From mesmerising art installations across Japan's Inland Sea to Berlin's Bauhaus Centenary extravaganzas, and from New York's 'Monumental Year' to Havana's 500th birthday party, 2019 is an exciting year of travel destinations for designers
Twelve scattered islands in Japan's Seto Inland Sea may seem an unlikely place to hold an international art festival, yet it seems to work for the Setouchi Triennale, this year in its third edition. Themed 'The Restoration of the Sea', it has lofty aims to permanently revitalise the communities in these lovely but depopulated islands.
It takes place in three seasons: spring, April 26-May 26; summer, July 19-August 25; and autumn, September 28-November 4. During the festival, works of art spring up in the unlikeliest places – fields, seawalls and deserted village houses. Memory Bottles, Mayumi Kuri's ethereal collection of glass jars (pictured below) each containing a memory of an islander – photographs, toys, a shuttlecock – dangles from the ceiling of a village house on Ogijima. On the dockside in Megijima, 300 gull-shaped weathervanes move with the wind to form Takahito Kimura's Seagull Parking Lot. And on a beach in Honjima, Yasuaki Igarashi's Knitting in the Sky is a vertical installation of fishing nets made on the islands.At the heart of Japan's arty-pelago are 18 permanent museums, galleries, installations and projects on three islands – Naoshima, Inujima and Teshima – jointly known as the Benesse Art Site Naoshima. Works include a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin on a beach, as well as pieces by Cy Twombly, David Hockney, Claude Monet and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Tadao Ando designed several of the buildings, including Benesse House Museum and the underground Chichu Museum.
While you're there Be mesmerised by Matrix at the Teshima Art Museum, which unites the art of Rei Naito and the architecture of Ryue Nishizawa. Built in a distant corner of a rice field, this raindrop-shaped, smooth, white concrete structure is empty – apart from two oval openings in the roof and droplets of water bubbling from tiny holes in the floor – inviting quiet contemplation.
Where to stay
Tadao Ando's Benesse House on Naoshima is a hotel as well as a museum. Most rooms and suites have fabulous views, and many have site-specific artworks. Or stay with a local family in a minshuku bed and breakfast.
2019 is being dubbed 'A Monumental Year' in New York City. Not only is the new West Side neighbourhood of Hudson Yards finally open, complete with the city's first new arts venue for decades, but this year also sees the opening of the Statue of Liberty Museum, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall gay-rights riots (the monthlong World Pride, in June, will be quite a party) and a whopping 10,000 additional hotel rooms.
At the heart of Hudson Yards, Thomas Heatherwick's much-anticipated the Vessel (pictured right), a 45-metre-high copper-coloured public sculpture with 154 staircases and 80 platforms is testing fitness and selfie skills. Nearby is The Shed. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, it is a cultural centre on wheels, covered with translucent inflatable pillows, which slides out on to the adjacent plaza. April's opening met with a few hiccups (broken escalators, echoes and poor reviews for Ben Whishaw in his undies), but what's to come looks promising, including Björk and an 'airborne show' by the team behind Kung Fu Panda. Not bad for a former railyard once nicknamed 'Death Avenue' for the hundreds of people who wandered in front of speeding trains in the area.
While you're there
Check out FXCollaborative's new Statue of Liberty Museum. Located in the former administrative centre on Liberty Island, the sustainable building has a green roof, bird-friendly glass and is set above 500-year flood levels. Exhibits include the original torch and multimedia displays of sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi's studio.
Where to stay
Check in for mid-century modern luxury at the new TWA Hotel by Beyer Blinder Belle (pictured below), an adaptive reuse of Eero Saarinen's TWA Flight Centre at John F Kennedy Airport. The swooping eagle-has-landed form has been retained and the departure hall repurposed as a lobby, with a restored sunken lounge. The 512 guest rooms are in two new curved buildings, with innovative seven-pane-thick glass walls to block aircraft noise. There are six restaurants, eight bars – including a cocktail bar in a retrofitted 1950s Lockheed plane on the tarmac – a rooftop pool, ballroom, observation deck and museum.Photo. Max Touhey
Havana celebrates its 500th anniversary on November 16, and it has been getting ready for its close-up. Over the past two years, it has been cleaning up its public parks and streets, installing LED lighting and primping up locations from doctors' offices to bodegas, the hole-in-the-wall shop/restaurants run on ration books.
