Hotel Design Inspiration - Genius Loci, or "The Spirit of Place"

By Amanda Tower Global Communications and Branding Manager, Wilson Associates | November 27, 2016

Capturing the essence and soul of a location that surrounds a structure, and exhibiting that essence through the design extends the cultural experience into the hotel and further establishes a sense of place within the lodging experience. In architecture and interior design, genius loci is a profound inspiration for creating a sense of “place” and a truly unique experience for guests. How does genius loci inspire hotel design, both structurally and in the interior design, and how can hotels use it to create a more enhanced guest experience?

What is Genius Loci?

The genius loci is a long-familiar concept in architecture and design, and has, over many years, been adapted and incorporated in a variety of ways. In fact, the origins of genius loci ( Latin for “spirit of place” ) date back to ancient Roman religion. The Romans constructed numerous altars throughout the empire dedicated to the protective spirits of those places. In Asia, the spirits of places are still honored today in numerous indoor and outdoor shrines.

The genius loci is widely known as one of the principles of garden and landscape design, established by 18th-century poet Alexander Pope, who determined that the design of a landscape should always be adapted to the context of the location. In architecture, the Neo-Rationalist style, derived from the genius loci concept, is identified by the incorporation of vernacular elements and forms, and adapting the structure to the existing environment.

What motivates a traveler to journey to a distant locale? Often it is the desire to be immersed in the culture and character of that place, to have an authentic experience unlike any other. A hotel that presents an exclusive experience that is an extension of the culture and feeling of the locale is likely to excite and attract these guests.

The “spirit” and “power” that resides in a place is unique to that native area, and is considered part of the land. Capturing the essence and soul of a location that surrounds a structure, and exhibiting that essence through the design extends the cultural experience into the hotel, its restaurants and services, and further creates a sense of place for guests.

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Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.