Solving Cities

A hotel in the sky

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AirHotel challenges the hospitality industry to rethink luxury. Guests sleep in trees but get their money's worth in surreal made-up realities.

Is luxury a human right? Our current economic and political unrest continues to fuel a fiery debate.

I recently asked SmartPlanet readers whether they thought the world's most expensive house was an architectural contribution for future generations, or a symbol of inequality built in poor taste.

"Irresponsible" followed "Ostentatious posturing". Others said we all spend what we make, so who are we to judge?

Read the related article: First look inside the world’s most expensive house

In the midst of the mega-home-complexes being constructed throughout the world, there are some people interested in a luxury of a different kind.

The Belgian artist collective, Time Circus, built AirHotel, "a mobile air hotel full of funky flying dreams and cocoons." In other words, the troupe is touring the hotel which is also an interactive theater performance.

AirHotel is currently spending its last week in the forest of Norfolk, United Kingdom.

Emma Knights and Oli Franzen outside the AirHotel's El Ambassador pod

"Our home for the night was El Ambassador, a slick-looking two-person cocoon that appeared to be floating in mid-air," writes hotel guest Emma Knights. "It was accessed via a trapdoor and, once inside, this space-age pod’s glass ceiling meant that we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the trees and the starry night sky while the wind gently rocked the pod which was suspended from trees by cables."

The pods are simply furnished. Guests find AirHotel's flare with the staff and the absurdist world it is their job to create. Heartbreaking Lucy, the Madam, The Strongest Granny in the entire world, and silent Brambo are a few of the staff characters.

"At dawn you get to choose two wishes from your personal room service list in exchange for a dream in your night journal," says Time Circus. "The journals are brought to your room by the hotel staff and are sometimes poetic moments, or powerful performances: a love song, a sweet music box or a disco party.

The performance balances on the verge of semi reality and it is only when waking up that you realize that nothing was what it seemed the night before."

Watch Time Circus member, Sarah Dandois, taking the BBC World Service on a tour of the AirHotel

Merrian-Webster defines "luxurious" as "marked by or given to self-indulgence". Infusing something as common-place as a hotel with a surreal-inspired interactive art performance is certainly luxurious. And I'm not putting luxury down. In fact, I wonder why it is so rare for certain businesses to promote indulgence in the immaterial aspects of life.

What if the hospitality industry cut back on selling mass comfort and flowed money into selling experience? Yes, sometimes a traveler is tired, working, and not in the mood for interactive theater. But a glass-ceilinged pod in a tree? That is not a bad place to do any kind of business.

[via BBC News; AirHotel; EDP 24]

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Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure