Aire de Bardenas: Rural Retreat

The unstoppable festive force has reached its peak and, while it may seem a little bah-humbug to suggest it, the ubiquitous merrymaking and panic gift buying has us already dreaming of vacation 2009. For an antidote to the twinkly lights, raucous partying and Christmas kitsch overload, try Aire De Bardenas, a one of a kind design hotel. Built and designed by Barcelona architects Emiliano López and Mónica Rivera, this retreat offers all the modernist styling and sharp service of a city escape, but is set in the middle of a rural Spanish wheat field.

The project was a brave move for the pair, who ply their trade primarily in urban construction, and were complete newcomers to the hospitality market. Then again, perhaps it was this outsider status that was the driving force behind such a unique hotel concept. Built on one floor and divided into eight monochromatic cube structures, Aire comprises twenty two rooms—ten of which have private patios—as well as common areas including a reception, main hall, meeting room, bar and restaurant.

The aesthetic effect is a futuristic, bunker-style building that’s striking yet consistent with the landscape. The building has all the appearance of a permanent structure, but its lightweight construction can be quickly dismantled and recycled, while many of the materials were locally sourced. This is true glamour of the eco variety. While the architects envisioned the exterior as the star of the show, the interior is minimalist, even austere—all clean lines and clutter free decor. Each room offers a large viewing window that looks directly onto the expanse of uninterrupted fields.

Aire de Bardenas turns the idea of a hotel room as a sanctuary from the outside world on its head, instead using its spaces as “protected outdoor viewing devices” to bring each guest face to face with the stunning landscape. Standing alone in this incredible piece of rural Spain, with only the small town of Tudela and the desert-like Bardenas Natural Park to offer entertainment, this is the ultimate do-nothing experience. It’s time to grab a good book, find a snug space in the window and forget rush hour ever existed.

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—Lena Dystant

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