The hotel room of the future

See-through showers, floating TV sets, mobile phone entry - Diana Plater discovers the hotel of the future.

I've seen the hotel room of the future and it's number 1014 Pullman Paris Bercy.

First the door lock.

Ahmed Chekir, the manager on duty at the hotel, uses a special hotel key card with a radio frequency microchip to open it.

This technology is available in Samsung mobile phones, which Accor Hotels says in the next 18 months to three years, will be extended to all mobile phones worldwide.

Then you enter the room to see an oversized shower - 1.5m-by-1m - and equipped with special glass which can switch from clear to opaque. It has an adjustable rain shower offering a vigorous or gentle spray as well as different lighting options.

The hotel is in the Bercy area, in the 12th arrondisement, in the east of Paris, which in the 19th century was the centre for wine warehousing in the city, with the wine brought from other parts of the country by barge down the River Seine, before being sent to restaurants.

Designed by Natacha Froger, the concept room was aimed as a study in luxury accommodation for the individual, short-stay business customer.

In creating the room, the design teams decided that chilled water and coffee were more important than the usual mini-bar beverages and snacks, which are available through the hotel's room service.

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Venturing further inside, there's a mobile, sliding luggage rack and a large closet. A side table carved from a single piece of wood also serves as a bedside table and includes a Bartech ice cube bar and Nespresso machine.

The centrally positioned bed is one of the super comfortable ones that are in all Pullman and Sofitel hotels.

A new 3D fabric was developed for the bed linens and a new fibre blend of brushed cotton and silk that is soft, luminous and more absorbent for bathrobes.

Next to the bed are two bedside tables, each equipped with electrical, ipod/MP3, broadband internet and PC/video projector outlets as well as lighting controls.

There's also a touch-sensitive remote control that turns on all the room's automated functions, including the bedroom and shower lights, video projector, lightproof blinds and interactive TV menu.

TV shows and exclusive interactive programs can be viewed on a glass screen with a video projector.

Seemingly suspended in mid-air in the window is a 1.2m television screen. It uses thin film technology, providing exceptional resonance and sharpness.

The advanced 5.1 surround sound system is hidden from view.

A large side table serves as a Le Corbusier-style desk, table or seat, from where you can see up the Seine to Paris.

In the bathroom, the natural stone washbasin features a large waterfall faucet. The toilet area was carefully designed to minimise noise, with special soundproofing built into the lid.

In 1997, engineers from Accor Hotels' Innovation and Design unit joined forces with designers to design the first concept rooms.

Their goal was to produce "visionary spaces combining futuristic techniques and state-of-the-art design".

Using the rooms as research labs, Accor's been able to test its innovations before actually introducing some of them in its hotels. This was how the LCD screen became standard equipment for all its group hotel brands.

The latest concept rooms were opened last October; the other is Room 307 at the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg.

Because these rooms are open to hotel guests, they provide a real-life opportunity to see how customers react to their new features, including spatial design and product innovations.

Guests can be upgraded to this room or it can be booked, Chekir explains.

Ten years ago the Bercy warehouses were converted into stylish shops and restaurants alongside tracks, which were once used to move wine barrels in and out of the warehouses.

In 1990 the city of Paris staged an architectural competition for the redevelopment project next to the Parc de Bercy. The winning firm, Valode and Pistre, designed a plan that consisted of the restored warehouses with modern, taller buildings behind.

Instead of turning the old cobblestoned lanes into a covered shopping centre, as its rivals wanted to do, Valode and Pistre proposed leaving the streets open with a network of awnings to protect visitors from the weather.

It's become a popular nighttime area with restaurants and bars, with many people stopping off for a meal or drink before or after a movie at the large CineCite - France's largest cinema complex showing original movies with subtitles if not in French.

It's one place tourists can mix with locals at night as the bars have a very local feel to them.

Stores range from ones containing homeware to Animalis, a pet-lover's paradise with everything you might need for your dog, cat, bird, or fish.

There's now a School of Sommeliers in the area. And the Palais Omnisport de Bercy holds concerts and sports events.

Bercy is served by Line 14 - the newest Paris Metro line. As it doesn't use a driver it's not vulnerable to train strikes (there was one when we were in Paris!)

Several government departments such as the Ministry of Finance have moved here as Bercy has developed as an emerging centre of culture and commerce.

More recently, the beautiful Simone de Beauvoir footbridge was opened over the Seine between Bercy and Tolbiac, as well as the Maison du Cinema in the former American Cultural Centre.

Accor already had a presence in Bercy with Novotel, Mercure and Ibis hotels, but the Pullman is the first deluxe hotel to have been opened in the area.

The hotel's glass and stone facade creates the impression that it's floating above the Seine, particularly in the duplex suites, including the presidential suite with dramatic six metre high windows.

It has state of the art conference and meeting facilities as well as an auditorium seating up to 300 people, 15 meeting rooms and a separate banquet room accommodating up to 500.

Meals can be had in the Brasserie Cafe, and there's a piano bar and a wine bar modelled on the Spanish Tapas concept. The hotel also has a cute little mini library with books on Paris as well as a glassed-in area with computers, for those who didn't bring their laptops with them.

IF YOU GO:

The Pullman Paris Bercy, 1, rue de Libourne, Paris. Call: 33 (0)1-44-67-34-12. Reservations: H2192-QCaccor.com. Visit: www.pullmanhotels.com; www.accorhotels.com.

Bercy: Visit: Bercyvillage.com.

To get to Bercy village take Line 14 to Cour Saint-Emilion (between the Gare de Lyon and the Bibliotheque National de France.)

For flights, hotels and the best holiday deals to Paris book with Zuji.com.au.

Singapore Airlines flies from all Australian state capitals with daily connections to Paris via Singapore - A380 services will commence from June 1. Current specials start from $1,348 plus taxes/surcharges dependant on departure city. Call: 13-10-11 or visit www.singaporeair.com.au.

The writer was a guest of Accor hotels, Singapore Airlines and zuji.com.au.

AAP

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