Gerry O'Leary / Courtesy of Asymptote Architecture
The Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, has 499 rooms and brave-new-world bravado and future-is-now daring to spare. It has two 12-story steel-and-glass towers connected by a bridge, under which fantastically fast cars speed by during Formula One races.
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updated 3/6/2011 1:11:47 PM ET 2011-03-06T18:11:47

A distinguished panel of judges names the best-designed hotels, restaurants, and more in this year's design awards.

“I love to walk in the rain, but I am not the umbrella type,” confessed Norma Kamali, as she made her case for a unique piece of rainwear: a white backpack with an attached hood, part of Puma’s Urban Mobility collection.

Slideshow: T+L Design Awards 2011

Kamali was one of the seven refreshingly opinionated jurors in the 2011 Travel + Leisure Design Awards, which each year recognize the best design in everything from transportation to travel gadgets.

Hotels and restaurants are, of course, important categories in this contest, and two forward-thinking cities—Abu Dhabi and Shanghai—had no shortage of entrants. While the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi had serious competition in the Best Hotel Over 100 Rooms category, Asymptote Architecture’s surreal spectacle won out. The jury liked not only the hotel’s razzle-dazzle architecture, but also the appropriateness to its site—spanning a marina and a Formula 1 racetrack in the oil-rich Emirate, which is intent on using avant-garde architecture to establish itself as a player on the global stage.

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And jurors found plenty to recognize right here in the U.S. They smiled on the collaboration between boutique hotelier Ian Schrager and mega hotelier Marriott International, which produced The Waikiki edition, the first in a series of resorts and hotels from the freshly minted hybrid brand. And when it came to the best-designed resort, the jury found a winner in Utah: the Amangiri. The resort is an ostensibly indigenous exercise in perfectly pitched Zen-like restraint and organic architecture—34 minimalist rooms that essentially cleanse the aesthetic palate by banishing the garish banalities of the kind of ho-hum luxury that this year struck no one as luxurious.

The jury also applauded, with considerable vigor, such civic-minded projects as the Barcelo Temporary Market in Madrid, and the socially refreshing 100-square-foot Studio staterooms on NCL’s Norwegian Epic, custom-designed for the solo traveler on a budget.

And cars? After an initial infatuation with a $201,000 British roadster, complete with bespoke leather luggage perfectly fitted into the boot, the jury rolled up its collective sleeves and got down to business, ultimately giving the Best Car award to the Nissan Leaf.

While there were some surprises in this year’s design awards, the winner in travel technology was not one of them (hint: it’s an Apple product). Read on to see all the winners in the 2011 Travel + Leisure Design Awards.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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