• Covid-19 – click here for the latest updates from Forum Events & Media Group Ltd

In Conversation With

Profile image of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, founders of Great Plains in Africa

In Conversation With: the filmmakers who designed Great Plains

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: the filmmakers who designed Great Plains

Having spent more than 40 years exploring Africa as photographers and filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the founders of Great Plains, have new standards in sustainability, hospitality and humanity. Editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with the dynamic duo to understand authentic luxury hotel design through a wider lens, capturing a broader perspective when it comes to hospitality in the wild…

Profile image of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, founders of Great Plains in Africa

There is something about Africa – the woodlands, wetlands, and seemingly never-ending grasslands in-between – that gives life deeper meaning. I’ve noticed that the sun sets differently here, almost feeling like you’re closer to the sun than any other continent on earth is.

My experience in Africa is a millisecond, though, compared to the time that Dereck and Beverly Joubert have invested in order to learn about this great natural world. Having spent more than 40 years’ exploring these plains as filmmakers and photographers – the pair have produced more than 25 films for National Geographic – to call these two wildlife and conservation experts is an unruly understatement.

In 2006, to fund their wildlife conservation work, Beverly and Dereck channeled their wisdom and love of nature and started a new hospitality venture. Their inspirational journey – which went on to challenge the cookie-cutter approach in safari travel, architecture and design – began when they set up Great Plains, an authentic and iconic tourism conservation organisation.

Today, the brand shelters 16 safari properties, in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, each designed through the director’s lens to tell unique stories that enhance each camp’s very special sense of place and built to celebrate each destination’s individual character.

Despite being award-winning filmmakers, world-renowned hoteliers and selflessly good human beings through their ongoing charity work, there is not a shred of haughtiness about Beverly and Dereck, as I learn when I catch up with the husband-and-wife team to understand how they, through a purposeful and sustainable approach to luxury hospitality, are helping travellers to capture one-off experiences from a slightly different perspective.

Hamish Kilburn: What initially made you audition for the roles of ‘hotelier’?

Beverly Joubert: We’re explorers, conservationists and filmmakers. As we started the Big Cats Initiative at National Geographic, we soon realised that saving lions one at a time was futile and we needed to conserve large landscapes to save everything in them. To afford this, we decided on high-end tourism as opposed to philanthropy.

Dereck Joubert: To be honest hospitality runs deep in Africa; in our DNA where of course we were all born, so we were inspired by that spirit of coming home and being welcomed. As a result, as I design our camps, I do it with two ’stories’ in mind: the three act ‘ welcome home’ one and whatever story I want to tell through the design of that unique place.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert, filmmakers and wildlife photographers, in a 4x4 with an elephant in the background

Image caption: In 2006, to fund their wildlife conservation efforts, filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert launched Great Plains.

HK: What amendments have you made to the existing script of safari in Africa?

DJ: Oh, I don’t think we have amended the African safari – it transcends us! It may have been about the physical journey (safari being quite simply a journey in Swahili) but if anything I hope we expand it to an inner journey as much as a physical one. Our version of safari is one where you can explore your roots, from millions of years ago, and interrogate your relationship with the other creatures here, our history with them, our very profound and interwoven dependancy. For example there was an ancient cat called Dinofelis that stalked the caves we sheltered in 3.5 million years ago, and possibly forced us out into the grasslands more where we discovered fire and bone marrow that gave us strength, intelligence and the ability to no longer fear large spotted cats. Today we seek out leopards to marvel at their beauty rather than shy away in fear, but we’ve walked this journey of the safari together.

BJ: What does the resonance of meditating at a waterhole with elephants nearby as they rumble do to you? How can we each for that creative energy that the early philosophers and poets sought out in the wilderness, uncluttered and pure. In the style of our camps, we try to add detail and story telling like this in design, in service and as an experience.

HK: What is the current narrative in Africa?

BJ: The Covid-19 death rates in the USA is at about 800 per million people. In Botswana it is 2 per million, so the safety and risk are worlds apart. The outdoor experiences reduce the risk dramatically, but no matter what the rates are, the closed borders have obviously collapsed tourism.

What is evident is that we’re in a cycle of demise that can cause spiralling circles of pandemics. As a result of our nefarious relationship with wild animals placed in captivity in cages in wet markets (in this case), we have sparked an economic crisis, global shutdowns that will lead to a recession, closed borders, and tourism, that communities rely so heavily on in Africa and other places.

DJ: The loss of income has led to many turning to nature to feed themselves at a time when game wardens and anti poaching patrols have been cut back. This perfect storm has led to a second pandemic of destruction of wildlife and a renewed trade in illegal wildlife and bush meat, that find their ways into the wet markets again. So we are seeing a second and third wave of new unexpected viral pandemics as a result. We have to shut down wet markets and the trade in wildlife. We have to review and renew the ways we engage with all animals . We started Project Ranger to support rangers who have been furloughed and keep wildlife areas intact and protected. We have to ensure that there is actually something for travellers to want to seek out when this is all over.

HK: What makes your cast of 660 employees special and unique?

BJ: It is an ensemble cast isn’t it?! I think that the way we work at Great Plains is as a small family business, with a family of employees who do more than just show up. Hospitality in general requires skills that are more involved than that any way – much close to the work as performers – each day to smile and engage in a pleasant way no matter what is going on in your life. I recognise that, so we are sensitised to this and have a policy of support. If a guide is having a bad day, another is primed to reach out and ask him or her what is going on and to step in. Managers do the same to their staff and actually this starts at the top and someone who just joined our EXCO meetings pointed out that I start each session asking each Managing Director what we can do as a whole group to help each week. I know the names of all our staff and most of their families and I don’t want to grow it beyond that point where it becomes impersonal and corporate.

 

HK: Can you talk us through the filmmaker process of storyboarding each scene/camp?

DJ: Each hotel or in our case, camp, is a story. I start with an overall direction and message. In the Selinda camp, for example, I wanted us to re-evaluate our relationship with elephants. The camp is in the heart of the highest density of elephants in the world, but in the past, early explorers like Livingstone and Selous travelled through these areas with guns and a desire for ivory. Selinda was a hunting concession for decades and when we took it over we stopped all killing.

Our relationship with elephants is symbolic of our loss of harmony, so therefore harmony was the solution to ’the question’ the area and the elephants themselves impose on us.

Now I obviously didn’t want to simply populate the décor with elephant images – that would be too easy and cheap. Instead, I designed and cast two life-sized bronze skulls of elephants including bronze tusks but in the forehead of one I had the words “homo nosce the Ipsum” cut in, and in the other “homo nosce  pe Ipsum”, which is Latin for “man know thyself” and “man forgive thyself”. The sculptures are placed on either side of the main entrance with the intention to stimulate a real conversation that starts with us understand who we are and what we have done over the centuries to their peaceful animals, but then  to forgive ourselves (and our ancestors) for who we are.

But that is just the first act, and I wanted to design this with a longer and deeper path towards harmony which in Eastern teachings leans towards the laying out of five fundamental elements the first being the metal skulls, but then you enter a chamber with blue touch of furniture, to represent water and often our guests arrive by boat so I imagined them dragging that element with them, like a smoke trail from the river. Next, you enter for a welcome tea; an open space with a flowing white silk roof to represent air. Beyond that you pass through an open dining area with brown tables, where we serve fresh largely plant based food from the earth, and then to the fire and off to the third act and your resting place, in your room, presumable in perfect harmony and balance.

Only once we understand who we are, and forgive ourselves will we be able to cross a threshold, as one does in this camp, into a new unburdened relationship with both ourselves and elephants, like stepping through a vortex.

It’s not just a story though, I believe that most people arrive and feel that tranquility and settle because of the balance we have created, and so many arriving guest actually sign deeply as they enter this story, this camp. If I can I will briefly describe Mara Plains, that I felt should be an architectural and physical meeting place, also in harmony between three often opposing cultures: The Maasai, the Swahili, the colonials.

But as explorers for National Geographic, we wanted to be the glue as one is behind the lens. So I oriented the camp based on a single and lone tree five km away, drew a line through the camp, and angled it all around this tree. Then I drew a Fibonacci proportion in the ground and had the tent makers make the main tent exactly to those proportions, representing  the ideal gold rectangle one uses in a 35 mm picture frame.

Inside the camp, we imported 75-100 year old railway sleepers as recycled wood (teak) and brass from the original Blue Train 120 years ago. Reds from the Maasai culture represent this very visual association and it didn’t have be head handed because we are in Maasai world so it is everywhere anyway, but the coastal Swahili culture has in influence here so the large Swahili doors behind the showers are a not to them, associated with the sea and water. Each tent fits the Fibonacci proportions creating a film set styled ration that takes you back to the romance of the 1920’s adventures but hopefully without the embedded racism and in appropriate colonialism of that time.

“I added my own collection of campaign furniture as templates and samples for cabinet makes to replicate, which happened at the time of the Indonesian Tsunami where thousands of artisans were left without work.” – Beverly Joubert, co-founder, Great Plains.

HK: How and where do you source your props/artefacts?

BJ: In some cases, we design and make them ourselves, like in Zarafa, in Botswana, which is based on the story of the first giraffe to be seen by westerners as it went on a journey to Paris as a gift to KingCharles X.

Here, I added my own collection of campaign furniture as templates and samples for cabinet makes to replicate, which happened at the time of the Indonesian tsunami where thousands of artisans were left without work, and where tons of mahogany used for houses were smashed down from house scale to ideal furniture scale. So we used the reclaimed mahogany and hired the artisans to make this campaign furniture that is now unique to Zarafa camp. In other cases we just come across something in a market or antique store that we love and can’t live without, so we don’t!

HK: How has your approach on sustainability helped the local community?

BJ: Well, we have delivered something like 6,000 solar lanterns to families that have perviously been off grind, and an amazing addition to that was that the principal of the local school wrote to  thank us because school grades were going up because kids could do their homework after dark. I don’t think the kids liked having do that but… We send nine ladies with very little education from Botswana to India to learn solar circuit board manufacturing technology for six months and to return and develop local businesses from this. We’ve planted more than 5,000 trees and started tree growing initiatives. We have a Great Plains Academy to teach people about hospitality and who to bridge the gap from high school to university.

HK:  It’s clear that, as wildlife filmmakers, you allow nature to call the shots – can you explain more about how guests can give back to nature during their stay?

DJ: To nature, our guests and followers get involved in help fund a rhino calf by naming stand securing its protection on the wild, or supporting Project Ranger to keep front line conservationists at work to avoid this second pandemic. We have a need for $20 donations towards solar lanterns for kids learning at night, as well as $45,000 to move a rhino and indeed, we need an army of ambassadors who don’t donate but lobby against the extraction of wildlife (via hunting or poaching and trade) with their local representative. Everyone can do something.

HK: What major lesson has this journey in hospitality taught you so far?  

BJ: We can all learn from hospitality because it is all about kindness and care; paying attention to details and I find myself taking a lot more care just to find out how someone (even in my team) is doing, randomly, as if I am hosting the world.

HK: 2016 was a pivotal year for you both. Beverly you survived a fatel injury after being attacked by a buffalo while filming your latest materpiece. Dereck, did that event and your recovery change your relationship with nature?

DJ: You know the buffalo attack didn’t really change that relationship, as much as it changed our relationship with ourselves, in that I promised myself not to waste another moment, day or month not totally enjoying my life with Beverly (if I got her back, which I did four times).

HK: Has designing hotels changed your perception at all as wildlife filmmakers?

BJ: Interesting, probably in that it has made me (both of us, I think) understand story telling more, because if you base the entire design of a hotel on a story, as I do, and that is going to be its story for decades it had better be well researched and thought out. So our films have probably evolved into more layered and in depth stories and while I had not connected the two careers in many way, I can see yah prior to this, where I am designing spaces based on a deep philosophy like our relationship with elephants, or intersecting cultures there is more depth to our films.

“I think that all journeys are stories and we are all the heroes of our scripts.” – Dereck Joubert, co-founder, Great Plains.

DJ: A good example is the Okavango film/s where the story is about a river from end to end. But that wasn’t enough, so I re-read Dante’s Divine Comedy partly while Beverly was in hospital recovering from the buffalo attack. And in it, I found two parallels, one of our or my journey and Dante’s as he wove his way from purgatory to parade to find and be reconnected with his love (as I did, over nine months as Beverly slowly came back to life.) Regarding the journey of the river, I flipped the story in the theatrical release to start also in Purgatory (in the desert) and wind our story back to Paradise at the source. Those are the kinds of stories one tells around a campfire about the design of a hotel or camp, not always in a natural history documentary for National Geographic!

I think that all journeys are stories and we are all the heroes of our scripts, (why write yourself in as the bad guy) and we are the storytelling ape. But to us, as much as we love lions and elephants, there are opportunities as films to tell parables that hold up  the mirror to our lives, so we can advance in our relationships, and in our new and renewed contract with nature.

HK: In a sentence, can you explain the synopsis’ of your next masterpieces/camp openings?

BJ: As I walked the banks of the Zambezi River, under spreading pod mahogany trees, I saw a movement in the shade; a herd of elephants ambling towards me chasing their thirst, right passed me and out onto the plains, sliding into the water, leaving me with the name for the new camp on this exact site; Tembo Plains: (elephant in Shona.)

Main image credit: Great Plains

Image of Karen Richards and various interior shots inside The Idle Rocks Hotels

5 Minutes With: Karen Richards, co-founder and designer, The Idle Rocks

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Karen Richards, co-founder and designer, The Idle Rocks

During a laid-back luxury experience at The Idle Rocks, editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with co-founder and designer Karen Richards to understand the hotel’s design narrative, and how it has adapted since lockdown…

Image of Karen Richards and various interior shots inside The Idle Rocks Hotels

Framing unparalleled coastal views that overlook the harbour in St Mawes, The Idle Rocks is my kind of boutique place to visit when I need to relax and unwind. With a sensitive design scheme that evokes a warm and inviting home-from-home, the hotel is a safe place from the turbulent world outside.

I was awoken by the gentle sound of waves crashing against the sea wall – a sign of high tide in Cornwall. Exploring a new destination the only way I knew how, my morning run captured the locals on their commute – queuing up to hop on the small ferry to Falmouth – while the autumn sun slowly appeared over rolling hills.

Once back in the hotel, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast and it was here where I met the fabulous Karen Richards, co-founder of the hotel who designed the interiors herself. Feeling like I had all the time in the world – Cornwall’s graceful pace is somewhat addictive – we discussed hotel’s authentic design narrative, which was inspired not only by the unedited destination but also unexpected events that happened along the way.

Grand seaview room with coastal themed interiors inside The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Image caption: Grand seaview room inside The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Hamish Kilburn: How would you describe the style of The Idle Rocks?

Karen Richards: It’s a fusion of contemporary design and relaxed coastal style.

HK: How does the hotel stand out from other well-known luxury properties in the area?

KR: When my husband David and I bought the building in 2010, our aim was to create a hotel that was young, fresh and relaxing. We wanted to make it a home from home, eliminating formalities and in this way differentiate ourselves from our more traditional competitors.

HK: Can you explain art’s role in the hotel?

KR: We have very consciously focused on local Cornish Artists throughout the hotel. In a coastal hotel it is all too easy for the design to be predictable and something I worked hard to avoid. I love visiting antique shops and fairs, which is where a lot of pieces within the property came from. For example, I came across these traditional woollen swimsuits at an antiques fair. The gentleman who sold them to me asked what I was going to do with them, and I answered: “I am going to frame them and hang them in my hotel for guests to enjoy.”

Image credit: The vibrant lounge inside The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What trend do you hope will never return?

KR: Foreign Holidays

HK: What’s been the most important lesson you have learned since opening in 2013?

KR: Surround yourself with a great team.

HK: Describe Cornwall in three words?

KR: My favourite place

HK: I read about the storm that hit St Mawes in 2013. What happened, and how did it impact the hotel?

KR: We had only opened the hotel for less than a year and after a busy Christmas we were closed for maintenance. The storm hit the morning before we were set to reopen – 90 mph winds ripped through the ground floor of the hotel, destroying everything. The tide that morning was one of the highest ever recorded in St Mawes.

The following day, I was on site with the team and we did what we could to board up the smashed windows. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, that evening another squall came in and caused even more damage.

I was completely devastated but we were determined to reopen. In just two months, we had repaired all the damage – everything had to be replaced from the furniture and floors to the curtains and doors. Luckily, I had a close relationship with my suppliers and everyone was extremely helpful.

The Terrace at The Idle Rocks, St Mawes, which overlooks the harbour

Image caption: The Terrace at The Idle Rocks, which overlooks the harbour in St Mawes

HK: Seven years later, and from one storm to another (one could argue), what happened to the hotel during the Covid-19 UK lockdown?

KR: It has been a very tough time for everyone in the hospitality industry.

For us lockdown was challenging on a number of fronts as we had just recruited our ‘dream team’ and there were so many uncertainties about what the season ahead would look like. We didn’t even know when we’d be allowed to reopen!

However, I honestly believe we’ve come out of this terrible period much stronger and the great feedback from guests, after a very busy Summer, reflects this.

Main image credit: The Idle Rocks

In Conversation With: Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design

Editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with Dale Atkinson, Founding Director of Rosendale Design, to understand more about his latest project inside The Stafford London as well as how F&B design on the luxury scene is changing…

It is arguably more important now than ever before to support those who are leading our industry forward with purpose; the solution-driven individuals who with each project they complete are challenging conventional design while meeting new demands of modern travellers – often ahead of time.

It may be too early to predict the long-term impact the pandemic will have on hospitality, but it is clear that main cities will be quieter territories in the near future. Therefore, hotels have to work harder to meaningfully attract tomorrow’s travellers and guests.

In this new and unwritten era, the power of F&B will play a major role. And to understand more, I met with Dale Atkinson, former Foster + Partners designer who is now Founding Director of Rosendale Design. Shortly after he had completed his latest project – The Park Suite and guestrooms inside The Stafford London – I wanted to know more about how his studio is gearing itself up for a post-pandemic world.

Hamish Kilburn: Can you tell us about your latest project?

Dale Atkinson: We were originally tasked with the redesign for the Game Bird, the Stafford’s main F&B offering and due to its success we were then asked to look at the redesign of their destination bar, the American Bar. We were able to redesign and optimise the main bar to ensure that the bartenders were able to send out more orders at once increasing turnover. The redesign was more of an evolution than revolution due to the devout following it already boasted.

“As the Stafford is seen as a quintessential British hotel, we wanted to celebrate that by employing, predominantly, British brands.” – Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design.

Following the American Bar’s success, we were then asked to look at designing the rooms of the main house. As the hotel boasts and a very high occupancy rate, it was decided to redesign the rooms floor by floor, so not to lose revenue. Our latest rooms that we have handed over include the Park Suite, a maisonette suite with the bedroom and bathroom on the lower floor, and the sitting room and feature terrace, with stunning views over the London skyline towards the London Eye, on the upper floor. As the Stafford is seen as a quintessential British hotel, we wanted to celebrate that by employing, predominantly, British brands (ie. Morris and Co, Perrin and Rowe, Brintons as well as British artisan craftsmen.

Image caption: The Park Suite inside The Stafford London | Image credit: The Stafford London

Image caption: The Park Suite inside The Stafford London | Image credit: The Stafford London

HK: Have you pivoted the Rosendale Design business model since the Covid-19 crisis hit?

DA: There is no doubt that the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit. Luckily, as a studio, we have always been quite malleable to hardships and obstacles. As designers it is up to us to be creative not only in our designs for our clients but also in business and how we deal with these hardships. We have always taken on residential work as well, albeit this has been less of a focus, but due to people spending more time at home due to the lockdowns and also being asked to work from home, many are now seeing this as an opportune moment to change their space due to new ways in which they live and use their homes. We have also looked to start a new line of furniture and lighting products that we feel exude the design principals that we have become known for, timeless, contemporary, and refined.

HK: F&B is your core pillar. Are you noticing that your luxury clients are requesting any specific design features, such as booth seating and utilising outdoor spaces?

DA: We are still seeing a lot of interest in spaces despite everything that is happening, so we know there are lots of projects waiting to happen because we often are asked to accompany clients when seeing potential sites to get our views.

Image credit: Norma Restaurant, designed by Rosendale Design

Image credit: Norma Restaurant, designed by Rosendale Design

One aspect that is now more prevalent than ever before is outdoor/terrace spaces. In light of the recent pandemic, people want to be reassured they are in safe spaces, and outdoor seating areas can provide this confidence. Once terraces and outdoors spaces were a nice to have, now they have become a must have, which is also quite hard to come across in a condensed city such as London.

We believe that booth seating is here to stay, where tables can feel more segregated but still feel a part of a buzzing atmosphere. It is the designer’s job to use creative ways to create divisions, whilst not killing the atmosphere of any F&B outlet, whether it be a stand-alone restaurant or within a hotel.

Another new expectation is that people will, for some time at least, feel uneasy sitting so close to another table. So, restaurants, bars, and hotels will need more space which will be very difficult for many smaller London restaurant where the whole business model was based on getting in as many tables as possible.

HK: Are there any interesting or quirky ways that you can make spaces fit into a world with Covid-19?

DA: There will be many ways to take designs forward in this ’new normal’ we are experiencing, and copper is an excellent example of antimicrobial materials that are proven to kill bacteria within a couple hours. We are also seeing that brass also has similar properties so these will, most likely, be materials that pop up even more at various touch points. New microbial sprays are being used that will last a few months, and there will be a lot of fabrics that will be produced with antimicrobial properties.

We have seen fabrics impregnated with pure silver to help stop bacteria multiplying and creating odours and I believe there will be more fabrics produced with copper or similar ores imbedded into the threads to help kill bacteria and stop the spread of viruses.

