Madrid hotel decidedly eclectic

Is it a marketing gimmick, a tower of egos or the ultimate cosmopolitan hotel?

However you describe it, Madrid's 342-room Hotel Puerta América, scheduled to open in May, is already causing a stir in Europe. That's because each of its 12 floors is the work of a different architect or designer. In all, nearly 20 firms are involved.

The roster includes such luminaries as Arata Isozaki, Japanese architect of Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art; London-based Marc Newson, whose ubiquitous products include Olympic uniforms, furniture and mobile phones; London-based Norman Foster, whose projects include Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong and the Great Courtyard of the British Museum in London; and American Richard Gluckman, who designed the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

Each architect was given the same room grid for the $97-million Madrid project, said Gluckman, a partner in Gluckman Mayner Architects in New York.

"Within those parameters, we had complete freedom," he said.

There was one additional request made by Hoteles Silken, the Barcelona, Spain-based chain of more than 20 Spanish hotels that is building Puerta América.

"They asked us not to talk to one another," Gluckman said.

When the designers met last month for a news conference in Madrid, it was the first time many had seen one another's plans, even though the building had been underway since 2003.

Gluckman was assigned the ninth floor.

"What is appealing to me is the anonymity of hotel rooms," he said. He wanted his rooms to be spacious yet intimate, comfortable but not homey.

His design uses cement board as a wall liner, and glass and granite in the bathroom, and features a translucent sanded-acrylic wall with recessed boxes for the TV, mini-bar and other elements. The muted color scheme includes gray, pale yellow and light blue.

Other designers said they tried to offer "a new concept of rooms without barriers" (Israel's maverick Ron Arad) or to "re-create a place of meditation … where you feel as if you are floating on the clouds" (Scotland native Kathryn Findlay).

Some down-to-earth facts: Room rates, not yet set, are expected to start at about $390 a night, according to the hotel's publicists. Reservations will be available later through Hoteles Silken at 011-34-902-363-600, .