Designing 'Alone Together' Public Spaces Where Guests Can Connect... or Not
By T. Dupree Scovell Managing Partner & Chief Investment Officer, Woodbine Development Corporation | November 06, 2016
Over the past few years, the notion of being "alone together" seems to be influencing just about everything we do. From restaurants to office buildings to hotels, the landscape is changing to accommodate this reality. While we tend to accredit this trend to millennials, the reality is that this is not just a phenomenon for those under 35; it is actually a cultural trend that appeals to almost every demographic.
Take restaurants for example, a few years ago only the "cool-kid" establishments were bold enough to have communal seating and now, nearly every McDonald's has a large communal table right next to the ketchup dispenser. Similarly, "creative office space," an overused buzz word in real estate that now seems to apply to anything with a concrete floor and exposed ductwork, was designed to force interaction outside the typical confines of enclosed offices. One of the industry leaders in collaborative work spaces is WeWork. WeWork is a collaborative work space enterprise with something like 100+ locations and modest plans to reach every continent by 2017 (would you believe they started in 2010?). If this is not evidence that the trend of community is here to stay, then I am not sure what is.
Today's hotels are no different. Where massive guestrooms with extravagant finishes once ruled the day, lobbies and public gathering spaces-spaces where travelers can connect with the internet, each other or even aspects of the hotel's hometown-now rank among the most important features of the hotel experience. Those destinations that are getting it right are most likely to become favorites among business and leisure travelers alike-making the lists of places they enjoy visiting again and again.
It seems that the most popular hotels often embrace much of the endearing aspects of a thoughtfully curated home environment, with floor plans and setups that accommodate needs for privacy and community and the spaces in-between; a residential-like ambience made possible by thoughtful, sense-of-plan design and curated art and objects; and furnishings and room arrangements that evolve with the mood and needs of guests.
While I do think "alone-together" is a critical element of today's real estate environment, I am beginning to believe that the end game will actually be "together-together!" Either way, at this stage of the game, people are seeking community everywhere they go and there is no perfect formula for how to accomplish this. But here's a look at why all of this matters-and ultimately addresses how where we stay must tie to how we live, work and play.
How Did We Get Here?