A hot topic among designers across the world is how hospitality will overcome the new challenges hotels face in the time of COVID-19. Here, some of the topic architects in hospitality share their thoughts on how hotel design may evolve going forward.
Jean – Michel Gathy
Belgian-born architect Jean-Michel Gathy is the principle designer of the award-winning Malaysia – based hospitality design firm, Denniston. Having carried out extensive hospitality projects for prominent brands such as Aman Resorts, Cheval Blanc, St.Regios, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons, the designer is recognized across the world for the significant contribution he’s made to hotel design. Among his latest projects is the newly completed Four Season Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, which opens September 2020, and upcoming Aman New York.
‘Following the outbreak of COVID-19, we as architects have to be more health sensitive in every detail. New systems will be installed for social distancing, there’ll be more glass in front of cooking stations, preparation space will be highly sanitized and layouts will change to allow more space. The buffet will progressively disappear or be redesigned to be served from inside and the number of seats in restaurants will change with increased distance between tables. Instead of having three restaurants, there may be five with fewer seats’.
Inside the rooms, there is likely to be a totally different approach to using materials that are more resilient to viruses and sanitizing surface you can’t avoid touching. The public areas are a major issue: we need to look again in detail at filtration systems, air conditioning will have to be readdressed and the water in swimming pools will need to be recycled more often’.
‘All this will be a part of our lives, so people are now thinking about what needs to change while also developing new products. Fundamentally, I think this pandemic will allow properties to be greener and healthier’.
Drawing on her design DNA – with early influence from her father, the internationally renowned architect Marcello Armani – the Italian architect and interior designer Monica Armani realizes contemporary architectural projects with a Bauhaus design sensibility. The architect’s latest project is Morning Breeze, a one – off designer villa at Las Colinas Golf and Country Club in the Cost Blanca for Somium Properties.
‘I believe that the hotel design will have to focus on more on creating larger private spaces and welcoming lobbies that are closer to a domestic environment in being very flexible spaces. In locations that allow it, this hospitality model will become the norm as guests look to use spaces for a moment to recharge, an opportunity to see things from a new perspective. With the awareness that our jobs can now be done in many ways and that creativity is increasingly becoming a powerful driver for the productivity of our future, this may be an opportunity to be seized for the hotelier’.
‘I think that in general people will move less frenetically thanks to new styles of work and vacation. We will probably stay in hotels less often but for slightly longer periods and will expect more from hotel services. Hotels should aim to create an experience by telling as much as possible the stories and excellence of the area where the hotel is based. In other words, hotels must go beyond the concept of hospitality alone to become a driving force, a landmark for the place where they were built’.
Now partner of the recently formed HBA EMEA by leading hospitality design firm HBA, architect David T’Kint has overseen high-profile hospitality projects across the world. HBA EMEA’s first project to reach complexion was the December 2019 opened Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London.
‘At the moment, I’m working on a renovation of a historic hotel in Cairo. Owing to everything that’s happened over the last few months, we’re now talking about how we can enlarge the spaces and sculpt the space to accommodate groups while still allowing for social distancing’.
‘In the rooms, one of the most important aspects will be the selection of materials. More than ever, we need to specify finishes that are easy to maintain. If you potentially have a different guest in a room every night, you need to be able to clan its surfaces easily. Materials like engraved wood are much harder to do this with. That’s not only going to be important for hygiene but also the perception of hygiene. The sense of wellbeing will become even more important than it was before as that health and safety label means guests can feel safe staying there’.
‘When COVID-19 first broke out, we thought hotels would have to go away from buffet counters. Economically though, it would be difficult for hotels to walk away from them entirely. Now what they’re doing instead is either having a full buffet where the staff serves you, a reduced buffet with more items a la carte or keeping the buffet going while bringing back the concept of having food carts’.
Having worked for firms such as Hopkins Architects and on the design of hospitality projects such as the Delano Hotel in Miami, David Archer established Architects with fellow architect Hulie Ann Humphryes in 2002. The design firm’s portfolio of lifestyle spaces for eating, drinking and sleeping now includes London’s Great Northern Hotel and The Beach Samui, with major ongoing projects including contributing to the transformation of London landmark Admiralty Arch.
‘The retrenchment of ever increasing travel and accessibility requires a significant adjustment on behalf of the hospitality industry. Ideas of success and ‘a good time’ have radically changed and so the aspirations of recent years of packed bars and excitement in hotel public areas have been replaced with an emphasis on family and friends, safety and responsibility. This places an increased importance on the hotel room experience being at the core of the offering’.
‘This trend could lower room density in hotels where smaller rooms have often encouraged guests to use public areas. In this way, traditional ideals of hotel life being an escape from home and a special occasion regain greater currency. The challenge is to find the correct language in regards to both service and design to meet these new emotions and behavioral patterns while maintaining the highest standards of openness and industry’.
‘Many aspects of service will be amended to meet sanitary and social distancing requirements, however the tents of hospitality – friendliness, quality of service, comfort and style – remain timeless. A new hotel has to embody many attributes to become a success. At Admiralty Arch these attributes include history, royal association, location and beauty to name a few. However, a hotel’s reputation ultimately depends on the message it sends to its guests and attention to all aspects of health and wellbeing is a must.
Principle designer for Oppenheim Architecture, the Miami – based architect Chad Oppenheim leads large-scale projects, including the creation of hotels and resorts, across the world. Establishing a reputation for socially and environmentally conscious architecture, the practice is behind the projects such as The Wadi Rum Resort in Jordan and had just completed the design for Lago Maggiore Retreat in Ticino, southern Switzerland.
‘Our global hospitality work inherently embraces many of the broader notions brought to light by the pandemic: the need for healthy, sustainable environments; the emphasis on both physical and mental wellness; and the craving to connect with nature’.
‘We can’t forget why people may be compelled to travel in the first place, especially under such challenging circumstances – for a unique experience, to create a memory and for a bit of escapism. Our design lens will continue to focus on the sense of place and experiences. They won’t change. The pandemic does, however, call upon us to seamlessly incorporate top – notch, evolving cleanliness and safety requirements so that these concerns essentially fade into the overall guest experience. It is now more important than ever to make sure these requirements remain part of a project until final execution’.
‘At Oppenheim Architecture, we have been fortunate that the desire for ‘healthy’ buildings in the hospitality space has coincided with our innate design philosophies and years of experience implementing these standards effectively, efficiently and elegantly’.