The Extraterritorial Hotel

Paul Lorenz, M.Arch ’17

I relearned how to walk in Southern India. So many of my assumptions about streets are completely useless halfway across the globe. Walking down the street, one has to predict the movement patterns of not only cars, trucks and pedestrians, but also auto rickshaws, carts pulled by mules, water buffalo, cows, goats, pigs, dogs, monkeys…My experience is dizzying in its radical unfamiliarity.

But, arriving at the hotel is unexpectedly like leaving the country. Our driver nervously answers the armed guards’ questions while he opens the trunk and a rolling mirror apparatus assures all of us that the underside of the car is not packed with explosives or narcotics. The guards seem relieved to see two Western-clothed white bodies sitting in the taxi’s passenger seats. Still, the bags are given a cursory x-ray scan and we are sent on our way: into the Western-branded walled compound.

Once inside, everything about this place seems to celebrate its difference from the Southern Indian streets we’ve just left. The hotel fulfills a surreal image of Western expectations, and the usual spatial and visual signs are simply taken for granted: of course a breakfast buffet will be served in that familiar-looking room. The usual arrangement of mass produced croissants and jams will be ready in the morning. Of course the coffee maker will be on that table, next to sealed packets of Nescafé. Of course the tiny bottle of Jack Daniels will sit next to the twelve ounce can of Heineken in the mini fridge.