Beyond These Walls: The Evolution of Public Spaces

By David C. Marr Senior Vice President & Global Head, Hilton Full Service Brands | November 25, 2018

It goes without saying that today's travelers expect more out of their hotel stays than ever before. Beyond comfortable guest rooms, world-class amenities and intuitive service, travelers gravitate towards destinations and accommodations that allow them to both escape and selectively engage with the world around them.

Because of that, we at Hilton find ourselves looking at hospitality design and architecture in new, innovative ways to accommodate these sophisticated traveler's needs. Guests are also, in turn, looking to interact with every square inch of a property – including lobbies and outdoor spaces as well as meeting and event areas.

We leverage a number of design strategies to help us create dynamic spaces to meet guests' evolving needs. The seamless integration of indoor and outdoor space throughout our public areas provides travelers with invigorating environments that can be adapted to fit any of their travel needs - from business to relaxation or celebration.

Natural Elements and Collaborative Space

Too often, the interiors of hotels can feel detached from the local environments outside of its walls.

Because of this, we have begun looking at how to incorporate natural elements from the surrounding area into our interiors in a way that feels authentic to the destination and also meets the changing expectations of our guests. Through tactful design strategies that bring the outdoors in, we have seen a great value add to our public spaces on both an aesthetic and functional level.

For instance, especially with our new-build hotels, guests are seeing an increase in floor-to-ceiling windows, which introduce plenty of natural light and create a refreshing and re-energizing ambiance. When natural light isn't an option, we're experimenting with new technology that brightens up public spaces by telescoping light from the outdoors or creates the sense of passing daylight in our hotel interior areas.

A number of hotels within the Hilton portfolio are also infusing life into their public spaces by introducing walls filled with live or preserved greenery through a rising trend of green walls. Lush, green plants can be organized by color or texture to create "living art", creating an engaging visual as well as a connection to nature for our guests.

Hilton Cleveland Downtown embraced this concept by mounting low-maintenance moss wall greenery in its lobby and bar area. As a result, the hotel has created a pleasing, nature-inspired aesthetic that encourages guests to spend more time in the space.

The incorporation of greenery can also have a functional benefit, as seen at Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort. The hotel's eforea spa is home to a "Living Wall," which gives guests the option to hand-select naturally grown herbs to incorporate into their treatments. In addition to adding eye catching greenery to the spa's space, this offering allows visitors to embrace the natural environment and enhance their wellness experience.

Many hotels in our portfolio have embraced the opportunity to create a greater sense of place by enriching indoor areas with outdoor elements. The choice to seamlessly incorporate natural light and greenery can encourage more guests to spend time in public spaces rather than simply passing through and provide benefits from increased customization to enhanced energy flow. Whether these features take root in lobbies, spas or meeting and event spaces, we have found that they add an aesthetic value that can, ultimately, pave the way for more meaningful gatherings and hotel stays.

Rooftop Bars as Gathering Places

In the past decade, there has also been a shift in design around hotel bars and lounges. Where once these spaces were seen as a quick pit stop or last-resort option for guests not wanting to leave their hotel, these bars and lounges have become destinations in their own right, attracting locals and visitors who aren't staying at the hotel, in addition to their standard clientele of guests.

Just as great views have long been a selling point for guest rooms, these venues leverage the beauty of the destination around them to create an unforgettable experience for guests and the local community. Our rooftop bars feature an artful fusion of indoor and outdoor space – coupled with smart design choices, like energetic color palettes, circular communal seating, glass screens, and other elements that add dimension – creating dynamic, multi-seasonal spaces that have an effortless and timeless sophistication. The design, along with sophisticated food and beverage offerings and skyline views, make these rooftop bars next-level locales.

This rooftop ambiance has proven to not only attract locals and leisure travelers but also meetings and events professionals. Outside of conference rooms, attendees can gather comfortably in these spaces to exchange ideas and build relationships in a more relaxed setting.

A strong example from our portfolio is The Assembly Rooftop bar at The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton. Located nine floors up, the hotel's rooftop venue offers sweeping views of Philadelphia and a versatile setting for groups of all sizes. Sleek drapes and soft lighting adorn the indoor section, while the connected outdoor deck features circular seating and open fire pits to create an inviting space that is equal parts polished and playful. Metal and slate accents give a crisp, clean feel to the space – creating an environment that is ideal for a gathering of friends just as much as a business meeting. Subtle lighting indoors lays the groundwork for a delightful transition to the outdoor deck, as the warmth of the Philadelphia sun or the patchwork of evening lights greets each guest.

Venues like The Assembly Rooftop offer more dynamic alternatives to the traditional gathering space. This innovative outdoor area helps The Logan Philadelphia make an impact in the local community – as visitors begin to look to The Assembly as a go-to destination for unique social and dining experiences.

Merging Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

Our push to rethink public space has extended to exterior areas, as well. Given meeting professionals' desire to coordinate more engaging meetings and events in non-traditional settings, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor space can help stir inspiration.

In fact, more of our hotels are pushing natural boundaries to create multi-functional spaces that are just as appropriate for a sunrise yoga class as they are for a 250-seat wedding. Properties like Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park have experimented with features such as a multi-folding glass wall to accomplish this. Such elements add versatility to an event by allowing guests to close off a space or easily open it up to accommodate the light and warmth of the outside. In doing so, our hotel teams can dissolve the barrier between indoor and outdoor space to create a comfortable and intriguing "third space" that contributes to a veranda effect. Overall, incorporating such elements presents our guests with more opportunities to interact with our hotel spaces and create their own memories for a truly personalized traveling experience.