at first glance, barcelona's new hotel habitat, which is currently under construction and expected to be completed by 2007, resembles the slew of design hotels that have sprouted in recent years in many major urban centers around the world. Its principal architects are a young, adventurous Barcelona-based collective called Cloud-9, which has invited other architects with similar attitudes toward integrating architecture with art, performance, and technology to trick out the 135-room hotel.

Enric Ruiz Geli, one of Cloud-9's principal architects, distinguishes Hotel Habitat from the rank and file of boutique hotels, referring to it as 'cultural.' Although the project uses design to attract guests, it takes the idea one step further by inviting artists to regularly create works within its public spaces, transforming a component of the building into an art gallery. When it opens, the hotel will become an ever-shifting panoply where visitors can come not only to bask in the high-end design, but also to get a taste of what is happening in contemporary art.

Its nod to the art world is only one facet of this innovative project. More remarkable is the stainless-steel strand mesh that drapes over the 11-story building, an orthogonal tower of stacked rectangles that cantilevers off its glass base and steps back to form a series of terraces toward the top.