Experiential Hotel Design Across All Sectors
By Ellis Katz Principal and Hospitality Studio Director, John Portman & Associates | June 02, 2013
Hotel brands across all sectors are looking for experiential design to support the brand promise. From luxury to select service, the aim is the same - to offer an enhanced guest experience that caters to their guests' needs.
Our firm is best known for designing luxury and convention center hotels. Recently, we have begun working on select service hotels in urban locations. While the sector is new to us, the goals of these hotel operators are not. The focus is on the guest experience. This appeals to us as designers, because our firm is built on the philosophy that architecture exists to serve people - all people, not a certain class of people, but everyone.
People everywhere, across all socioeconomic profiles, are more alike than different. Recognizing human values and the human response to space, nature, movement, art, water, and light, we work to weave sensory experiences into the built environment. We approach each project thinking, how can this design best serve the people who will use it? Not only how will it satisfy the guests' fundamental desires when they select a certain brand of hotel, but also how can the hotel best serve its community and generations to come? For us, the focus remains, always, on people.
Underscoring that people are more alike than different, the person visiting a 5-star hotel is driven by the same basic wants and needs, and ruled by the same five senses as someone who prefers to book a select service hotel. Both guests desire a safe, clean, comfortable and attractive place to stay. Both are thrilled to enjoy a memorable, sensory experience. That's not to imply that there are not any differences. At an upscale or luxury hotel, the experience is honed by premium service focused on the individual guest, quality, comfort and a certain sense of escape. It is about how the guest moves through the space, and it is this space that oftentimes becomes the "wow" factor.
Looking at the select service sector, guest expectations change, as does the budget available for construction. Guests understand that as the price point decreases, personalized service tends to decrease as well. The select service guest is looking for a functional and comfortable room, limited food and beverage, and reduced, if not completely absent, meeting space. That does not mean a hotel cannot still deliver that "wow" factor. To make these properties economically viable, the architect needs to be extremely efficient with the program elements.
Space truly becomes a luxury. The guest room is usually based on highly efficient brand prototypes, where the interior design can reflect the locale. Orienting the building and the interior/exterior spaces to capitalize on views and vistas becomes even more crucial for budget driven projects in order to make the experience unique and memorable. We strive to engage the senses and enhance the experience through the choice of materials, the integration of landscape, natural light, art and water features.