Hotel in a cow paddock

People who read my blog regularly might be aware that we are doing more projects in Russia, Ukraine and other countries from the former Soviet bloc. Now we have taken on a new job for an American hotel chain in Azerbaijan.

I recently traveled there to meet our client (a local investor) and to visit the project site for the first time. Before I went I did not know a lot about Azerbaijan except that it is a rich country, as they have oil, and that Baku is the capital. Having now been there, I learned that Azerbaijan is located on the Caspian Sea (which, by the way, is not connected to any other ocean), it is south of Russia and connected to Armenia and Iran. Baku is a beautiful city — partly artificial, a bit like Dubai — but it does have a center with old buildings. The general plan for the city is to keep its new structural facades in yellow sandstone — that is, except for the Flame Towers’ steel and glass, which dominate the city, and an amorphous cultural palace designed by Zaha Hadid that is being built completely in white.

Right behind Baku are the mountains, which is where our hotel project is located. It is a 2.5-hour drive from the capital city up to the project site, where the countryside is very much about nature — small villages and old houses, no spectacular architecture.

As we were driving through the countryside, there suddenly appeared a big construction site in the center of the green of the high plain — surrounded by nothing else. I later learned that our investor has planned a huge development with houses, apartments and golf courses around the hotel complex, but currently it stands alone on a cow paddock, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The hotel already has a concrete foundation, and workers have started to construct the façade of the building.

We inspected the building and noticed that not only are the walls not particularly straight, as you can see in the photo, but a large bank has been dug around the building, also visible in the photo. I was asked if I could imagine what it was for, but was unable to. The explanation came — with a very big smile — that it is an anti-cow wall! In fact, during the heat of summer, cows had been wandering into the building in search of shadow and undisturbed digestion, and what they left behind was rather unpleasant for the workers!

As this is my first project with an anti-cow (dung) ditch, I found this very amusing — cows, the first guests in a 5-star hotel!