Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery
Waldorf-Astoria, New York
Llayers Llove Hotel, Room 307, Tokyo
Photo: Takumi Ota
George Vernon Russell
The Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, 1946
Photo from mid 1950s
Courtesy of UNLV Libraries, Special Collections
49er Spartan Mansion
El Cosmico, Marfa, 2012
Photo: Nick Simonite
Everyone has a hotel story. It may be about a hotel they’ve stayed in, read about or have seen in a film. Whatever the circumstances, these stories represent the unique status of the hotel in the context of contemporary life. The hotel is a universal and identifiable symbol, yet the diversity and individuality of its form and purpose is extraordinary. It is a space that combines the private and public realms and is intimately connected to a rich history of social and cultural change. Each hotel thrives (or fails to thrive) in a local context, and yet it is inextricably bound to a vast network of travel and movement that is without geographic boundaries. It is a fundamental architectural form deeply embedded in our culture, responding to the basic human need for shelter with dynamic designs, innovative forms and surprising insights into the nature of modern life.
Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life charts the evolution of the hotel from an isolated and utilitarian structure to a cultural phenomenon that figures prominently around the world. The scope of the project is global, an acknowledgement of the pervasive presence of a commercial network that is architecturally formed, geographically distributed and socially defined. The title of the exhibition is in part a reference to the influential 1932 Hollywood film Grand Hotel, in which the lives of individual guests interweave during a brief hotel stay. The film depicts a thoroughly modern condition and demonstrates the potency of the hotel as both a real and symbolic nexus of human movement, interaction and ideas.
The exhibition’s four main themes—travel, design, the social and culture—consider the vital role of travel and design in the development of the hotel, as well as the hotel’s important role as a site of social interaction and cultural production. Each theme speaks to a critical force that has given shape and meaning to the hotel. Together they tell the collective story of this important built form, elucidating its prominence in the public consciousness and reflecting the nature of the hotel itself: engaging, innovative, provocative, ephemeral. Quite simply, the hotel is a veritable laboratory of modern life.
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and co-curated by Jennifer M. Volland, guest curator, and Bruce Grenville, senior curator, with assistant curator Stephanie Rebick.
Generous Support for the Exhibition Provided by:
Mark McCain and Caro MacDonald/Eye and I
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Grand Hotel book is funded in part by Furthermore
a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
Grand Hotel artwork by the Michelberger Hotel
Click here to view Grand Hotel microsite featuring a research blog with contributions by a diverse range of writers.