Hotel Attraction: Gaudí’s unfinished project for New York

Hotel Attraction: Gaudí’s unfinished project for New York

1908

Currently all of the works created by Gaudí are located in Spain. However, the Catalan architect was commissioned to work in the United States for a project that remained unfinished, Hotel Attraction, which was intended for Manhattan.

When in May 1908 Gaudí was commissioned to build a large hotel in New York by two US businessmen, he had just moved to Park Güell and was beginning the construction of the Church of Colònia Güell.

This project is one of the great mysteries that surround the figure of Gaudí for two reasons: firstly, because it is unknown why it did not materialise and secondly, because it was necessary to wait until 1956 to rediscover this project thanks to Gaudí’s sculptor and collaborator Joan Matamala Flotats. Matamala made it public in the report “Cuando el Nuevo Continente llamaba a Gaudí (When the New World called Gaudí) (1908-1911)”. In this report he explains the project and includes several of Gaudí’s drawings and his own drawings of Hotel Attraction. However, there was much controversy regarding the truth of this revelation by Matamala from its outset, since no disciple of Gaudí knew the existence of the US project. As such, at first it was thought that it was fabricated by Matamala, but the doubts dissipated when Matamala included several drawings signed by Gaudí that showed the characteristic use of the catenary arch. However, what could have been a great icon in the city of skyscrapers did not come to fruition, perhaps due to the budget necessary for its execution or maybe due to the time that it was estimated to take: around 8 years.

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Gaudí’s plan for Hotel Attraction was ambitious; at that time, there was no building anywhere in the world taller than 300 metres, but Gaudí planned a skyscraper 360 metres high that would bring together residences in the outer buildings and restaurants between the second and fifth floors of the central building, and the sixth floor upwards of the central building would be used for culture and tourism purposes. In the preserved drawings, we inevitably see shades of the Sagrada Familia, not only because of the dimensions, but also because of the shape of the floor and the arrangement of a large central parabolic tower taller than the domed towers joined to it. Inside the hotel he proposed five large superimposed halls, each 14 metres high, to represent the five continents. He would round off the whole building with the “Homage to America” room which was to be 125 metres in height and in whose interior would host a ten metre Statue of Liberty. On the outside, this room would be crowned with a star and would have four attached bodies in line with the four cardinal points dedicated to cultural uses such as museums, art galleries and concert halls.

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Hotel Attraction returned to the news in 2003 when the Gaudí Chair offered Gaudí’s project to the Commission in charge of the reconstruction of Ground Zero in Manhattan, where two years previously the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers had taken place. Despite the fact the project was not accepted, it brought the architectural creativity of Gaudí into the limelight of international news again.

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