Members of Buchan’s and Nikken Sekkei’s hotel and hospitality sector share their insight into how future design trends are set to reshape the way hotels attract and retain guests.
Harvey Male, Principal (Melbourne)
Lou Cotter, Managing Principal (Perth)
Brett Saville, Managing Principal (Gold Coast)
Hiroaki Otani, Director (Nikken Sekkei, Tokyo).
What big changes in hotel design are you seeing today?
Lou: Compact guest rooms with enriched public spaces full of atmosphere, fresher/local food and beverage offerings and furnishings much like your living room.
Harvey: Stripped down guestrooms, micro-rooms and big public spaces makes sense. Also, biophilic design – the connection to the natural world and how this link contributes to our health, productivity and wellbeing.
Brett: Many operators are now developing smaller hotels targeted at niches in the market. Except at the top of the market all spaces need to generate income – this often means the spaces need to be adaptable. This involves tighter back of house spaces, more active foyers and a creating a ‘sense of place’.
Otani-san: The definition of high-end hotels has diversified. ‘Luxury’ is not the only response. For example, a good hotel lobby design can attract a lot of guests and vigorously activate the urban space.
What are the design trends we’re leaving behind?
Lou: Characterless public areas, internal meeting rooms, dark en-suite bathrooms and a lack of natural ventilation.
Harvey: Formal receptions and concierges, fancy beds, matching decor and furniture in every guest room and up-market restaurants.
Brett: ‘Beige on beige’ interiors, overly complicated room control panels, rigidly structured meeting spaces and pre-function areas with fully internal main function rooms.
Otani-san: A classic western interior design by itself cannot trigger much interest from the millennials.
What impact is technology having on design?
Harvey: Devices in the room to connect with what’s on in the local area.
Lou: With mass use of portable devices, hotel rooms now have unfettered worldwide connectivity, less reliance on hardwired infrastructure.
Brett: Ability to check-in before you arrive and access your room with your mobile phone. Fast reliable Wi-Fi is a given and included in the room rate.
Otani-san: Hotel guests are now using iPads to control everything in the room. Hotels are often showing a direction that residential environment will follow in the future. Designers no longer have to spend so much energy in determining where the most appropriate location for each switchplate should be!
What are the different approaches for designing a boutique hotel vs a ‘big box hotel’?
Harvey: A personalised experience – hotels need to have an authentic story.
Lou: Genuine local character and meaning is essential, to connect visitors with the uniqueness of the place.
Brett: Boutique hotels can reflect more local character. They allow a much stronger visualisation of the design. The spaces in a boutique hotel should be different scale and feel – more intimate and more nuanced.
Otani-san: They are both interesting to design, and should be designed in consideration of basic sizes of the human body. However, as there are so many circulations – guests, hotel staff, goods, waste and vehicles in ‘big box hotels’, architects tend to focus too much on solving the circulations.
Can you tell us anything about your current projects?
Harvey: Designing a new Quest serviced apartment at Epping Plaza, a Mantra 250 room hotel at M-City, a new Hilton boutique micro room hotel and a boutique hotel based in the Melbourne CBD on the Japanese business micro room model with active social spaces.
Lou: Finishing the Melbourne Hotel Perth, a boutique hotel, featuring a juxtaposition of a retained ‘free Classical’ heritage building with and new rooms and spaces.
Brett: Designing a small (160 key) business-orientated hotel on the Gold Coast that is set to open in 2020. Momi Bay Resort in Fiji opened 12 months ago and the owner is also considering additional stages.
Otani-san: The first-ever W brand in Japan, a beach front Hotel Halekulani Okinawa and The Ritz-Carlton Nikko which will be set amidst a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Finally, as an architect you travel the world. Can you share a memorable hotel guest experience?
Harvey: For business trips to japan the Nine Hours Narita Airport, but for sublime relaxation and escapism the Heritance Hotel Kandalama Sri Lanka. It was designed by Geoffrey Bawa and built into the natural rocky landscape with jungle vines growing over the façade.
Lou: A hotel room with an ensuite bathroom in Bali with the only ceiling being a palm tree complete with wildlife!
Brett: Two if I may. One, a very small hotel in on the Greek island of Santorini with a room dug into the cliff-edge. Glass doors opened onto an outdoor terrace (the roof of the room below) with panoramic views across the famous caldera and to Oia. The second, a hotel in Rome where the room looked across all the different tile roofs to the Colosseum.
Otani-san: Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, a five minute boatride from St. Mark’s Square. The beautiful sunset viewed from its restaurant by a lagoon is something that I will always remember.