High-tech industry and cutting-edge design are not perhaps the first things that come to mind at the mention of the words Ritz and Carlton. This one, however, is a bit different, with daring architecture, futuristic materials and some decidedly contemporary interiors, courtesy of none other than Andrée Putman, the grande dame of modern hotel design.
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Much of the reason for this departure from the classic Ritz-Carlton standard is down to the location: Wolfsburg is no ordinary city. Founded in 1938 as a home for the Volkswagen auto company, its sole historical landmark is the ancient Wolfsburg Castle. Most visitors are on a pilgrimage to the Autostadt, or Auto City, a sort of open-air museum of industrial technology, a theme park dedicated to automotive innovation. This is where well-heeled Volkswagen buyers come to take delivery of their custom-ordered cars, and where auto enthusiasts and technology junkies of all stripes gather to visit the pavilions dedicated to all of the makes under the Volkswagen umbrella, from Audi and Bentley to Lamborghini and Skoda.
And in our ideal world, this hotel would be just as much a tourist attraction, showcasing as it does the future of the hospitality industry. The Putman-designed interiors are modern without any of the preciousness that usually implies, as cleverly put together and yet as overridingly sensible as, well, a Volkswagen. Rooms overlook the Volkswagen factory itself or the Autostadt grounds and the Mittellandkanal, and are stuffed with the latest gadgetry, from Bang & Olufsen televisions and stereos to high-speed internet access and laptop-friendly safes.
Multiple restaurants and lounges and the Kraftwerk spa round out the traditional array of luxury services. And though the sciences are emphasized, the humanities are not neglected; Newman’s Bar is named for the photographer Arnold Newman, whose famous portraits adorn the walls, and live jazz and blues can be heard six days a week.