Image caption: The American Bar inside The Stafford London. | Image credit: Rosendale Design

Image caption: The American Bar inside The Stafford London. | Image credit: Rosendale Design

HK: How will the typical dining experience change for a luxury consumer?

DA: For the luxury end of the dining experience, the issue of more space around the tables is already common place due to things such as trolley services and the like, but there will certainly be more of a shift towards not only paperless, but touches experiences. The technology has been around for years, so is nothing new, but there will be far more sensor-controlled toilettes and sinks.

One aspect I think that we must never lose is the element of human interaction. There is no replacement for having the waiter explaining the menu and the ingredients used within the dishes, or the intricacies of the wine list. It is in our nature to crave interaction; it just needs to be in a safe environment.

Has Covid-19 created barriers as you work with teams and suppliers around the globe?

At the start of the lockdown, it was an extreme paradigm shift not only in the way work but the way we live. There were, what we perceived, many barriers to begin with but we learned to circumnavigate them and if anything, I believe we have learned to streamline the way we work. For example, travel to and from meetings is now seen as unproductive time that is lost, when you can now just have a Zoom chat. Of course there are certain meetings that one must be on site to see everyone and things such as snags or how the colour temperature or luminous output of certain light fittings might affect a certain space, or how certain finishes within a room affect how it is perceived, but on the whole it has forced us to re-evaluate our perception of the value of time, increasing productivity which only benefits the client team.

HK: How do you envision for the future of hospitality and hospitality design? 

DA: It will take time to settle again and we will all be living by a new set of values, but I do believe the industry, as a whole, will persevere and come out on top. It will have to. As one of the largest sectors of employment not only in the UK, but the world. Hospitality will respond and I believe the major changes will be in how much space we see as safe.

Hotels and restaurants will need to provide patrons with more of it but this is easier said than done especially for those who are already operating in tight spaces. A big shift that we have already seen occur here in the UK is that people are now preferring to go to the countryside for short escapes as opposed to staying in the cities. Even after the theatres and the like reopen, I think there will be more of a celebration of the great outdoors, which will in itself, present new exciting opportunities.

HK: How do you differentiate Rosendale Design from other design studio’s – what are your core team’s USPs?

DA: We view each project as an individual, quite often we are designing for a client whether it be their home, or a restaurant for a chef, or for a brand for a hotel, and each project has its own concept. As a studio we never start by saying, ‘ok, so what is cool right now’. This way one ends up with a project that resembles many others of a time or epoch, and we strive, as a studio, to create timeless spaces so that they are as relevant 10 years later as the day they were built. We feel that to achieve this individuality we must tell the story of the client and their values/ personalities.

For residential projects we develop close reports with the client and try to get to know them as best we can. They will be living in the space afterwards so they must be fully onboard with our vision. Equally with restaurants, Chefs can spend more time in the kitchen than at home so the restaurant can in effect be their second home. We do often use the menus as a base to our design concept with gives it stronger roots. With hotels we look to bridge the ethos of the brand with the vernacular materials and cultures. Research forms the bedrock of any of our projects as it is what grounds it and gives it roots, otherwise it risks becoming a fashion.

Another USP is our extensive concept document that we produce, which includes layout options, furniture options, mood boards, and key to this document, are the 3D concept sketches (we boast a very accomplished artist) that gives clients an initial idea of how the space will look. In fact, most of our studio time goes into the first two stages of the design process, ensuring that the concept we are delivering is in line with the client’s expectations.

“We like to think of ourselves as a personable studio and so the people we are working with will, more often than not,  be our first source of inspiration.” – Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design.

HK: Where do you look to for inspiration?

DA: We see every project individually so our inspiration will come from different sources every time. One of our main strengths is the research we undertake to understand the culture of the area or people. We like to think of ourselves as a personable studio and so the people we are working with will, more often than not,  be our first source of inspiration, ensuring our project with be as individual as the client/brand behind the project.

HK: What are you working on at the moment and what projects are in the pipeline?

DA: We have a couple residential projects in the UK that we are working on and we are also in the middle of a project with the Santa Marina Resort in Mykonos, which is due to open in May 2021. This will be a very exciting project and cannot wait to see how it will be received. We are also working on a very exciting restaurant concept, in Mayfair, which, has also been put back to the end of spring 2021.

Main image credit: Rosendale Design

(IN VIDEO) Hotel Designs LIVE: Discussing sustainability with Bill Bensley

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
(IN VIDEO) Hotel Designs LIVE: Discussing sustainability with Bill Bensley

To kickstart Hotel Designs LIVE on October 13, editor Hamish Kilburn discussed sustainability and purposeful eco solutions for the post-pandemic world with designer Bill Bensley

Hotel Designs LIVE, sponsored by Technological Innovations Group, took place on October 13. The one-day conference welcomed world-renowned interior designers, architects and hoteliers to discuss the future of our industry in four engaging panel discussions, which were:

• Discussing sustainability with Bill Bensley
• Adding personality in public areas
• Reassuring the post-corona consumer
• The revival of smart technology post-pandemic

The production of Hotel Designs LIVE took place in Technological Innovations Group’s Experience Centre in London, and was produced CUBE Video, a bold, innovative and strategic video and animation agency that believes in empowering businesses with creativity.

The event was launched with an editor’s welcome by Hamish Kilburn, where he discussed the aim of Hotel Designs LIVE. “This event, this concept if you like, has been designed to keep the conversation flowing and the industry connected,” he said. “It is our way to position under the spotlight what we believe to be are the most relevant and engaging topics that are impacting our industry right now. It’s also an opportunity to gain access – albeit virtually – inside hotels and design and architecture studios around the globe.”

Following this welcome, Kilburn introduced the event’s first session and speaker. In order to definitively understand sustainability in international hotel design, while also highlighting new, unconventional methodology in the process, the event invited headline speaker Bill Bensley onto the virtual sofa.

Affectionately known as the “Willy Wonka of Design”, Bensley is a dedicated eco-warrior and a highly qualified jack of all trades – architect, interior designer, lover of all things natural, and most of all, a wide-ranging explorer of as many corners of the earth as he can.

The award-winning designer, who never fails to deliver innovative solutions when designing sustainable spaces, joined Kilburn to discuss how design, architecture and hospitality can coincide with nature. In this session, which was sponsored by Silentnight Group, Bensley and Kilburn discussed whether or not the Covid-19 crisis – which resulted in global daily emissions of CO2 to fall by 17 per cent – had effectively balanced the scales, and debated if hotel design could ever be completely sustainable.

Within this session, the audience heard PRODUCT WATCH pitches from Silentnight Group, Harris & Harris London and Schlüter Systems.

Below is the recording of the full session, which starts with the PRODUCT WATCH segment and leads into our exclusive interview with Bill Bensley.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND:

Hamish Kilburn: What has been your favourite year in this industry and why?
Bill Bensley: Right now!

HK: What lesson would you teach your younger self if you were able to? 
BB: As my folks were both English and homophobic, perhaps I would have reassured a young Bill that being gay will prove to be the happiest life positive ever!

HK: What luxury item would you not live without? 
BB: My dogs, I have six Jack Russells and I couldn’t live without them.

So there you have it, sustainability doesn’t have to be a heavy burden in hotel design. Like Bensley has evidenced within this conversation, being conscious to the environment and implementing sustainable methods in design should be a playful, fun, and enjoyable process. By thinking locally yet still outside the box, we will be able to create innovative and purposeful solutions that will authentically meet the new demands of modern travellers.

The full recordings of the other three sessions (Adding personality in public areas, Reassuring the post-corona consumer and The revival of smart tech post-pandmeic) will go live shortly. 

SAVE THE DATE: Hotel Designs LIVE will return for a third edition on February 23, 2021. Session titles and speakers will be announced shortly. Once these have been announced, tickets for Hotel Designs LIVE will be available. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss sponsorship opportunities, focused PRODUCT WATCH pitches or the concept of Hotel Designs LIVE, please contact Katy Phillips or call +44 (0) 1992 374050.

5 Minutes With: Karl Lennon, Director of Architecture & Design Accounts at GROHE

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Karl Lennon, Director of Architecture & Design Accounts at GROHE

Ahead of Hotel Designs LIVE – where GROHE are sponsoring the session “The revival of smart tech post-pandemic” – Hotel Designs catches up with Karl Lennon, Director of Architecture & Design Accounts at GROHE

Tomorrow, in an engaging panel discussion, Hotel Designs LIVE will explore the revival of smart tech post-pandemic.

Ahead of putting the spotlight back on technology, we catch up with the session’s sponsor, GROHE, to understand how sustainability and technology can work together to create a more meaningful hotel design scene.

Hurry! you have until 10am (BST) today in order to secure you virtual place in the audience for Hotel Designs LIVE. Click here to participate.

Hamish Kilburn: GROHE has consistently been raising the sustainability bar in the hospitality sector for many years now but what’s one thing they are doing that sets them apart?

Karl Lennon: Several years ago, we began our journey into 3D printing and exploring how the growing use of this technology could be applied within bathroom design. Then in March 2019, we unveiled our Icon 3D tap range, a collection of 3D printed taps produced by printing metal using a powder bed laser melting process, a unique material developed by our R&D team. In terms of sustainability, it sees us starting to move away from a make-take-waste model and begin the shift towards operating within a more circular economy. Also, 3D printing allows us to create visual spectacles and masterpieces that just simply wouldn’t be possible with traditional manufacturing methods. We completely pared back on the design of our Icon 3D taps, incorporating design details such as ultra-thin profiles and hollow interiors that would not only push the barriers of bathroom product design but significantly reduce the amount of material required in the manufacturing process too.

Meanwhile, we’re also channelling our innovation back into the hospitality, architecture and design industry with our RIBA-approved CPD programmes. We cover topics such as 3D printing and water-saving to give tangible solutions and help hoteliers and designers realise the potential for these products in their market. I look forward to sharing more on the Icon 3D in our product watch tomorrow!

Image caption: GROHE Atrio Icon 3D | Image credit: GROHE

HK: How will the pandemic impact consumer’s relationships to wellness areas within hotels?

KL: As with many areas of the hotel experience, we will of course see more movement towards touchless activation of products within wellness zones, especially as these are public areas with higher footfall. The likes of infra-red sensors for various touchpoints will become commonplace but this should only enhance the experience and complement that desired sense of wellbeing and “switching off” for guests. This technology is already familiar to most of us, namely through public bathrooms, but expansion is likely to occur across almost all areas of a project. Even some homeowners will be looking to implement touchless operation into areas of their homes so there will be a greater expectation that these developments are in place when visiting a hotel or wellness facility. However, really only time will tell! This is a constantly unfolding situation and one we are learning about and adjusting to everyday so I think we are still finding our path for the future.

Image caption: Icon 3D printing design process | Image credit: GROHE

HK: Are there any exciting projects championing sustainability that you’ve worked on recently?

