HOTEL UNIQUE

Located in the well-heeled residential area of Jardins in São Paulo, Hotel Unique is sculptural architecture at its most original—and a must for savvy architecture fans and well-traveled urbanites alike. The spacey, green-weathered copper that adorns the facade stretches across the building's unusual shape, a massive inverted arch with circular windows like over-sized portholes. In the guest rooms, where there are no right angles, unusual accessories from around the globe add to the ultra-cool feel, which is accented by the staff's coolly impeccable service. Upstairs, what is perhaps São Paulo's finest rooftop terrace offers amazing views of the city: that is, if guests can take their eyes off the fascinating crimson swimming pool that runs along its edge.

Photography: Hotel Unique

dnahotels.com

When it comes to São Paulo hotels, there is a slew of standard business properties, but Hotel Unique, renovated in late 2012, stands apart primarily because of its innovative design. Known locally as the “Watermelon” for its striking crescent shape, Hotel Unique tries, and succeeds, to be a combination of the quirky and the luxurious. Its name obviously is an appropriate one, just looking at the photos will prove and reading the hotel brochure "a place to not feel like home."

There's nothing standard, nothing subdued about Hotel Unique. Brazilian star-architect Ruy Ohtake's (a Niemeyer protegé) 2003 green copper-clad masterpiece looks like a futuristic Noah's Ark - portholes included. The result is not just a striking silhouette, but an ingenious way to skirt the 85-meter maximum height restriction, while concentrating its guest rooms toward the top for ideal city views — in fact there are only 4 rooms on the narrow second floor, and 30 on the top floor.

Other than the hotel's unique architecture and design, the rooftop pool, floored in wood, is the real showstopper, clad in red mosaic tiles, outfitted with an underwater sound system, and flanked by 360-degrees of the São Paulo skyline and Ibirapuera Park.

There's nothing standard, nothing subdued about Hotel Unique. Brazilian star-architect Ruy Ohtake's (a Niemeyer protegé) 2003 green copper-clad masterpiece looks like a futuristic Noah's Ark - portholes included. The result is not just a striking silhouette, but an ingenious way to skirt the 85-meter maximum height restriction, while concentrating its guest rooms toward the top for ideal city views — in fact there are only 4 rooms on the narrow second floor, and 30 on the top floor.

From the moment you arrive it's drama all the way. The dramatic exterior seamlessly continues indoors, where the reception area and adjacent bar are both lit by a huge wall of transparent glass. Sharp geometric forms throughout give the spectacle an even grander sense of clarity. The public spaces are toweringly high, geometrically aligned, and carefully choreographed, like in the lounging lobby. The intriguing combination of rich woods, industrial metals, and the occasional Baroque piece pry open ideas of conventional living space.

It was a matter of much controversy that Ohtake was not allowed to design the interiors, but designer João Armentano's restrained spaces aim to balance Ohtake's flair for the dramatic, and the result is unexpectedly harmonious and relaxed. João Armentano's interiors are whimsical and wonderful, from the reception - a lofty, light-flooded atrium strewn with sofas and modern art - to the trendy lobby bar whose centrepiece is a black, 18-metre high wall bedecked with rows of artfully placed bottles.

Every surface in the 95 rooms and suites has been designed to surprise and delight the viewer. The guestrooms combine high-tech details (frosted-glass panels as room dividers, disorienting mirrors, oversized porthole windows) with natural elements to create an otherworldly effect. Unusual accessories from around the globe add to the ultra-cool feel while a carefully choreographed spectrum of circles and squares, ellipses and sine curves flow in and out of each other, creating the design language of the Unique—softened by wooden flooring, sleek white furnishings and transparent glass tables and fittings. Tech equipment include remote-controlled drapes, a DVD player, an iPod-docking alarm clock, speakers embedded in the headboard and a satellite-enabled TV with an abundance of channels. Rooms at the edges curve with the outer wall's arc, and furnishings extend mischievously into the upper corners.

The bathrooms are avant-garde as well, with sliding dividers separating (or not separating) them from the bedrooms transparent bathtubs — just make sure you are traveling with someone you know well, or would not mind getting to know better, following the boutique-hotel trend of peek-a-boo bathrooms. There is both a jacuzzi bath and a seperate shower. Amenities are by Bvlgari.

Skye, the rooftop restaurant and bar has stunning views of the city and a cavalcade of drink choices including many variations on the caipirinha. The menu has plenty of traditional Brazilian dishes as well as Continental cuisine helmed by French chef Emmanuel Bassoleil. It uses a lot of organic produce supplied by the Unique’s sister resort in the Cantareira State Park just outside the city.

The bottom line? This is a self-consciously hip boutique hotel, with highly modern architecture and decor, anything but conservative.