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Best travel designs of 2010

Design and architecture shape every facet of the travel experience, from hotels and museums to train stations, restaurants, and luggage.
Best restaurant: At Nomiya in Paris, you’ll feel the spaciousness with transparent walls; designed by Laurent and Pascal Grasso.
Best restaurant: At Nomiya in Paris, you’ll feel the spaciousness with transparent walls; designed by Laurent and Pascal Grasso.Courtesy of Nomiya
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Some of the same truisms about travel can be said about design.

A change of place may impart new vigor to the mind and the senses, but so too does a fit-in-your-palm mobile computer, a futuristic spa experience, or an ergonomic first-class airplane suite.

Design impacts travel in ways small and large — shaping everything from on-the-go fashion to city skylines.

Travel + Leisure’s annual Design Awards seek out and celebrate both the practical and the beautiful under travel’s great global umbrella.

This year’s jury included fashion designer and television host Isaac Mizrahi, design icon Terence Conran, and Amanda Burden, the ambitious director of New York City’s Department of City Planning. Together with five other esteemed jurors, they honed in on the year’s most compelling designs, in a variety of travel-specific categories. And there were a few surprises.

Take Motel 6 — yes, Motel 6 — an American symbol of the affordable road trip long gone to seed: Priestmangoode, a London-based architecture firm, threw out the old and restructured the motel chain’s overall design.

Nondescript roadside pit stops have been transformed into chic accommodations with sleek white and wood interiors and bright teal, orange or blue wall accents. And while this year’s Best Large Hotel winner’s makeover is smart, hip and of the moment, Motel 6’s prices remain dated; travelers can still enjoy comfortable accommodations, a flat-screen television, and a cup of coffee for a mere $29 a night.

When it comes to travel products, functionality and design go hand in hand. In the Best Luggage category, the Rimowa Salsa Deluxe Multiwheel won for its maneuverability — a solid exterior and four wheels that turn 360 degrees. Cheerful and inexpensive, Nixon’s brightly colored and affordable Time Teller P Watches took the prize for Best Watch.

And for the first time, Travel + Leisure had a Best Car category; the Ford Fusion Hybrid won for, among other elements, its eco-conscience design.

Still, contemporary design doesn’t always mean new. A number of other 2010 Design Award winners, including the stunning Neues Museum in Berlin (Best Museum), have emerged from years of painstaking preservation. In October 2009, the Neues completed a decade-long $255 million rebuild (the museum was bombed during World War II). The ruins’ tattered frescoes, eroded columns, and even bullet-pocked walls were meticulously restored and integrated into opulent, airy, and thoroughly modern exhibition rooms.

Even simple architecture can transform travelers’ understanding of their surroundings. This year’s Best Restaurant winner, Nomiya, is a 22-ton glass pop-up dining destination atop the 1937 Le Palais de Tokyo museum in Paris. Open until July 2010, its 60-foot glass rectangle, partially covered with an etched metal skin, has unparalleled panoramic views of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine, allowing guests to see the classic Parisian landscape from a new vantage point, which is exactly what smart design should do — change the way we experience the world.