Pod Hotels: The Urban Motel 6?

Resembling a compartment in a first-class airplane cabin more than a standard hotel room, new pod hotels are popping up in major travel centers in Europe and North America, offering mini-rooms that provide travelers with lower-cost lodgings.

"The shrinking hotel room, especially in the form of the pod hotel, is a growing phenomenon as travellers demand lower-priced rooms with boutique style. The first pod hotel was the Capsule Inn Osaka, designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa and opened in 1977. With more than a passing resemblance to the drawers in a morgue, it was a weird but nifty addition to Japan's space-starved cityscapes.

The pod hotels are becoming as popular for their cool design solutions to small spaces as for their price tag. Qbic (Qbic. com), a Dutch company, is behind a mini-chain of high-design pod hotels. The first Qbic opened in Amsterdam's financial district in the spring, and two more will open this winter in Antwerp and Maastricht.

At Qbic you get a lot of cool design for your seven-foot-square room and 39 euro rate. Rooms, called Cubis, are a cube-shaped coloured plastic living space with an extra-long bed, Philippe Starck-designed bathroom and all the techie essentials: LCD TV and high-speed Internet in the cube's work and dining area. You can even change the colour of your Cubi to suit your mood: to yellow, red, purple, etc. Check-in is self-service; you get your room key from a dispensing machine. There is a communal space with work station, games console and a Grab & Go corner with vending machines offering pastries from local bakeries. (Anyone who is a fan of Febo, the ubiquitous Dutch fast-food automat, will love these.)"

"In Vancouver and New York, pods aren't just for travellers. MetroNaps (Metronaps.com) has designed pod spaces in the middle of town, set up for a quick cat nap, presumably to tap into the buzz from all those studies touting the benefits of napping. You can check into these for just an hour."

Full Story: The Incredible Shrinking Room
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