Among the landmarks getting a facelift is the lighthouse of the 16th-century Morro Fortress, overlooking the harbour, and the 1920s El Capitolio (pictured below), based on the United States Capitol building in Washington DC. Other projects due to be completed this year include the restoration of the Central Railway Station and the revamped Cuatro Caminos covered market, which will reopen as a shopping mall. A network of cycling paths is also under construction. Celebrations will include parties, parades, concerts and theatre performances, but the official entertainment is not the only fun to be had. Cuban leader Raúl Castro's liberalisation of private enterprise means there are more restaurants, shops and dance classes than under his brother, Fidel.
Celebrations will include parties, parades, concerts and theatre performances
Havana may be smartening up, but its faded-glory charm remains intact. Highlights include Unesco-listed Old Havana, the Malecón ocean boulevard, vintage cars, cool jazz and architectural landmarks in every style from Spanish baroque to sugar-almond art deco. When you're ready to chill, head to El Floridita, Ernest Hemingway's favourite hangout, and raise a daiquiri to the life-sized statue of Papa.While you're there
Explore the Caribbean paradise of white sand and pink flamingos at touristy but beautiful Caya Coco, and the lostin- time town of Trinidad, a haven of old colonial buildings painted all the colours of the ice cream cart.
Where to stay
In the heart of Old Havana, Hotel Sevilla wins points for its Moorish facade, retro pool and a guest list that includes Al Capone and Josephine Baker. Ask for Room 510, which inspired a chapter in Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana. Built for Prohibition-escaping US tourists in 1930, the art deco Hotel Nacional de Cuba has fabulous views, lovely gardens, a Unesco Memory of the World award and even a nuclear bunker. You might be more comfortable, however, in the boutique Hotel Saratoga, with its smart rooftop pool and restaurant.
The Bauhaus Centenary: 100 Years of Rethinking the World (bauhaus100.com) includes exhibitions, lectures, tours and new museums in the movement's three main locations: Berlin, Dessau and Weimar, where Walter Gropius founded Bauhaus in 1919. Split across the three locations, the year-long Triennale der Moderne is a major exhibition exploring Bauhaus art, architecture and design. There's also a new driving route, Grand Tour of Modernism, taking in 100 Bauhaus sites across the country (not all are open to the public). And on September 7 and 8, join behind-the-scenes tours of the city's modernist buildings during the Berlin Monument Authority's open days.
The German capital is celebrating two anniversaries this year: 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, and 100 years of Bauhaus
Events commemorating the fall of the wall include an exhibition, East Berlin: Half a Capital, at the Stadtmuseum Berlin, from May to November. A weeklong festival, from November 4 to 10, will focus on seven open-air locations dubbed the 'Route of the Revolution', including the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and the former Stasi (East German secret police) headquarters at Lichtenberg. There will be film screenings, plays and a city-wide music festival on November 9.While you're there
Don't miss Sammlung Boros, with its quintessentially Berlin history as an air-raid shelter turned prison, turned Cuban fruit warehouse, turned techno club, turned contemporary art museum. Its intimidating exterior belies its eye-popping contents, namely the world-class Boros Collection of sculpture, installations and art by the likes of Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson and Wolfgang Tillmans. Book a tour at sammlung-boros.de.
Where to stay
In keeping with the Bauhaus Centenary is the stylish Soho House Berlin, located on eight floors of a Bauhaus building in Mitte. 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin has in-room hammocks and a Monkey Bar with views of the ape and elephant enclosures at Berlin Zoo. Near the Tiergarten, SO/ Berlin Das Stue features interiors by Patricia Urquiola in a curved classical building.