FRANK GEHRY’S EXTRAORDINARY HOTEL – Elciego, Spain

A great work of art or a blot on the landscape?



In a small Spanish village in the wine-growing area La Rioja, one building stands out.

Hotel Marques de Riscal is a Starwood hotel designed in 2006 by Frank O. Gehry, well known to Spaniards and architecture students for his work on Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum.

Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. Also determined to be noticed.

Our friends took us to Elciego for an excellent meal in Restaurante La Cueva (more about this in a later post), but the hotel was just around the corner. We couldn’t miss it. Nobody could.

At first glance from a distance it looks like the ruins of a fire – a twisted mass of coloured metal sheeting draped over dark recessed windows.

It’s not exactly in harmony with the town’s traditional architecture.

Even before Mr Gehry came to town, Elciego welcomed knowledgeable tourists, who came to taste the wine at its numerous bodegas.

Some wine-lovers may have even made it up the hill to the ancient church.

Hotel guests have a pleasant view of the church. In return, churchgoers have a view of the hotel.

Some of the bodegas around have installed smart modern tasting rooms and restaurants, but there is nothing in town that remotely resembles Mr Gehry’s structure.

We thought at first we didn’t like it. We know Mr Gehry is a celebrity architect who recently used his iPhone to design a hat for Lady Gaga – how much more celebrity can you get? Maybe had an off day when he planned this one.

But when we came closer (which took a little fast talking to a security guard and a bit of fast sneaking through the wine-tasting area) we found things we liked about it.

What do you think?

The roof certainly reflects its surroundings, changing colour as the sky clouds or clears.

Love it or hate it, it’s certainly put the town of Elciego on the map.

Oh, and if you’d like to stay in the Hotel Marques, it will cost you from 440-790 euros a night. Looking at it from the outside is free.

18 Comments

Filed under Art, Spain

18 responses to “FRANK GEHRY’S EXTRAORDINARY HOTEL – Elciego, Spain

  1. Good grief.

    I am quite speechless.

  2. Are you sure he didn’t mix up the email addresses for Lady Gaga and the builder of the hotel and email the latter her hat design by accident? Which begs the question, what is Lady GG wearing on her head? Also it’s interesting that the name of the village translated is “the blind man”.

    • Oh yes, good point, Duncan. I was told that Elciego means blind man, but omitted to mention it. I wonder if anyone has painted a word picture for the blind man of what’s in his village now.

  3. wow. Interesting structure. Very modern like

  4. I’d have to see it in the flesh but I must admit I am a bit of a Gehry fan and am looking forward to seeing his building in Sydney when complete. The Bilbao Guggenheim was a highlight of our trip to Spain a couple of years ago

    • We just saw the Bilbao Guggenheim from the inside too, and agree that it’s a marvellous building. I’m a fan of any architecture that takes a risk and breaks new ground.

      The Hotel Marques is already a huge stimulus to tourism in this little village, and La Rioja in general.

  5. It was the pink (in your first photograph) that I objected to – it drew one’s attention like a chipped tooth, I thought. Since you tell me that that cape in motion that is the roof reflects the changing world around it, the pink must be a reflection of something close by – I’m all for it.

    • Yes, the pinks and blues on the shiny surface have something of an ‘oil slick’ look about them.

      • Are you old enough to remember the furore over the Opera House? Ok, slight difference in scale, but we seem to be slow to take to sudden change.

      • Yes, I’m afraid I am old enough to remember that Opera House debate, though I lived in Melbourne at the time.

        There are so few buildings that manage to define a place to the extent that people will cross the world to see them. The Opera House has done it for Sydney, the Guggenheim certainly does it for Bilbao, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Empire State building, the pyramids…it’s a short list.

      • But they’ve all opened our eyes and our imaginations …

  6. It does look a tangled mess at first, but it is not dull and boring.

  7. Caroline

    Like you I love any architecture that stretches our imagination and draws controversy.

  8. Pingback: GEHRY’S ICONS – great for tourists, less great for locals? | Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

  9. Sparisi

    I love this hotel and spa! It is an amazing place and I was fortunate enough to stay there. It was amazing! Chance of a lifetime!

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