KL: We see more and more now that hotel operators that we are working with across the globe have made strong commitments to sustainability in the future, which is fantastic to see. We’re working closely with these partners to enable them to satisfy these goals in their new and existing projects by advising them with the right products and specifications. This of course aligns with our own sustainability objectives where we are trying to reduce our impact through carbon-neutral manufacturing processes and working towards plastic-free packaging next year. So I hope soon that there will be lots more exciting sustainable hotel projects paving the way for new standards in the industry.

HK: We have noticed that colour is being injected back into the modern bathroom. Why is this?

KL: Formerly a functional space that focused on personal hygiene, the bathroom has become increasingly considered as a tranquil retreat. Colours enrich our experiences and heighten our senses so the two marry well, as we seek to create more experiential hotel spaces for guests. We believe the growth potential for coloured bathrooms lies within brassware and the ability to coordinate all aspects; from taps and showers to flush plates and accessories, all perfectly coordinated in the same colour and finish. This can really add that edge of luxury which is what makes a hotel break so indulgent and appealing for guests.

HK: What are some major pitfalls designers can avoid when adding tech into the bathroom?

KL: I think the biggest pitfall is using tech just for the sake of using tech! There is such a thing as too much technology and it can really detract from the experience if not carefully considered. Good tech design is intuitive. Hotel guests don’t want advanced shower systems with complicated controls that they would struggle to operate without instructions – the shower is a place to unwind and refresh and guests want to take advantage of that luxury even more when enjoying a visit to a hotel. Therefore designers need to keep in mind that tech products need to be clear and easy to use for guests, in order to deliver a more enjoyable experience.

HK: When it comes to hoteliers or designers specifying sustainable solutions for a new project, where is best to start? What simple solutions are best to implement that have the biggest impact?

KL: Connecting with suppliers and manufacturers to fully understand what is available, and how specific solutions can meet your individual project needs, is a helpful starting point to generate ideas and knowledge of this area. In terms of solutions, a key place to start of course is water-saving products. As an example, at GROHE, all our products either come with standardised water saving features or can be adapted to reduce consumption. Subsequently, we work across a lot of LEED and BREEAM certified projects. Some key solutions to consider are dual flush plates, water-saving shower heads and also advanced thermostatic shower systems. Alongside reducing water consumption, looking at methods to refine energy usage is also an important focus area. In the guestroom bathrooms, innovations such as cool start taps that only use cold water when first activated instead of unnecessary heating of hot water are a simple yet effective strategy, as are infra-red taps.

GROHE is one of our recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email  Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: GROHE

In Conversation With: interior designer Lisa Haude

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: interior designer Lisa Haude

Interior designer Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios, is known for her creative and unique approach to design. Editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with the storyteller to understand why she is considered one of the industry’s finest…

A storyteller in her own right, designer Lisa Haude creates one-of-a-kind spaces that breathe a new level of authenticity into the projects she touches. Working predominantly with the larger brands, such Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International, Haude’s style is to celebrate the history of each hotel’s destination, which is channeled through an meaningful design narrative that is sheltered inside each project. 

One of her recent projects – among many others – is AC Hotel by Marriott Washington D.C. Downtown, a hotel in the heart of the city that’s design marries together the architectural relevance of Washington D.C. with a modern twist.

Image credit: AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

“The one-of-a-kind light fixture that spans from the bar through the lobby space is actually a replica of the Potomac River from an aerial viewpoint.” – Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios.

To learn more about the project, and the designer who brought it to life, I caught up with Haude, the founder of PDG Studios.

Hamish Kilburn: What inspired you to be a designer? 

Lisa Haude: I’ve always loved being creative. Thinking outside of the box and bringing a vision to life is such a rewarding experience and one that I treasure the most.

HK: One of your recently completed projects was the AC Marriott DC. Can you explain for us the design scheme and what the challenges were for this project? 

LH: With this project, we wanted to take the iconic, historical architectural elements of Washington DC and reinvent them with a modern interpretation. This was done by juxtaposing strong structural lines (which the building already had) and incorporating softer curves and fluid movement via furniture and unique, yet focal, point details. For example, the one-of-a-kind light fixture that spans from the bar through the lobby space is actually a replica of the Potomac River from an aerial viewpoint, which was reinterpreted in an artistic light form to provide soft, fluid lines and movement throughout the space.  

Our biggest challenge with this space was working within a very small building that had many structural constraints. Although difficult at times, these challenges are what really allow us to expand our creativity and bring something truly unique to life! 

HK: As well as high-end luxury you have also completed some recent budget hotels. How do you achieve adding personality on a budget? 

LH: With a small budget, we focus on being strategic with how the funds are allocated, paying attention to every little detail and having a very strong design story that can be implemented from start to finish. This requires some flexibility and creativity as you work through the execution of the design with the contractor to ensure that the design intent is carried through and will make the most  out of the budget you are working with. 

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman

HK: Can you explain to us more about the projects you have on the boards? 

LH: We are currently working on a historic/adaptive reuse property, a modern mountain get-away, and another very fun project that will be a nod to history but with a modern twist, among a few others! 

HK: In your work, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on art. What is your secret to persuade the client to allocate enough budget for artwork? 

LH: We believe that art is part of the design story and we are very intentional with the placement and selection of the pieces we use. We work closely with our owners to make sure we have some money carved out to include some unique pieces in the spaces, as they are the necessary cherry on top that helps complete the design. 

Image of an art exhibition

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Sunnyvale

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What is one trend that you wish will never return?

LH: Wallpaper borders! This may be dating me slightly, but when I started in the design industry, a guestroom or residential project was not complete unless you had a wallpaper border in the space.

HK: What items during lockdown could you not have lived without? 

LH: Computer, iPhone and wine (and, of course, my daughter and dog!)

HK: What makes a good design team? 

LH: A team of like-minded individuals who respect each other and truly value each other’s input and love to collaborate.

HK: Who is your interior design hero? 

      LH: I have so many people in the industry that I look up to, but today, the people I admire the most are those working around the clock to find safe alternatives and vaccines so that we may all soon be able to travel freely and be inspired by the people and places around us.

HK: Describe PDG Studios in three words…

    LH: storytellers, authentic and collaborative! 

“It’s important to plan for and design zones that allow for individual space.” – Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios

HK: How have the challenges of the pandemic allowed you to challenge conventional design? 

LH: We now need to be more adaptive and creative with how we approach design. In our current designs, we encourage the incorporation of more green and outdoor space (i.e. rooftop  terraces, balconies and courtyards), the use of larger windows/natural light sources and less toxic materials, such as natural materials and plants. It’s important to plan for and design zones that allow for individual space, where one can work and be conscience of the materials that are being used. Moving forward, it will be imperative to source materials that do not harbour germs and can be easily cleaned—and those people spending time in these spaces will want to know that! 

Image credit: AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

HK: How will smart tech evolve in the hotel guestroom post-pandemic? 

LH: Easy/quick access to tech will become even more of a necessity. From the ability to work from your room via teleconferencing to the ease of being able to fully automate your room via your smart device, tech is most likely going to continue to evolve and become more mainstream and expected.  For example, the ability to turn on/off lights, control the AC /heat, open/close the door, etc., without contact (using voice activation instead) will be very desired and important to many people. The technology is already there for many of these items, but I believe there will be a greater push to make it more affordable and mainstream to the greater public in a hospitality-type setting.

HK: Has sustainability slipped off the agenda in hospitality? 

LH: I don’t think so. I feel like it is now even more important that we use products that are sustainable, locally sourced and easy to clean and maintain. I believe that this period of time has taught us all to take a step back and appreciate the people in our life and our surroundings. We have also become more conscience about our choices and how products are used and/or disposed of. 

Main image credit: PDG Studio/Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman/AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

5 minutes with: Paul Zway on ‘The Private Collection’

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: Paul Zway on ‘The Private Collection’

To understand The Private Collection by Exclusive Tents, editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with the brand’s founder, Paul Zway…

Built with couples, families or small groups in mind – as well as for poolside, day beds and beach use – The Private Collection of innovative tents by Exclusive Tents are designed for tomorrows travellers.

Uniquely, these small-scale tents are created to be placed close to each other and still be able to maintain the social barrier that will allow for safety and luxurious comfort.

To understand more about the collection – and the man behind the Exclusive Tents brand – I caught with Paul Zway.

“In this Post-Covid world, only glamping offers the security of a natural form of social distancing.” – Paul Zway, Founder, Exclusive Tents.

Hamish Kilburn: In 16 years, why do you believe the demand for luxury tented accommodation has increased the way it has?

Paul Zway: There has been an ever-enlarging segment of people who want to get back closer to nature not only to find harmony but to also find freedom in space which Glamping naturally offers.

There is also an element of wellness and comfort that comes to those willing to experience living in a luxury tent whilst being immersed in and connected with/to nature. In this Post-Covid world, only glamping offers the security of a natural form of social distancing.

HK: What makes these new tents ideal for social distancing?

PZ: These are relatively compact tents of which the two smallest are five-sided (pentagon) and the other two are respectively rectangular and hexagonal tents. All have the luxury features of our larger Exclusive Collection of tents but they are small and private enough to be placed close to each other and still be able to maintain the social barrier.

All wall panels can be raised or lowered based on how they are spaced and placed in a grouping which will allow for privacy as well for any views where applicable. All windows have screens and roll-up canvas flaps as well as clear PVC window overlays which creates privacy and security and allows natural light to flow in.

Image credit: Exclusive Tents

Provision is also made for a ceiling fan/light mount and the curtains and inner ceiling liner finish the interior off with elegance. The two smaller five-side pentagon tents and also be arranged side by side or back to front for different views either separately or as a combination. These Private Collection Tents were designed for couples, family or small groups as well as for poolside, day beds and beach.

HK: From your vantage point over the industry, will public areas in hotels ever be the same again?

PZ: Most certainly public areas, particularly in new developments, will evolve and change with these changed times but some older establishments will have difficulties, be it budgetary or structurally, trying to evolve. This evolution, I believe, is only in its infancy but will find a more of a natural evolution in the glamping sector of hospitality.

HK: What were the design challenges when creating these new social distancing tents?

The entire idea was to create a compact tent using our existing superior frame structure along with our high-quality fabrics. Various designs and shapes were explored, but we finally settled on the pentagram because of its uneven shape and that it could be reversed to give an alternative view so it was based both on vision in and vision out.

Most of the design effort went into the two smaller tents in the Private Collection of tents, the largest being a hexagonal shape and 142 sq ft in area. The tents can be treated  with fire retardant are rated for strong winds and can be insulated and are truly four-season tents.

Image credit: Exclusive Tents

HK: How have you ensured that luxury and comfort is not scarified in the design of this product?

Every effort was made to ensure that all the luxury features from the Exclusive Collection was included into these new tents with the only difference being that all sides can be rolled up to create a gazebo if required.

The Private Collection tents can also be insulated and have the same various colour options as the Exclusive Collection.

HK: Can you tell us more about the materials you use and how long they are expected to last?

