Wacky hotels: Sleeping in a grain silo may become a thing of the past
After nearly 30 years in Akron, Ohio, The Quaker Square Inn's days as a hotel may be numbered. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the inn is made out of 36 Quaker Oats silos from the 1800s. Each silo is 120-feet tall and contains dozens of perfectly-round guest rooms, each with a 24-foot diameter and its own private balcony.
As if that weren't enough Americana, the Trackside Grille off of the lobby is located in a 1930s Pullman train car and carries more than 30 milkshake flavors.
The complex has been owned by Hilton and Crowne Plaza at various times. Recently the inn was bought by the University of Akron, which will likely convert it into a dormitory. Four floors already house students, but a spokesman says the remaining 91 rooms will stay open to non-student guests until November 2009, from $99.
While reviews on TripAdvisor were mixed and visitors say the hotel is showing signs of wear and tear, its design is pretty neat. And as a dorm, it sure beats the Howard Johnson that I lived in when I was a first-year student at Boston University. (My school had run out dorm space, you see, and had rented rooms for us at the local HoJo. The karaoke machine in the common area was a fun perk.)
Have you stayed here? Do you know of any other re-purposed hotels?
Slide show: See Hawaii's modernist gems on exhibit in New Haven
Anyone who has traveled through Honolulu's airport can appreciate the work of Hawaii-based architect Vladimir Ossipoff. His 1970s renovations created open-air corridors between terminals that let travelers experience Hawaii's temperate breezes immediately upon disembarking. Like the airport, Ossipoff's modernist buildings typically incorporate local materials and careful consideration of the environment to marvelous effect. Ossipoff, who was born in Russia in 1907, raised in Japan, and educated in California, completed over 1,000 buildings, all in the Hawaiian Islands. The Honolulu Academy of Art organized a major exhibition of his work, "Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff", which debuted in Honolulu last fall, and is now at the Yale School of Architecture's exhibition gallery. (We first told you about this exhibit last year.) Check out this slide show highlighting 10 structures that Ossipoff designed as Hawaii transitioned from being an isolated land ruled by sugar barons to a tourist mecca of the jet age. The exhibit is open now through October 24, 2008. (180 York Street, New Haven, Conn., 203/432-2288, architecture.yale.edu, free, 9a.m. to 5p.m. weekdays, 10a.m. to 5p.m. weekends; closed Mondays).
Trends we like: India bans smoking in public places
Health-conscious travelers to India may have gotten a break today. The Associated Press reported today that the country has officially banned smoking in public places, including hotels and outdoor cafés. The ban includes not just manufactured cigarettes but also hand-rolled bidi, which contains chopped tobacco. As of now, no one knows if this law will work. On the one hand, the new fine of $5 is a huge amount of money to many people. Consider that 100 rupees ($2.50) is a day's wages to lower class people—the very ones most likely to be on the street and within view of the police. Middle-class people could care less, though officials note that they have plans to raise the fine to $25. On the other hand, it's India. The law's not all that enforceable because 1) bribery is generally more common there than in, say, the U.S. (per Transparency International surveys) and 2) people have a lot more pressing issues to worry about there than smoking (despite the 900,000 smoking-related deaths a year calculated by a study published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine).
A new way to get to the art of San Francisco
Last month the city of San Francisco began running a special bus line that connects many of its art galleries and museums. This Culturebus, which runs in a loop between downtown San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, cost $7 (cash only), and that gets you unlimited on-and-off service; the bus runs daily from roughly 9 to 6. At the San Francisco Citizen you can get a long list of links to all the places you can reach: They include SFMOMA, the new Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences.
Shopping: Get a taste of Tokyo when visiting New York
On your next trip to New York City, consider spending a vicarious day in Tokyo by visiting the following three no-frills Japanese retailers. Muji (pronounced moo-jeh) carries housewares, office supplies, and some clothing, including the city's best values in stylish slippers. In Japan, there about 300 Muji stores and kiosks, but the New York branches are among the chain's first outposts in the U.S. Muji's name comes from: Mujirushi Ryohin, which I'm told translates as "brandless quality goods." The stores have a simple design that's very monochromatic, minimalist, and eco-friendly. You can't leave without checking out: New York in a Bag ($14) A set of small wooden blocks lets you build a mini-Manhattan. The Muji Chronotebook ($5) This planner has a non-linear approach to scheduling. With just a clock face to plan your day, the design of each page gives you a little more flexibility for writing long or short notes. Uniqlo (pronounced U-nee-clo) is a Japanese clothing giant known most recently for their successful launch of the UT (Uniqlo T-shirt) Project, which invited famous designers and artists to create tees for the store. In mid-September, Uniqlo Soho started an innovative project with Wakamuru, a high-tech Japanese robot. Designed by Toshiyuki Kita from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, Wakamaru is in the U.S. to practice English, or so the story goes. (Think Rosie of the Jetsons come to life.) Wakamaru can walk around a given area, make eye contact with you, and chat about various topics, such as which cashmere sweater you might like more. Wakamaru is expected to be in the store until December. You can't leave without checking out: Uniqlo's 26ct, 2 ply v-neck cashmere sweaters for men and women, which come in a variety of colors ($99.50) Selvage denim jeans, available for both men and women with free same-day alterations (typically $79). Kinokuniya (pronounced ki-no-koo-nee-yah) is a Japanese store that focuses on Japanese books and magazines, including manga and anime, stationery, and some books in English about Japan. This three-story bookstore is a place where you could spend hours browsing. Although Café Zaiya on the third floor might be misleading (it serves miso soup right next to tiramisu), the aisles and aisles of manga and anime will make any tourist-san feel right at home. You can't leave without checking out: The stationery section on the bottom floor will fulfill any childhood desires for school supplies. The store also carries every possible color and style of oil and gel based pens ($1.85-$12.95). DETAILS Muji Times Square 620 8th Ave. and W. 40th St. 212/382-2300 Soho 455 Broadway between Grand and Howard Streets 212/334-2002 Hours at both locations: Monday-Saturday 11a.m.-9p.m.; Sundays 11a.m.-8p.m. JetBlue's new Terminal 5 at J.F.K. airport will also have a Muji. muji.com Uniqlo Soho 546 Broadway between Spring and Prince St. 917/237-8800 Monday-Saturday 10a.m.-9p.m; Sunday 11a.m.-8p.m. uniqlo.com Kinokuniya 1073 Ave. of the Americas between 40th and 41st Streets. 212/869-1700 Monday-Saturday 10a.m.-9:30p.m.; Sunday 11a.m.-7p.m. kinokuniya.com —Katie Jakub