Amsterdam Tower: A Beacon for the Creative Class

By Jesse MacDougall Creative Director of Strategy and Brand Development, ICRAVE | October 30, 2016

In the last two decades, the boutique hotel revolution has stolen the show and has birthed an abundance of small batch hospitality concepts that have scaled out and fundamentally changed the way hotels look and behave. The Kimptons and W's have blazed the trail for FB&E hotels like the Ace and the Standard. European darlings like Citizen M have dared to dream small by making micro-rooms sexy with unapologetic modernism and vibrant, public spaces. Outliers, like the 21c Museum Hotels, exemplify the sort of programmatic innovation that begs the question - are hotels just hotels anymore?

On top of that, the home-share and swap economy - for better or worse - has redefined hospitality language. A 'receptionist' and 'concierge' have been merged and converted into 'Andy, your local host, avid cyclist, coffee lover, and occasional roommate'.

And further, consumer brands like Restoration Hardware, Equinox, and Virgin are leveraging their brand equity and lifestyle loyalists to command a new retail narrative in the hospitality space. We have yet to see how well those concepts will scale and challenge high-volume hotel brands, but recent hires tell a different story, and at the very least, will affect customer perception.

All of this indicates an evolution of the role a hotel plays - in a city, a neighborhood, or a specific community. Hotels can no longer afford to be homogenized billets where tourists park their luggage as they set out to see the sites. There is no applause for polite, 'contemporary', stain-resistant design. Instead, travelers are drawn to hotels that are destinations unto themselves - hotels that resonate with their preferences and purchasing patterns. Moreover, travelers expect a hotel to respond to its geographic context, participate in its community, and deliver significant offerings and programming that attract locals, and infuse the property with that coveted word: authenticity.

But how? In the following brief, we will look at three tactics that can infuse local relevance and help establish a point of view for a hotel development: Embrace WORK/PLAY Dynamics, Cultivate Local Talent, and Personify the Experience.

These tactics are all exemplified in the A'dam Toren development in Amsterdam, a project I have been involved with for the last three years as the lead designer for the Sir Adam Hotel, which occupies seven of the building's twenty-one floors.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.