PZ: We use only the best quality materials be it the steel or the fabrics and we also use the best thermal/acoustic insulation available for this kind of application. With the correct maintenance our tents have a longevity of at least 15-20 years.

HK: How do these tents challenge conventional tented accommodation in their design?

PZ: Our tents are fully “All Season” tents with a 4-layer roof and can be used in extreme heat down to bitterly cold conditions. Our roof framing system is very unique and robust making our tents do extremely well in very strong winds and heavy snow. The load bearing capabilities from the interior roof is also incredibly good for heavy fittings. We also have a range of insulation options and all tents can me made with fire retardant. We also offer a rainwater collection system along with a solution for fire suppression sprinklers.

HK: We loved your ‘biography through tents’ piece that we published recently. What advice would you give your younger self if you could?

PZ: I have always had to reinvent myself and have battled the odds on many occasions without any formal business education but always prevailed. I don’t regret much because I seldom look back and am always looking and moving forward. That being said, the only advise I would have given myself back then in the day was to tread way more carefully when stepping through the bush with snakes around it.

HK: Some would argue that your products are limited to safari regions. What would you say to that?  

“Our Exclusive Collection of tents are not typical safari tents.” – Paul Zway, Founder, Exclusive Tents.

PZ: Granted, our Safari Collection which includes the Serengeti, Savanna and Livingston tents are all typical traditional Safari tents however we have these style tents standing in regions all over the world.

Our Exclusive Collection of tents are not typical safari tents but they too crossover well into typical safari regions. Our tents are built to specific requirements and this is most commonly related to climate. We are working currently on a tent that must weather cold conditions down to -45C which is the type of challenge that we excel in. Our tents are designed to be functional all year round and do not need to be winterised.

Exclusive Tents International is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here

Main image credit: Exclusive Tents

In Conversation With: Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture

Looking ahead, past the pandemic, editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture, to understand how to build a meaningful hotel landscape…

With the world the way it is at the moment, the conversation in the industry has steered sharply towards how architecture and design will be affected in the post-pandemic world.

PLP Architecture is a firm behind some of the world’s smartest and most sustainable buildings, which will soon include Pan Pacific London. Expected to be completed in 2021 – and already being described as an ‘architectural marvel’ – the project’s vision is to balance a design that is sensitive to the Asian heritage of the brand whilst creating an ultra-modern, timeless hotel and complex that challenges conventional architecture.

As a result of the firms sustainable mission, the building will shelter mix of 42 native wildflower and some sedum species populate levels 34 and 42 – 44, protruding above the structure’s rooftop, seeking to create a sense of continuity between the tower and the outdoor public spaces and gardens on the ground floor. 

Representing a number of firsts for London, such as being the first tower development in the City of London to harmoniously fuse private apartments with a luxury hotel, PLP Architecture’s collaborative approach with Yabu Pushelberg and developers UOL and Stanhope ensures the delivery of an integrated and seamless design at every level of building, helping to bring to life a bold, emblematic and creative new embodiment of urban expression for the capital. Most importantly, though, it has been built with tomorrow’s consumers and travellers in mind.

So how are architects evolving to meet the hefty demands of modern travellers and budget conscious clients in the post-pandemic world? I spoke to Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture, to find out.

Hamish Kilburn: How will coronavirus reshape architecture?

Mark Kelly: Architecture is an inherently flexible process – always evolving while constantly questioning and reinventing itself. As such, it is well placed to respond to the current and seemingly ever-changing Covid crisis and, for that matter, other current and future global concerns such as the climate emergency. Covid has specifically put extra focus on the health of the architectural spaces we inhabit – not just in the way they operate, but in the way they make occupants behave and feel.

We are already seeing a shift towards greater implementation of technology to reduce levels of contact. There is also now a greater recognition of the benefits of architecture enhancing a state of health and wellbeing – achieved through more natural lighting and ventilation, improved climate control, larger areas of personal space more robust and cleanable surfaces, increased sizes and more options for circulation, clearer signage and better management of wayfinding – as well as more pragmatic inclusions like well-designed and integrated places for washing / sanitising hands and select use of screens and shields where required in areas of frequent interaction.

“The current environment is a perfect opportunity for hotels to think creatively about ways to not just reconsider and reactivate their existing spaces.” – Mark Kelly, Partner, PLP Architecture.

HK: How should the hospitality industry prepare for post-pandemic work in terms of architecture and design?

MK: Though we are in very challenging times at the moment, we see opportunities for an exciting future across the industry – one that addresses the requirements of a post-pandemic world and also reinvents itself into a more dynamic, safe and inclusive environment for people to use and enjoy. Ultimately hospitality, as a service-based industry, has the goal of accommodating and providing comfort – not just for guests, although they are a clear priority – but for staff as well. Everyone involved has a right to feel safe and protected at all times.

Image caption: Final mock-up room inside Pan Pacific London

During the pandemic, we have seen some creative uses for hotels being implemented – including people using them as remote offices, exercise studios and other support for a newly mobile workforce. This has not only helped to counteract the problems associated with lower occupancy levels but started to address other issues that were present before the pandemic. The current environment is a perfect opportunity for hotels to think creatively about ways to not just reconsider and reactivate their existing spaces, but transform their business models to help further diversify and futureproof their assets.

We see a real need to shift towards the inclusion of more local target groups, with a new and expanded reliance on the local population to add authenticity and ensure year-round activation and use of hotels. The pandemic has provided, and in some cases necessitated, an opportunity for the industry to expand from a more straightforward offering of overnight accommodation with perhaps a restaurant and gymnasium, into a truly community-minded hub where locals, tourists and business men and women alike interact and intermingle in an environment that entices each.

Premium hospitality can remain a core function in hotels, but it will need to be flexible enough to adapt to take advantage of this exciting and beneficial adaptation into a Hospitality Integrated Business that brings together the workplace, wellness and placemaking.

HK: What kinds of spaces will we be willing to live, travel and work in now?

MK: Everyone’s goal is and will be to avoid contamination with the virus. As a whole, many of the types of spaces we will be willing to live, travel and work in already exist in limited quantities and going forward their designs will become more widespread through the adaptation and retrofitting of existing spaces and the creation of new ones.

Image caption: Render of the hotel entrance at Pan Pacific London

Density control is easier than ever now, and in hotels we believe that good design for the management of arrivals and departures in a reception space, for instance, can be easily integrated with new goals for sustainability to achieve environments that actively help prevent the spread of the virus and, ultimately, are healthier and more invigorating for everyone.

The inclusion of more natural light, better ventilation, clearer wayfinding, more generous sizing, and adaptable personal spaces – all things we as a practice have been incorporating into our designs for many years – have become crucial visual indicators of safety that allow us to feel comfortable and protected at our homes, in our places of work, and while moving around outside of both.

“No longer a futuristic dream, loop circulation systems with horizontal movement will help optimise people movement across levels.” – Mark Kelly, Partner, PLP Architecture.

HK: How can architecture mitigate pathogenic risks in an interconnected world?

MK: Architecture will play a crucial role in supporting our control of pathogenic risks in our increasingly globalised world. Natural ventilation and better air management, including the use of HEPA filters, for instance, are already recognised for their ability to reduce infection rates and virus spread. Easy-to-clean materials, such as high-pressure laminates and other smooth, anti-microbial surfaces, enabling efficient management of contagion mitigation measures.

Spatial use and organisation are also important, including the ways in which shared spaces (corridors, lounges, lobbies, dining areas) are activated. New developments in vertical circulation are poised to be a game-changer for taller structures in our cities. No longer a futuristic dream, loop circulation systems with horizontal movement will help optimise people movement across levels, spaces, and even buildings and reduce risk associated with unnecessary interaction.

Crucially, we believe that changes in architecture can be carried out subtly and effectively, preserving a sense of design identity and uniqueness, accommodating luxury and comfort, while embracing risk reduction and contagion prevention to ensure we can get back to close to what we define as our normal lives as possible.

Main image credit: PLP Architecture/Pan Pacific London

Discussing luxury furniture design with Oki Sato, founder of Nendo

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Discussing luxury furniture design with Oki Sato, founder of Nendo

Following our official ‘first look’ of the 2020 Minotti Collection – and to mark putting furniture under the editorial spotlight this month – editor Hamish Kilburn speaks to one of the designers behind the collection; Oki Sato, founder of Nendo

Airy with constructive details linked to Japanese tradition, the Torii modular furniture, designed by Nendo for Minotti’s 2020 Collection, plays with round-edged volumes, thin profiles and the apparent formal simplicity of an extremely detailed design.

With an interlocking game, the horizontal elements within the furniture are laid on the vertical supports, ensuring a sophisticated visual lightness that accommodates the padded volume, characterised by couture craftsmanship.

The Torii family includes sofas, armchairs, dining and lounge little armchairs, ottomans, coffee tables and console tables. To understand more about these pieces within the context of the timeless collection, I spoke to the visionary behind Torii’s creation; Oki Sato, the founder of designs studio Nendo.

Luxury interiors with Minotti furniture

Image credit: The Torii range of the 2020 Minotti Collection

Hamish Kilburn: Can you describe the Torii range in three words?

Oki Sato: Traditional, lightness, and secureness.

HK: How does your design within this collection challenge conventional furniture design?

OS: Generally, furniture legs are reinforced by connecting vertical members to horizontal members. On the contrary, the leg structure resembles a “torii,” a traditional gate of a Shinto shrine, with a horizontal member sitting on the two vertical timbers.

Moreover, the ends of the horizontal member are designed to look like they are biting into the seat, reminding us of traditional “wood joinery” often seen in vernacular Japanese wooden architecture. The design goal was to maintain the visual lightness while expressing a sense of secureness with each component firmly locked together in unity.

HK: In your own words, what were the major challenges when designing these pieces?

OS: We had received a presentation from Minotti family for this project. This was our very first time to receive a presentation from the brand, despite having presented many times before. I think it was a challenge to design Nendo-like details to evolve Minotti family’s first rough concept and to exceed their expectations. 

HK: Can you describe how the design evolved from initial sketches to the finished product?

OS: After we received first presentation by Minotti, the initial sketch was drawn by Minotti. It was 100 per cent Minotti design at the very first moment. And then, the essence of Nendo was gradually added to the sketch through meetings and prototypes with the Minotti family.

Minotti shared a specific image at the very beginning, which helped us to proceed prototype making faster than ever and we could devote more time to considering the details.

HK: How long did this process take?

OS: I believe this process took about nine months.

HK: Can you explain more about the material you used in the upholstery?

OS: Minotti’s high technology and extensive experience coordinated our idea to concrete shape. The brand arranged everything, including a selection of materials and the softness of the cushion.

HK: What is it about Japanese design that attracts so many luxury brands?

OS: I believe it is about light and shadow. Let’s say for Italians, when one says red, Italian designers can see a lot of different reds. They have hundreds of colours of reds, but not just red.

On the other hand, I think the Japanese perceive more tones of light and shadow. I guess light and shadows are about minimalism, poetry which is one of  the values of Japanese design.

