Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gehry's jewelbox in the heart of Rioja

Frank Gehry, the reknowned 82 year old Canadian architect, has unveiled his second major design in the North of Spain with a new Starwood Hotel at Marqués de Riscal Bodegas in Enciego. After a splashy debut with the Guggenheim in Bilbao, which revitalized the city and made it into an international art and architectural destination in 1997, his latest project is more of a jewelbox, highlighting the colors so important in Rioja.

Marqués de Riscal is one of the oldest wineries in the region, dating from 1860 (a date reflected in the name of one of the two Francis Paniego helmed restaurants on the property). This new hotel is part of an endeavor to bring people to Riscal's "Cuity of Wine", with the old cellars and tasting room just steps away, and a gorgeous view of the old hill town of Elciego just across the way.


As a Starwood hotel, the property has just over 40 rooms, and only a month after officially opening, the hotel is booked solid for the foreseeable future. As a luxury destination, the hotel houses a Caudalie spa, where guests can be pampered with luxury treatments featuring crushed grapeseeds, grape must, and even a grape massage(don't ask).

Gehry's canopy of multi-colored titanium reflects (literally and symbolically) the colors of Rioja in gold, silver and rosé. Like all of Gehry's buildings, the light at different times of day shifts ones perception of both the building and the surrounding vines. Especially seen at this time of year, when the grapes have been harvested and the tempranillo vines turn shades of orange, blush and vermillion, this strange yet somehow organic building seems to capture the spirit of the grape itself.

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