The Marriott Marquis hotel in Atlanta inspires wildly divergent feelings. The atrium soars 470 feet high, the entire height of the building, ringed with walkways that lead into the rooms that line the outside of the building. Plants grow over the edges of the walkways and hang down into the atrium. You ascend in glass elevators that run up and down the outside of pillars, looking out as you rapidly rise through forty-seven floors of empty space.
photo by connor.carey, CC attribution share-alike license, link to original on en.wikipedia.com
Many people are freaked out by the elevators. They stand with their back to the glass, facing the door, refusing to look out as they are carried up and down.
I am not a big fan of heights. When at the top of tall places, or ascending steeply, I tend to be quite anxious. I won't get close to the edge of drop-offs even when there are walls or barriers. Even photos of people standing on rocky outcroppings make me nervous.
Yet I find the Marriott Marquis interior absolutely exhilarating. There's something about the enclosure, the levels, the references to human scale that comforts me at the same time as it stimulates. Many of our meetings are at the Hyatt across the street, which is a humbler version of the idea, and it's like the gardener's quarters at Versailles by comparison -- still pretty nice probably, perfectly livable, but not inspiring.
Moving around in the Marquis, you just want to stop and look. There's nothing utilitarian about it, but somehow it works. It reminds me of the scene in Star Trek II where we just pause and spend a couple of minutes watching the Enterprise move out of dry dock. An experience to be enjoyed and savored, an experience that reminds you of how powerful ordinary moments can be when framed by a masterful hand.