Minotti London, which is exclusive style partner at MEET UP London, is one of our recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email  Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: Minotti

5 minutes with: Ian Gell, head of new product design at Aqualisa

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: Ian Gell, head of new product design at Aqualisa

Following the launch of Aqualisa Smart Quartz Collection of showers, Hotel Designs catches up with Ian Gell, the brand’s head of new product design…

The recent launch of the new Aqualisa Smart Quartz Collection of showers shows that the shower brand is firmly in the driving seat for innovative shower technology in the UK. In order to understand the technology behind the new products – as well as some of the major challenges that come with driving innovation in the bathroom – we spoke to Ian Gell, Aqualisa’s head of new product design.

Hotel Designs: As Head of New Product Design at Aqualisa, what was the initial brief when creating the latest Smart Quartz Collection of showers?

Ian Gell: We wanted to create a first truly Smart shower that would improve the showering experience even further and offer connectivity across our Quartz Digital collection in an ever-growing IOT market. We also wanted to develop a feature rich product at an entry level price. Aqualisa are known for designing world class showers and we wanted to go that one step further making our showers that little bit more special.

A modern shower.

Image credit: Aqualisa

“From a concept perspective, having a shower that can be operated via an app or having voice control abilities seems quite straight forward however, the truth is, it was extremely challenging.” – Ian Gell, head of new product design, Aqualisa.

HD: Can you explain some of the main challenges you faced when designing these products, and the solutions you came up with to rectify these?

IG: The development of the app was the biggest challenge for us. From a concept perspective, having a shower that can be operated via an app or having voice control abilities seems quite straight forward however, the truth is, it was extremely challenging. There is no ‘off the shelf’ solution that you can incorporate and use so we had to develop something from the ground up that could communicate with all our products. As well as developing the app, we had to develop the software and hardware in our valves and controllers. Allowing all new controllers and valves to communicate with each other was key.

HD: What makes this collection truly unique from anything else on the market?

IG: Aqualisa invented the digital shower back in 2001 and we have been market leaders in this area since. Having a truly connected shower to offer is the icing on the cake for our well-loved brand as it enables so many exciting and innovative opportunities to become possible.

HD: From concept to launch, how long did this collection take to design/create?

IG: At the back end of November 2018, the designers picked up their pens for the first time and started creating some concept sketches and schemes however, the project really didn’t pick up traction until February 2019 and was launched in March 2020 so it took roughly a year. Most of the work has been developing a connected solution with some purpose. This resulted in the app being created and the hardware and software requiring a major overhaul to allow our product to become connected which took most of the time.

HD: Technology in hotel bathrooms has traditionally divided consumer opinions? How user-friendly is the design of the Smart Quartz Collection of showers?

IG: A smart shower provides a personalised experience with safe and precise water control.   Our smart and digital showers are in fact easier to use than most traditional showers. We have all used showers in the past where you need to stop and analyze the controls and work out what lever turns it on and what lever controls the temperature. Sometimes it’s the same lever and takes a bit of experimenting! In most instances, the user normally gets a cold wet arm whilst trying to get the water to the correct temperature for their liking.  This is not the case with our product.

Our product is activated by a simple on/off button so there is no confusion. Furthermore, our showers can be activated remotely by remote control, through an app also by voice command (if you a have an Alexa or Google home device), so users can turn the shower on from outside the shower. All our showers will indicate when the desired temperature has been reached giving the user confidence the shower will be at the perfect temperature before entry.

As well as having user benefits, our smart showers are quick and simple to install. As the hot and cold water is mixed away from the showering area, there are no bulky valves to fit into the wall. Our valves can be fitted out of site in a convenient location i.e. in a cupboard, in the loft space or under the bath resulting in easy access if needed.

“Quartz Touch also allows users to store their preferred showering profile that can be active through the controller or via the app.” – Ian Gell, head of new product design, Aqualisa.

HD: How does the range of products enhance the bathroom experience?

IG: Smart showers are sleek and modern devices and will compliment any bathroom interior from the more classic approach to the most contemporary design. Quartz Touch is great for tech enthusiasts out there as an LCD display is present showing the user the exact temperature. The user can also access different menus allowing full control for flow. Quartz Touch also allows users to store their preferred showering profile that can be active through the controller or via the app. You can set your preferred flow, preferred outlet and temperature with a simple touch of a button.

Our showers are also compatible with Alexa and Google so once the Aqualisa skill has been downloaded, Aqualisa showers can be added to people’s smart routines. For example, “hey google, start my relaxing bath routine” could turn up the thermostat, dim the lights and start filling the bath from your Aqualisa controller, all via that one command. With the smart technology out there, the options are limitless.

HD: How have you designed these products so that they are eco-friendly?

IG: There is growing pressure to find ways to reduce water consumption per household and per person. We all understand the benefits of reducing water usage and how it effects the environment and household bills. As showers are one of the biggest contributors of wastewater, we wanted our customers to be aware of how much water they were consuming from their shower.  As a result, we have incorporated a water usage dashboard into our app that shows how much water has been consumed for each user as well as the entire house over a specific period. This could be over the last week, month or six months. The app will clearly show who is using the most water and costs associated to them.

We also have a water saving mode on our handset that reduces flow by around 20 per cent.  Our optimised spray pattern still provides an enhanced showering experience whilst using less water.

Our Quartz Classic and Unity controllers have a boost function. The boost option allows users to have added flow if required or users can choose to have it turned off to a lower flow rate and save water.

Our Touch and Optic controllers have three flow settings, Eco Medium and Max. Our Eco setting reduces flow by 40% compared to the Max flow setting.

All of our packaging used for our smart products is made from fully recyclable material. Around 70% of the packaging components we use is made from recycled material. 100% of the waste produced during the production of our packaging is collected and recycled back into paper.

HD: For hotels looking to renovate their properties in the wake of Covid-19, why is the Smart Quartz Collection a good option?

IG: We are continuously improving the installation features of all our products but there is a particularly good replacement and refurbishment story with smart showers around less pipework and push fit cable connection. For example, the major benefit of upgrading from a traditional shower is moving the SmartValve, the brains of the system, completely out of the showering area – and potentially away from the guest bathroom altogether which is so easy for any future adjustment and maintenance.

Also, freeing up more space in the showering area itself opens up much more design and décor flexibility.  Perhaps even more compelling in the post-Covid economy is the ability of hotel management to monitor water usage and costs, if necessary, adjusting the water flow through hotel bathrooms.  Assurances around hygiene and safety have surely never been a higher priority in terms of the hotel guest proposition and contactless smart shower technology clearly meets that brief.

Aqualisa is one of our recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email  Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: Aqualisa

5 minutes with: the founders of Avenue Interior Design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: the founders of Avenue Interior Design

Following the completion of a handful of luxury hospitality projects in the States, Avenue Interior Design has become known for its refusal to be defined by any one style, as editor Hamish Kilburn learns when he interviews the firm’s founders…

Avenue Interior Design, led by founders Andrea DeRosa and Ashley Manhan, has positioned itself as a small yet mighty powerhouse in an industry full of giants.

Most recently, the firm spearheaded the design for Palms Casino & Resort’ renovation ‘From Dust to Gold’, and brought their skills to boutique properties such as The Ramble in Denver, La Serena Villas in Palm Springs as well as SLS Baha Mar.

With the world of hospitality slowly re-opening, there remain concerns and hesitations among operators and travellers on what will become of the industry. I speak to DeRosa and Manhan, two level-headed designers who understand and respect how design evolves around cultural shifts, in order to explore how the pandemic has affected hotel design decisions.

Hamish Kilburn: Let’s dive straight in, how will public areas look in the post-pandemic world?

Ashley Manhan: Business and convention travel will likely lag compared to leisure travel as we see safer at home orders lift. Convention travel has been a critical component for many hotels as occupancy and F&B revenue are strongly tied to properties located near convention venues or for properties that have large meeting facilities.

A luxury F&B interior area with plants and cute seating

Image credit: SLS Baha Mar

Andrea DeRosa: Accommodating large groups and conventions may require smaller breakout rooms with improved air circulation and potentially live streaming speakers to these smaller rooms. On the F&B front, buffets and family-style plating will likely be put aside for individual plates or packaged meals.

HK: What new/different materials might go into hotel builds now?

AD: Given that COVID-19 transmission has found to be primarily airborne, much consideration is going into upgraded air filtration systems. Increased ventilation and better filtration will be essential components of healthy building strategies. Additionally, we may see the use of mobile and handled UV disinfection systems for sterilisation and disinfecting of high use spaces. In terms of interior finishes and materials, and those selected for FF&E, designers will face the added challenge of selecting materials that can withstand more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.

AM: In terms of lobbies, our current clients are requesting short-term solutions for partitions and countertop shields at transaction points, check-ins, and other places social distancing may not be feasible.

Fitness spaces will likely decrease in size- a trend for some properties already in major urban areas with access to specialised gyms and studios. Look for more in-room fitness options and equipment like yoga mats and lightweight dumbbells.

Restaurants face some of the largest obstacles in terms of social distancing and the use of PPE by diners. Restaurants will surely seat fewer guests to accommodate for social distancing protocol. Menus may go digital or restaurants may offer apps to place orders from your own device. Larger service counters for pickups or extended “grab and go” options maybe also be more prevalent as people warm up to the idea of eating out again.

Modern interior design in a clean open bar area

Image credit: SLS Baha Mar

AD: In the short term, we are seeing many hotel brands unrolling programs to build guest confidence and implementing quick, sometimes temporary solutions now while permanent solutions are analyzed and explored. Long term, we anticipate pandemic related measures to be modifiable to give operators the option of adjusting to meet current health risk levels. Such modifications may include digital occupancy signage, movable partitions, and digital projections indicating recommended social distances in queuing areas. A large part of the equation is understanding guests’ demands, expectations, and associations with these changes. There will certainly be varying levels of concern depending on where in the country/world the guest is traveling from. Those guests from the hardest-hit areas are likely to expect greater measures than those traveling from areas less affected. Ongoing observation of guest behavior will inform decisions owners and operators make for long term modifications to their properties.

HK: How can hotels shelter these new hygiene protocols without disrupting the design or the experience?

AM: Taking into consideration that guest safety and wellbeing is, and always has been, a top priority for any property, the next priority remains firmly rooted in good design. Ownership teams require that our commitment to creating a hospitality quality experience remains the top priority just as it was pre-pandemic. Modifications to properties should be subtle, flexible and well-intentioned. This includes careful consideration to the function of the space, the circulation of guests through the space as well as more obvious elements like materials, furnishings and even wayfinding. Creating more space for guests to comfortably, and naturally, socially distance may be as simple as removing a few clusters of lounge chairs in a lobby or replacing a communal table with a series of smaller, movable tables that can be situated individually or easily paired together.

