting room floor after the making of this article is a testament to the buzz out there right now. God bless us, everyone!

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James Davidson
James Davidson is a contributing writer for THE SHIFT and editor-in-chief of We Heart, an online design and lifestyle magazine that he founded in 2009 as a personal blog and now receives over half a million monthly views.