The polka-dot room

The polka-dot room

I’ve recently found myself visiting the wonderful “City of Light” quite often, since we are currently redesigning the Hotel Pullman Paris Bercy. So of course when I’m there, I take every opportunity to visit the fantastic cultural sights of the traditional and yet oh-so-modern Paris.

At the Centre Pompidou, I recently had the chance to see an exhibit of artwork created by Yayoi Kusama, who is known as the “queen of polka dots.” When she was 10 years old, she apparently suffered from a hallucination in her parents’ dining room where she found herself surrounded by a zillion little dots that she couldn’t shake off. Luckily, she was blessed with a healthy dose of creativity, which helped her turn this experience into art. Through her “walk-in” sculptures — which are different from other types of sculptures in that they are viewed from their interior rather than their exterior — she lets visitors step into her world and experience her sense of spatial perception.

Standing in the middle of a red “room-like” sculpture covered in white polka dots, I was again reminded of just how different the artist’s world and the architect’s universe really are. When they have been crafted well, both vocations will create rooms that evoke feelings — but this is where the similarities end.

An artist’s room may convey a message, but it is free from any functional restrictions such as providing shelter or serving a special purpose. It is not built with a limited budget that has been provided by an investor who wants to use it to make money and who may have his or her own imaginative views of how it should be designed. 

To be fair, though, this is exactly what people want to pay for in the end: While visitors to an exhibition are looking for a special room experience, hotel guests naturally expect to experience a comfortable but also functional room. Only in rare cases would they be willing to pay more for a functional room because it carries the creative signature of a certain designer. However, in these cases, the designer’s name is used as a marketing tool. But that’s another of my favorite subjects …