AD: Incorporating decorative, movable screens or drapery also allows for social distancing flexibility while providing a thoughtful, well-designed element to the space. Graphics, signage, and font styles can be utilised in a way that provides informative guidance on precautions or protocol in a way that is consistent with the design language of the brand or property. For new build properties, especially food and beverage venues, you will likely see more fluid floor plans with fewer permanent features to allow for flexibility in furniture layouts and the function of a space.

A blue interior scheme inside a junior king room

Image credit: The Ramble Hotel

HK: Have you already begun incorporating any changes into the hospitality projects you’re working on?

AD: Many of the modifications we’ve made for our current projects have been temporary or short term solutions that will allow our clients to adhere to guidelines as outlined by local jurisdictions. Before making more costly or broad-sweeping modifications, our clients are waiting to gauge guests’ expectations and behaviours to ascertain what long term modifications should look like. For instance, the addition of automated faucets and hand soap dispensers seem like a logical move, however, for many properties that have been without revenue for the last few months, the expense of a modification requiring any construction or electrical work may be out of the budget. Scale is a monumental consideration as well. The cost of making such a change in a hotel with 50 keys is likely more feasible than making that change in a hotel with more than 1,000 keys.

HK: Have you made any changes to guestrooms in the projects you are working on?

AM: Guestroom size, function, and programming have also been a hot topic amongst designers and Ownership teams. In recent years the emphasis was on creating public spaces so dynamic and engaging it drew people out of their rooms and into the lobby, restaurant, bar, pool, etc. Guestroom sizes were generally shrinking and the furnishings were becoming paired down and multi-purpose in their design. It will be interesting to see if guestroom sizes increase to become more of a mini-sanctuaries that offer personalised guest experiences.

Hotel Designs will be discussing topics such as adding personality in public areas and reassuring the post-corona consumer at Hotel Designs LIVE on October 13. If you are a designer, architect or hotelier, click here to participate for free.

Main image credit: Avenue Interior Design

Technology talk with Technological Innovations Group

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Technology talk with Technological Innovations Group

Following lengthy debates regarding technology that took place at Hotel Designs LIVE, editor Hamish Kilburn caught up Technological Innovations Group’s Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA) Christophe Malsot…  

Technological Innovations Group (TIG) was the headline sponsor of Hotel Designs LIVE, the new one-day virtual conference that was born out of the idea to keep the industry connected and talking during the pandemic.

Following my address to the audience of designers, architects, hoteliers and developers, I took five minutes ahead of going live to the first seminar of the day to speak to the brand’s Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA), Christophe Malsot. In the quick-fire interview, I wanted to know more about the TIG ‘ecosystem of solutions’, understand how its meeting new demands of modern travellers and users as well as understanding Malsot’s view on where technology in hospitality is heading.

Hamish Kilburn: Christophe, in a sentence, what does Technological Innovations Group (TIG) do?

Christophe Malsot: We are an EMEA sales agency offering an ecosystem of brands at the forefront of leading-edge technology development – we provide a full range of AV, UC, IT and control solutions that work together to create superior smart spaces that transform your future!

HK: Your vision is to create smart spaces that transform the future. Define a smart space?

CM: Smart Spaces connect people and technology in new ways: they add real value and are created with the latest AV/UC solutions that work together seamlessly to provide a convenient, efficient and secure user experience. 

The term refers to a space that uses Internet of Things to connect every device with a simple, intuitive and user-friendly control solution. This significantly enhances the customer experience, and increases their loyalty to you.

For example, hosting a large group seminar or conference is easier than ever before. Guests will be impressed by the ease with which they can run their presentation and control the technologies in the room. Wireless presentation systems offer flexibility, enabling guests to stream uncompressed video from any laptop or mobile device, with just the touch of a button. Hosts can enjoy full control over the lighting, shades, temperature, and audio volume in the room through a simple touch screen. With cost-effective and energy-efficient technologies such as occupancy sensors and room scheduling software, the lighting and AV systems automatically shut down when the room is empty. And any system troubles can be remotely solved.

HK: On your website, you mention that TIG is an eco-system of solutions for smart spaces, can you explain what you mean by this?

CM: At TIG, we work hard to push the boundaries of technological integration for Smart Spaces. We offer a solutions-based approach to your current and future needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’, so our portfolio includes solutions that complement one another to create bespoke experiences. Our biggest technology provider is Crestron, and Crestron always sits at the heart of our ecosystem. But the other brands we represent work together to perfectly complete the desired user experience!

To help people understand how our ecosystem works, we have actually just launched a new Virtual Experience Space on our website, where visitors can see smart space examples, which demonstrate how the technologies integrate.

Our portfolio includes beautiful control hardware, AV and electricity remote management, applications and software, room booking, and furniture designed to fit in perfectly with specific technologies, making meeting rooms sleek and stylish.

“Technology will be a game changer for the hotel industry in a post-pandemic world.” – Christophe Malsot, Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA), TIG.

HK: How has tech become more relevant since Covid-19?

CM: Technology will be a game changer for the hotel industry in a post-pandemic world, as it helps to cater to new habits and a different user experience.

“Customers will expect more technology to reduce the risk of contamination.” – Christophe Malsot, Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA), TIG.

The hospitality industry will need to offer more contactless, but still very personalised, experiences for guests. For instance, their own smartphones will be used to manage most things, such as check in and check out, to open their room, control their environment and entertainment (Audio/Video), and get in touch with the staff or the concierge… with or without app downloading! Crestron uses QR code flashing to provide a beautiful HTML 5 layout on the phone or tablet.

Hotels need to review their existing service offerings so as to adapt to the changes in customer experience. Customers will expect more technology to reduce the risk of contamination. In order to maintain social distancing, virtual hotel tours will help to introduce the different spaces, and solutions will indicate the occupancy, availability and cleanliness status of the common areas such as gyms, restaurants, bars… For example, in meeting rooms and lobbies, expect to see fewer chairs and digital information about the last time they were used/cleaned.

Restaurants in hotels may start using contactless delivery for in-room-dining and digital menus… Paper will disappear!

HK: From a tech perspective, what will be the biggest change/evolution post-pandemic?

CM: The move to contactless control. For example, upon entering the hotel, the doors may open automatically, before you enter the elevator, you might tell it where you’d like to go with your voice, rather than pressing the many buttons. When you reach your room, you can enter with your smartphone instead of a key and sensors will turn the lights on…

Also, inside the guestrooms the learning curve must be close to zero… if you spend the whole evening understanding how the room works, you become frustrated. It needs to be quick and touchless for the guest to remain loyal.

These are just the changes the guest will see. Less noticeable in the post-coronavirus hotel would be more frequent cleaning policies, antimicrobial properties woven into fabrics and materials, amped-up ventilation systems, or even the addition of UV lights for more thorough disinfecting of the common areas at night.

Due to the reduction of travel and the increased usage of videoconferencing, the meeting rooms will have to provide an element of remote communication as well. TIG offers advanced remote collaboration tools from Hoylu.

HK: In a sentence, what’s the biggest innovation in technology in hotel design right now?

For a long period guests were able to find services they did not have in their home like international channels. Nowadays, hotel clients and international travellers have everything they need at home and they want to find the same experience in the guestroom. This means that BYOD connection is especially important. Hoteliers have to provide guests with the capacity to use their own devices to control the TV, to manage presentations in the meeting room, to connect to playlists for music, and communication apps such as Zoom, Teams… this is now a must have!

The perfect user experience will come from ergonomics and, to provide a perfect integration, the technology systems need to be built into the hotel’s design from the very beginning. Having the right networks (Electricity and IP) in place is hugely important! This is the only way to guarantee the perfect guest and staff experience.

Main image credit: Technological Innovations Group

Hotel Designs LIVE: Technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel with Jason Bradbury

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Hotel Designs LIVE: Technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel with Jason Bradbury

On June 23, Hotel Designs hosted its first ever virtual conference. To kickstart Hotel Designs LIVE, sponsored by Technological Innovations Group, editor Hamish Kilburn welcomed tech influencer and the former presenter of The Gadget Show Jason Bradbury to discuss technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel…

Following a warm welcome from editor Hamish Kilburn to officially launch Hotel Designs LIVE – and quick-fire Q&A round with the event’s headline partner, Technological Innovations Group – Jason Bradbury made a dramatic entrance, on a hover board (we wouldn’t expect anything less). The former presenter of The Gadget Show, who has built an international career as a futurology and tech-trends corporate speaker, took the microphone to start the conference’s debut session entitled: Technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel.

“The last 10 weeks have defined the next 10 years of innovation.” – Jason Bradbury

Sponsored by Hamilton Litestat, the session started by Bradbury suggesting that the current coronavirus crisis  – and indeed all cultural changes in the past – opened up an opportunity for new technology to be utilised in the hotel experience. Using the case study of Bainland Park, which is a luxury escape just a few miles from his home in Lincoln, Bradbury explained how the resort is redesigning its concept to dissolve the conventional public areas altogether. “Bainland Park is completely self-sufficient, ideal for the post-corona consumer, and the architecture and design really does set the scene,” he said. “Before lockdown, the owners were intending to renovate the public areas. However, as a result of the pandemic, and the change of consumer demands, they are now eliminating the the communal areas completely. What’s most interesting is that this change has been driven in the last 10 weeks alone.”

“Technology that offer peace of mind and wellbeing are going to be central to the buying experience from consumers.” – Jason Bradbury

Another case study that Bradbury referred to when predicting technology’s role in the future hotel experience was Eccleston Square, a tech-savvy  boutique gem that sits in the heart of London. With the aim being to understand where technology is heading in hotel design, in 2019, Hotel Designs asked Bradbury to review the hotel 30 years in the future. “The technology in Eccleston Square is almost invisible, if you exclude the media lounge,” he explained, “which results in a seamless experience for the guests. However, post-pandemic, I wonder if in the future we are going to see more overt instances of technology [when it comes to cleaning], because that will make us feel safer as consumers.

During the seminar, Hotel Designs LIVE featured a PRODUCT WATCH segment, which allowed the audience to hear from key-industry suppliers within within the technology sphere to ultimately find out about the latest innovations and products that have appeared on the hotel design scene recently.

Below is the full seminar (in two parts), with PRODUCT WATCH pitches from Hamilton Litestat, Technological Innovations Group, NT Security, Air Revive and Aqualisa.

In part two (see below), Bradbury continued to explore, through technology lenses, what he believes will likely be the hotel of the future. In addition, he answered some tough questions on which piece of technology he believes should never have been invited, what tech item he simply cannot live without and how long he could go living without technology…

Born in the chaotic realms of the coronavirus crisis, Hotel Designs LIVE, sponsored by Technology Innovations Group, is Hotel Designs’ way to simply, meaningfully and virtually keep the industry connected while keeping the conversation flowing. Bradbury’s future-gazing session, where he predicted technology’s evolution in the hotel experience, kickstarted a full day of insightful talks and panel discussions on topics such as Public Areas, Sleep and Wellness, which will all be published shortly.

