Editor checks in: finding new voices in hotel design

Hotel Designs’ Editor, Hamish Kilburn, was left speechless this month, and it wasn’t just from the judging of The Brit List Awards 2023…

Hamish Kilburn, Editor of Hotel Designs, with a collage of hotel stories from August 2023.

Until recently, I thought there was nothing I had not lost on a flight. Headphones, sunglasses, passport, laptop – the list evolves. I should take more photos because they really do last longer. But even I was shocked when, this month, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I lost something a lot more precious, which certainly could not be replaced as easily as filling out a form. My actual voice abandoned me while I was en route to Washington D.C. to record a podcast episode of Travel By Design, a podcast show that I host for Marriott Bonvoy Traveller. Welcome to the start of my living nightmare.

As well as laying down voiceovers, and finally getting to meet my producer in real life, the trip included Hotel Designs getting exclusive access inside Marriott International’s Headquarters in Bethesda, to explore the group’s ‘design lab’, stay in one of the prototype rooms (review coming soon) and meet Marriott’s visionary design gurus who are creating new aesthetics and adding meaningful, material layers for each brand.

So, fuelled by enough honey and lemon tea to sink a ship, and being on ‘voice rest’ from the flight to when we hit the ‘record’ button the next day, the team somehow got through the episode, which airs, I’m told, later this month.

After we wrapped, and I could feel the sigh of relief exhale from the production team, it got me thinking about being forced to accept change. Yes, I had pretty much lost my voice, but it many ways the episode gained in volume considering I would usually be recording one of these episodes from my acoustically sound walk-in wardrobe. Instead, I was meeting, in person, the people who are ushering hotel design into a new era – allowing design to find its voice in the ever-evolving global hospitality arena. Suddenly, the narrative of my nightmare was turning into, well, a dream come true.

“I was left speechless. And this time, I reached for the champagne over the herbal tea.” – Hamish Kilburn, Editor, Hotel Designs.

Image caption: Season two of Travel By Design, a podcast by Marriott Bonvoy Traveller, coming soon. | Image credit: Instagram: @hotel_travel_editor

This apt metaphor – finding lost voices – followed me home from Washington. My whisper had turned into a croak by time we sat down with the judging panel to sift through this year’s entries for The Brit List Awards 2023 – the most entries, I hasten to add, that we have ever received in the six-year history of the awards.

In between bold hotel concepts, exceptional projects from all over the world, innovative designs and rising stars who are setting new tones and defying existing trends were voices from all corners of the industry – each one had a different and worthy message – that all deserve to be heard from whatever nook they came from.

Here’s the thing about The Brit List Awards. By the very nature of its design, it is an inclusive campaign – free to enter – created with the aim to discover authenticity, talent and celebrate true influencers. The hotel designers, architects and hoteliers are not measured by the size of their following on social media, but by the impact of their ideas and the reality of their visions. As the judging panel gathered in a private dining room at Hart Shoreditch, in many ways the perfect venue to shelter the judges’ lunch, for the second time in one month, I was left speechless. And this time, I reached for the champagne over the herbal tea.

As the tone of campaign shifts from discovery to celebratory, we are preparing to welcome the hotel design community to champion this year’s leading designers, architects and hoteliers. First, we’ve invited the hotel design community to our shortlist unveiling party this month at One Hundred Shoreditch before we turn up the amp at the awards ceremony on November 1, when we will take over London’s famous LGBTQ+ nightclub, Circa Embankment, to announce the winners in spectacular fashion. But that’s not all. On the same evening, we will unveil The Brit List 2023 publication, which will profile the top 75 leading interior designers, architects and hoteliers in Britain.

Awards aside, the whole editorial team have been working remotely this month. We checked out the hotel scene in Washington D.C., we embarked on a new cruise ship that sailed from Portsmouth to Copenhagen, and we discovered a new hotel jewel, located off the beaten track in Morocco.

In addition to exploring new hotels to inspire the industry, Hotel Designs has also published a number of thought-proving articles. Among these is our exclusive sneak peek inside The OWO with the architect himself, our monthly look at VIP arrivals and our exclusive insight into the latest tech trends that are emerging, which we strategically published ahead of Hotel Summit and Tech in Hospitality Summit, two events that will take place parallel to each other this month but very much carry the same themes, exploring tech’s role on tomorrow’s hotel design scene.

As we prepare to focus the global hotel design conversation on London over the next few weeks as Raffles Hotels & Resorts and Peninsula Hotels open their doors in almost in perfect harmony, and we gear up to execute our role at London Design Festival where we will start conversations that are unlike any other, there’s something relevant about ‘finding new voices’ that has resonated with me. Not only are we keen to explore new narratives, as well as feeling responsible to protect the unheard voices in our community, we are also intrigued by how existing hotels that have earned ‘grand dame’ status will usher in new design schemes to, perhaps, offer a few words from the wise on what it takes to be iconic in yesterday, today and tomorrow’s hospitality landscape. I’m listening…

Editor, Hotel Designs.

Main image credit: Hotel Designs / Mel Yates Photography / Rosewood Hotels & Resorts / Jon Day / Goddard Littlefair / &BEYOND