Pop-up hotels: Rooms with a fleeting view

Stephanie Rosenbloom / New York Times News Service /


Published Mar 24, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Pop-up stores. Pop-up restaurants. Pop-up lounges. Shouldn’t this fascination with pop-ups — which are by definition ephemeral — have disappeared already?

Hotels offer compelling reasons for the trend to endure. Unlike temporary stores and lounges designed to hawk clothes and cocktails, temporary hotels allow travelers to sleep in unique spaces (boats, tricked-out shipping containers) and forbidden places (public parks, racetracks). The hotels also enable festivalgoers around the world to upgrade from sleeping bags and tents to rooms with beds, rain showers and iPod docking stations.

Just how fleeting these temporary hotels are varies. Many last for no more than a few days in a particular location; others last for months.

Below is a guide to some of the pop-up genre’s most popular hotel brands along with their coordinates so you can check in before they check out.

A Room For London

This one-bedroom hotel (talk about exclusive) is actually a boat balanced atop the roof of Southbank Center, the London art complex on the bank of the Thames. Inspired by the boat that the author Joseph Conrad navigated up the River Congo in the 19th century before writing “Heart of Darkness,” it has decks that offer views of London icons like Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral. For a shot at staying there (300 pounds, or about $440 at $1.47 to the pound, a night for one or two adults), you must participate in a lottery. A collaboration between Living Architecture (which rents out eye-popping houses throughout Britain that are designed by modern architects) and Artangel (which commissions projects by contemporary artists), the hotel will be open through the end of the year. To book a stay in June, July or August, enter the next lottery from April 17 through 24. Winners will be selected randomly. Other available dates in 2013 will be released in future ballots. For email updates about availability, sign up for Living Architecture’s newsletter. Information: aroomforlondon.co.uk.

Popup Ashram

“Awaken the guru inside you,” says the website of this temporary hotel-cum-yoga-and-spiritual retreat founded in Tulum, Mexico, by Michael Liss, who worked for the adventure-travel company Butterfield & Robinson before creating PopUp Ashram and partnering with Design Hotels. A Design Hotels spokeswoman said in an email that the company hopes to collaborate on new PopUp Ashrams but that it has yet to confirm the next one. Liss said in an email that there will be one in Bali from July 1 through 8, in conjunction with Alila Ubud, part of Design Hotels. He also said that “a big Design Hotels PopUp is in the works” but that he could not yet discuss it. Perhaps his website offers a clue? It says PopUp Ashram is coming to Italy. Information: popupashram.com.

Sleeping around

The guest rooms (there are only four) of this Antwerp, Belgium, hotel (through May) are inside 20-foot recycled sea containers. Each has a bed, a bathroom with a rain shower and an iPod docking station. Don’t let the “sea container” part fool you — these minimalist rooms are nicer than some New York City apartments. And there’s a communal breakfast lounge container and a sauna container (in the process of being completed), to boot. Information: sleeping around.eu.

Snoozebox

Each of these air-conditioned hotel rooms (aka shipping containers) has a bed, a flat-screen television, a safe, a shower, a basin, a toilet and free Wi-Fi. Snoozebox was in London during the summer Olympics and plans to be at other popular events and festivals this spring and summer. They include the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s World Endurance Championship, the April auto race in Silverstone, England (rooms from 129 pounds a night, including a continental breakfast); the Open Championship — the British golf major — in Muirfield, Scotland, in July (from 99 pounfd a night); and the Edinburgh Festival, the arts celebration founded in 1947, in August (prices to be determined). A complete list of coming locations is online. Information: snoozebox.com.

The Pop-up Hotel

This British brand combines two trends in one — temporary hotels and glamping (high-end camping) — with luxury bell and safari tents that include duvets, showers and a makeup parlor. While permanent-hotel chains aim for a certain level of predictability, the Pop-Up Hotel strives to make each experience different. For instance, in May, the hotel will be at the Tour of Wessex, the cycling competition in Somerset, enabling guests to sleep in a field near the start/finish line (there’s even a porter to help you with your luggage). In June, the hotel will be at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset (where there will also be a pop-up restaurant and bar). And in September, the hotel will be at the Goodwood Revival in West Sussex, a gathering of the sorts of historic cars and motorcycles that would have competed at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in its heyday, between 1948 and 1966. In an experience that is literally a car lover’s dream, guests sleep next to the vintage and classic models on display. The company is scouting potential locations outside Britain, like the Caribbean and Australia, for the off-peak months. Information: thepopuphotel.com.

Other options

Travelers who want to sleep in something other than a tent at international festivals have a number of options nowadays, which can be reserved through the festival organizers. Take for example Podpads, which look like children’s playhouses (or homes for Hobbits), with colorful walls and windows in shapes like hearts or clovers. A solar panel on a big yellow sunflower attached to each house provides low voltage power. Several other companies, like Yurts and Squrts and Hearthworks, offer upscale accommodations that include tipis, cloud yurts and squrts — mini-yurts that look like Smurf mushroom houses.