“It’s the journey that matters, not the destination” is one of those quotes that you’ve probably seen plastered over a sunset on a motivational poster at some point in your life. But it’s a phrase that we rarely apply to any trips we take. The modern holiday is absolutely about the destination; “I want to go there and stay in that hotel, have a lovely time for these designated days, and I will have to jump through these burning hoops of travelling hell in order to do that.” The destination is often the only thing that gives us the mental fortitude to get through the cramped, expensive, uncomfortable journey. Architectural engineer Gianluca Santosuosso wants to change that with his concept luxury hotel called the MORPHotel, which he has designed to be able to travel across the sea and dock in cities around the world.
The MORPHotel is a linear structure, but it’s been designed with a ‘vertebral spine’ where each of the hotel’s separate sections is held together by a complex circuit of mechanical joints controlled electronically, giving it the ability to change its shape. This structural adaptability makes it suited to travelling across water, where it will be able to surf the waves, and adjust its shape according to weather conditions or the geography of the city it docks in. It’s kind of like a cruise ship in terms of using the sea to travel but its intentions are very deliberately different. Where cruise ships travel from one point to the other, using lots of fuel and stopping for set amounts of time before travelling back, the MORPHotel uses the sea’s currents to move, massively reducing its fuel consumption and making it possible for it to travel every day of the year. This also massively reduces its speed and course predictability, as Santosuosso states it’s his intention to “discover unknown places” in travelling between known destinations, removing the destination mindset of travelling.
The MORPHotel will, of course, dock in cities for varying periods of time to allow travellers to board and leave. When it’s docked the hotel would act like a kind of detachable harbour, allowing citizens of its host city to use its on-board cinema, shops, fitness centre, gardens, and restaurants.
Santosuosso says one of the biggest aims of the project was to create an entirely self-sufficient artificial organism. The hotel would be powered using a combination of solar panels and the conversion of wave energy; drinking water would be sourced by desalinating the sea water and filtration of collected rain water; when it comes to food it’s intended that each of the hotel’s central vertebrae will act as small farms, allowing for the growth of vegetables, the rearing of animals, and the general storing of food.
The hotel will be able to hold traveller’s vehicles and will come equipped with helicopter landing pads and detachable boats, useful for those who decide the method of travel just isn’t for them and have to make a swift exit. The central vertebrae of the hotel will hold all of the communal services whilst the sections extending from either side of this will hold capsule hotel rooms. Here the hotel keeps to travel tradition, offering rooms with varying levels of luxury, from small water-level pods, to rooms which are able to detach and move as their own separate boats, given freedom to move alongside the hotel at a fixed range. There will also be a secondary staff-only pier for the storing and unloading of goods, where boats will also be able to be refuelled.
This is an incredibly romantic notion of travelling and if I had no shortage of time (or money, I’d imagine) I could see it being a pleasure to use. It would probably be a wonderful experience to board this hotel, ride it to an interesting destination and fly home. The entire notion sounds like it could develop into something kind of utopian, whereby we all live on self-sufficient floating cities, seeing the entire world at a leisurely pace.
That said, I’m incredibly high strung so I also kind of want to take the designer by the shoulders and scream “Who has the time for this?” I can’t really see it fitting into seamlessly into our way of living; the unpredictability of the method of travel would make it difficult to take a set amount of time off work and book flights and let’s not even get started on the difficulty of navigating around delicate political situations and the likelihood of drifting into territories where a bunch of tourists and green-powered sea city might not be entirely welcome. There’s also no information about how stable the hotel would be in the event of severely stormy weather; although I imagine it would be able to curl into a protective circle I don’t really fancy being tossed around the waves like a message in a bottle.
Still, given the hotel is still in its concept stages these are issues that probably won’t have to be considered for a while and as it is, the entire structure is incredibly interesting, not only from an engineering perspective, but as a way to re-think our approach to travel.
Main Image © Gianluca Santosuosso