This year’s HIX is all about new perspectives. Under a guiding theme of ‘a room with a point of view’ we’re highlighting the voices, ideas and concepts set to define hotel design’s next chapter. From historic conversions to interiors that encourage a slower pace of life, this year’s big hotel ideas reflect the evolution of an industry that finds itself amidst a reassessment of form and function in an effort to make hotels work for everybody.
Taking it slow
For some guests, the pandemic highlighted a slower pace of life which many have been reluctant to give up. Beyond all the sourdough, a simpler, minimal-stimulus, decelerated way of being is the core promise of the slow movement – a loose network of groups dating back to the 1970s that preach slowed-down versions of mediums including art, education, finance and marketing. Following a surge of interest, the slow movement is now making further inroads in the hospitality sector with brands and projects created specifically as places for guests to stop the clocks.
Most prominent is The Slow Collective and its growing portfolio of low-impact, low-speed guesthouse conversions, currently occupying former residences in Tulum and Ibiza, with another set to join this year in Lisbon. On the horizon, meanwhile, the group’s ambitious Flussbad complex is set to roll out a scaled-up version of slow hospitality in an historic Berlin river district, where the movement’s values will be channelled across a hotel, restaurant, performance space, creatives studio and a library.
As interest in minimal living, quiet-quitting and tech-limiting products like dumb phones grows, the spaces that guests seek out will need to reflect this. With slow values reaching into elements like sustainability, service and aesthetic style, the challenge for designers and operators alike will need to reorient their offers away from the conventions of a marketplace powered by constant activity, engagement and consumption.
In the future, the majority of new projects will be designed and constructed within existing buildings. In cities especially, where blank canvas land is increasingly rare and costly, and opportunities for complete new builds are emerging as less and less attractive to developers, adapting an established building for a new purpose has become the norm.
But where this adaptive surge is largely being driven by commercial and development factors, it presents guests, designers and operators with a unique and instantly effective shortcut to the kind of experiential resonance newbuilds can throw millions at and still fail to achieve. Hotels in reused locations like factories, churches and government administration complexes (like The Ned Doha, pictured) are a portal into the past that allow guests to occupy historic buildings in comfort and style – an immersive museum of sorts that often go to painstaking lengths to restore or revive original features and give guests a true taste of the past.
But as this trend continues, and buildings are forced to adapt and be reused more than once, what can designer do to ensure a balance between contemporary function and legacy forms? Designers are limited when working in these spaces, but finding new ways to ensure multi-generational usability and reuse through hybridised forms of hospitality design will be a key task for the next generation of hotels.
Following the news that Noma – one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world – was set to shut its physical location in Copenhagen in favour of a test kitchen and delivery presence supported by a roaming pop-up F&B concept, the hospitality industry was presented with a potential high water mark for the pop up model at large. If the best in the world is doing it, this is surely a sign that the future is going to be rooted in temporary experiences that can be adapted to a variety of settings and locales. Thus, a wave of imitators is expected to follow Rene Redzepi and co into the fray.
It should come as no surprise that new Noma’s first stop was in a hotel, with the Ace Hotel Kyoto welcoming a two month residency with menus that draw from Japanese produce and the city’s sakura season. Indeed, hotels are perhaps the ideal environments for this kind of project – the hospitality infrastructure is all there, and pop-ups can draw from a built-in pool of guests whilst the host generates interest for potential future visitors. In this case, the restaurant’s modern classic status is tailor-made for Ace’s discerning millennial demographic, but with the entire spectrum of brands comes an equally wide pool of potential F&B match-ups.
Expect more hotels with spaces dedicated to hosting pop ups and ready to welcome a rotating cast of increasingly agile hospitality experiences that play to a desire for limited edition, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it experiences. Pop up hotels might not yet have caught on in a major way, but this in-house option allows owners to remain flexible whilst maintaining a core offer for loyal guests. Designers should now be considering how a space can be as adaptable as possible for potential partner branding and function, or how it might serve a secondary purpose within the context of a partner-occupied interior.
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