Modern Hotel Design Emphasizes Experience, Authenticity And Communal Space
Hotel designers are emulating the placemaking mindset that has yielded so many master planned, walkable, urban projects with experiential and integrated amenities.
Full-service hotels once attracted travelers by featuring enough enticing dining and recreation options on-site to keep guests (and their wallets) on the property. HKS hospitality group principal Tom Sprinkle is flipping this model. He treats the surrounding neighborhood and setting as a vital part of the amenity set.
His group designed the Strand & Pier in Hermosa Beach, California. HKS capitalized on the urban beach setting, year-round nice climate and diverse array of local entertainment available to guests to imbue the hotel with an eclectic, funky feel.
The hotels in HKS’s portfolio, by encouraging interaction with local attractions, evolve into a relaxing base where guests return after a day of fun. Expanding available excursions and possibilities for guests to explore can increase the likelihood of their returning.
“At the Lionsback Resort in Moab, Utah, for example, the secluded setting and extreme sports culture mesh within a luxury venue for a very local, unique, curated travel experience,” Sprinkle said. “The target market is the active, curious group looking for original experiences, not things.”
Guests want technologically sophisticated spaces, but an array of ostentatious and complex gadgets in a room may detract from the vacation. The hotel’s local landscape should offer a relaxing break from a 24/7 hyperconnected modern world. Designers can consciously install devices that unobtrusively enhance the room. The traveler's smartphone can serve as a simple universal remote to control illumination, shades, temperature, music and more exotic amenities like hot tub jets.
“I would love to see electronic mess disappear so guests can truly immerse themselves, and people are already comfortable with smartphones,” Sprinkle said.
He believes that a positive driver of tech adoption is the merging of extended-stay and full-service hotels. The former are often more technologically advanced because longer-term guests tend to be more demanding and self-sufficient than transitory ones.
“Combining the two is an interesting experiment and can force the full-service model to update,” Sprinkle said.
One potential side effect of smartphone ubiquity is social isolation. Users can spend so much time in their personal lives cultivating their image and in their professional lives growing their network that they miss out on real life. Hotels can address this by facilitating human interaction in attractive shared spaces.
“There’s a much more social component to travel now, and we have to ensure the building design supports this,” Sprinkle said.
He said guests are willing to pay a premium for a travel experience that communal spaces accommodate, so sacrificing some room square footage can help, rather than hurt, a hotel's bottom line.
At 1700 South Harbor in Anaheim, California, his team focused on common spaces and guest rooms tailored to intergenerational groups of travelers. Sprinkle leveraged HKS's experience, local knowledge and boutique design sensibility in this large-scale hotel project, allowing the team to deliver an inclusive, family-oriented place.
Travelers now demand something non-replicable or site-specific rather than generic “fun and sun.”
Miller’s Lodge, with its proximity to Silicon Valley, may lure the exhausted tech entrepreneur with its range of rejuvenating health, treatment and personal well-being offerings beyond what the typical destination spa resort offers.
"Miller’s Lodge incorporates traditional destination spa facilities, but also accommodates recovering individuals with a more clinical outpatient level of care,” Sprinkle said.
The hotel will blend medical-level support and procedures in a serene, secluded setting to accommodate people who just had surgery. The project is representative of a growing trend of market sector cross-pollination. In this case, health meets hospitality.
“Our focus on how people experience public spaces, and our ability to deliver a project with our deep bench of resources and technical expertise makes HKS different,” Sprinkle said.
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