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

Following his recent appointment as Managing Director of Swire Hotels, Dean Winter sits down (virtually) with editor Hamish Kilburn to explain the brand’s change of direction…

Swire Hotels, which shelters luxury and lifestyle brands The House Collective and EAST, has recently announced a new Managing Director.

Dean Winter, who first started working with the hotel group in 2006, has more than 25 years’ experience as a hotelier and restaurateur in destinations such as London, Hong Kong and Singapore. Taking over from Toby Smith, who will now sit as Deputy Chairman for the group, Winter’s new role is part of a wider internal restructuring of management for the group with the aim to continue to inspire teams across the brands.

Following his appointment, I caught up with winter.

Hamish Kilburn: Dean, congratulations on your new role! What are you most looking forward to as Managing Director at Swire Hotels?

Dean Winter: People are central to what we do at Swire Hotels – both our guests and our dedicated team members – and their personal satisfaction is a main priority for me. By training our team and then empowering them to make decisions, we enable them to exceed expectations and build personal relationships with guests and other team members.

This dedication to service is core to our ethos at The House Collective and EAST, Hotels and I couldn’t be more excited to continue to support the people and guide the beliefs of a company that I’ve been part of for over a decade.

woman walking down modern staircase

Image credit: The Middle House, Shanghai

HK: How much does the design of the hotel affect the guest experience of Swire Hotels?

DW: Design lies at the heart of Swire Hotels and its brands. First impressions matter to our guests. When you walk into a hotel, its interior design can affect the way you feel and can influence your mood.

Each hotel within The House Collective all have their own identity, which boast some of the best design signatures in the industry. For example, behind The Opposite House’s unique design as an art gallery-inspired hotel there is visionary architect Kengo Kuma, who made our hotel one of Beijing’s hottest spots to visit.

HK: What are the key characteristic differences between Swire Hotels’ brands, The House Collective and EAST?

DW: All our hotels provide an extremely personalised service with each guest treated as a valued individual. The House Collective is all about design-led homes away from home, each with its own identity rooted in the destination, and a spirited, cultural soul. EAST is adapted to the new business traveller experience in destinations like Hong Kong, Beijing and Miami, blurring the line between business and leisure and enabling authentic experiences through art and design. At EAST, creating spaces that effectively accommodate guests at various points of life or of their day is also and important element. Examples of this would be the Domain spaces at our EAST hotels which function as cafés, meeting spaces, co-working zones and early evening bars; Sugar the rooftop bar is a popular nightspot for guests as well as locals and BEAST with well equipped gym, pool and wellness programmes helps keep our guest fit.

HK: Can you give us an overview of Swire Hotels’ commitment to sustainability?

DW: Swire Hotels is committed to making a positive impact on the environment and in order to manifest this change, we start from our people. What we envision is creating a healthy ecosystem of people who embody our values and care about our impact on the environment. We’re always looking to create meaningful initiative across our properties focusing on reducing water wastage, energy savings and better waste management. Some of these initiatives include removal of single-use packaging, amenities made of recyclable or biodegradable materials, paperless check-in and at EAST Miami, we have a smart pump that regulates water pressure throughout the hotel in order to reduce water usage. We are determined to find new ways to improve the sustainability of our properties, for our guests and the community around us. This way, we can continue delivering wonderful experiences not just for right now, but for many years to come.

“We have been taking advantage to accelerate some planned projects for both in terms of rooms and restaurants enhancements or systems development.” – Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

HK: What does 2021 look like for Swire Hotels?

DW: Overall I think everyone will have a more positive attitude towards travelling given how 2020 has unfolded. This year we’re celebrating the 10th Anniversary of EAST Hong Kong with new packages available to book directly from the hotel’s website and The Opposite House exciting new relaunch with the completion of an extensive renovation of the restaurant and bar spaces will have the celebration continue into the new year.

During the recent downtime, we have been taking advantage to accelerate some planned projects for both in terms of rooms and restaurants enhancements or systems development. So there will be more new spaces to reveal in 2021. We have also embarked on an expansion plan to grow both our brands, The House Collective and EAST, through management contracts throughout Asia Pacific and hope to have some announcement in 2021.

HK: Are you able to give us an insight into any new openings?

DW: We do have some evolving plans for new restaurant spaces next year. I’m excited by these opportunities and how we can continue to demonstrate our creativity on what is a core competency for the group.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
DW:
Montenegro; I’m facinated by the history and the architecture. Followed by a drive along The Adriatic; ideally in a classic sports car!

HK: What’s one item you cannot travel without? 
DW: A great novel!

HK: Can you describe the Swire Hotels ethos in three words?
DW: Innovation, design, people.

HK: How have Swire Hotels and its two brands been preparing to welcome guests back following the health crisis?

DW: The relationship between The House Collective and EAST, Hotels and our guests have always been centred around trust – we are dedicated to providing the best for our guests, and will continue to uphold our standard of service moving forward from this pandemic. We have already been hosting guests from neighbouring cities to our destinations and are looking forward to welcoming guests from all over the world again. We have introduced various prevention and control measures since the very beginning of the health crisis, such as temperature and travel history checks for all guests upon arrival including our staff members, increased frequency of deep cleaning as well as preparing care kits for our guests with hygiene wet wipes, hand sanitiser and face masks.

Main image credit: Swire Hotels

5 Minutes With: F&B talk with Mark Bithrey, Founder & Creative Director, B3 Designers

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: F&B talk with Mark Bithrey, Founder & Creative Director, B3 Designers

There is a serious question being put to the industry on whether public areas will ever be the same again. In an exclusive interview with Hotel Designs, Mark Bithrey, the Founder and Creative Director of B3 Designers sits down virtually with editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss F&B design in a post-pandemic world…

In just a few days time, Hotel Designs will go live to the world with its debut virtual conference. The topics we will explore during Hotel Designs LIVE will include technology, sleep, wellness and whether public areas will ever be the same again. In order to understand the role of F&B areas, while also getting an access-all-areas deeper look into the inner workings of the studio, I caught up with Mark Bithrey, the Founder and Creative Director of B3 Designers. The award-winning studio has transformed many F&B hospitality projects, such as The Prince Akatoki, Marriott Hotel Budapest and Ritz-Carlton Geneva among many others.

Hamish Kilburn: Thanks for joining me, Mark. How are you feeling right now as a hospitality interior designer?

Mark Bithrey: The world has been through really tough times, but this one has definitely knocked the hospitality industry for a six. I have always believed in 2 things: that hospitality will forever have a strong place in the world in some form or other, and two, that design plays a pivotal role in shaping a changing world. So I’m feeling a mix of anxious and eager.

HK: When restaurants do eventually open up, we are still looking at reduced covers and therefore revenue. What are your thoughts there?

MB: We have been helping clients redesign their restaurants for social distancing, with beautiful screens and additional features like plants and cushions. But you are right, it can mean reduced revenue. Some of our clients have been really creative and opened up whole new streams of revenue.

Image caption: Design in F&B has spilled into the marketing and packaging of products with a rise in demand for deliver/takeaway service. | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: There is obviously a lot of focus on takeaways at the moment. How can F&B businesses be more creative when adapting to the times?

MB: Quick service has immense potential. Think about kiosks where you are able to churn out dishes quickly. Our clients at Mei Mei are doing just that, with Michelin star winning Chef Elizabeth Haigh at its helm. Also consider Itsu/Pret style shops, with impactful branding and graphics on the floor. You can look into takeaway/delivery-only kitchens with creative food packaging. Extra brownie points for eco-friendly packing! We are working with a Vietnamese restaurant in London at the moment to use clever packaging to build out loyalty, repeat orders, and engagement.

Image caption: Mei Mei has adapted its offer during the pandemic to focus on takeaway service | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: Speaking of food delivery, it does mean that restaurants are reliant on the large delivery services that eat into their revenue considerably. How can they move away from using the shared delivery systems?

MB: Yes, indeed! Have you heard of Mumbai’s dabbawalas? It’s an incredible concept. Think localised kitchens, subscription meals, and your own fleet of delivery folk racing food on bicycles. Typically, a kitchen will cook a few hundred meals a day. The subscription lunch will include food that can be batch cooked – so a lentil dish, a curry, rice, and perhaps some bread. This is then packed into stainless steel “tiffin” boxes, and delivered quickly, while the food is still hot. Because the kitchens are localised, nobody is travelling more than a couple of kilometers and they are often the service teams themselves. The previous day’s box is picked up and brought back – no packaging waste!

Food trucks are another way to circumvent delivery commissions. With all the right permissions, you could set up in a park/outdoor space and serve up anything you want to, really. Think also about drive-throughs or walk-past counters for food pick up. You can even offer an interesting experience (graphics/games) while they wait in line.

Image caption: Gourmet takeaway food truck | Image credit: B3 Designers

Image caption: Gourmet takeaway food truck | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: What about fine dining, how can businesses integrate social distancing into this concept?

MB: Without a doubt, fine dining is going to change for a while. Restaurants that get very crowded are going to have to give customers more room – which can be quite cool if you think about it.

Smaller restaurants however, are quite fortunate and can use their spaces to offer truly caring experiences. We have worked with Michelin star winning Chef Tom Aikens in the past, whose restaurant Muse spans 950 sq ft. “Muse is very unique in that it is for guests not only looking for great food in a very special restaurant, but welcomes them as if they were in their own home. Guests will always get special care and now more than ever, of being looked after and pampered,” said Aikens.

If you have outdoor space, however small, milk it. Erect pods or beautiful temporary structures. Adapt for weather changes with fans and space heaters. You could also think about bringing your restaurant completely outside – are you on a street that could be pedestrianised, or do you have parking space that could be converted?

For indoor spaces, think gorgeous on-brand free standing folding screens. In hotels, use your banquet rooms as restaurants so you can offer more space between tables.

If you want to be really creative, as the rules relax more, consider catering services for small gatherings, or even a fine dining experience that you can take to people’s homes. We may follow off where you mention that Muse is small, and say that it is massive in experience.

HK: Is there a way for F&B professionals to go where customers already are?

MB: Supermarkets and the internet! This is a great time to consider creating your own line of sauces/pastas/food kits. Paired with solid branding and graphics, it could open up a whole new stream of revenue. Could you create barbecue kits for example, with recipes and ingredients?

We are spending a ridiculous amount of time on the internet now. Host cooking lessons and sell kits after. And remember to up your digital presence – it is the only way people will learn of your restaurant/hotel’s F&B offerings.

Main image credit: B3 Designers

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Design legend Jean-Michel Gathy

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Design legend Jean-Michel Gathy

If the renders on the boards are anything to go by, Jean-Michel Gathy, who is widely considered as one of the industry’s finest, has embarked on one of his most ambitious hospitality projects to date, to design Amaala Island. Editor Hamish Kilburn learns more…

There is not a hotel designer or architect alive today who has not heard of the name Jean-Michel Gathy, and for good reason. The creative mastermind, who doesn’t just design but more reinvents hotel experiences, has been repainting the backdrop of luxury for what is coming up to three decades.

Not shy of his ambition – he once stated that he wanted to be the first person to design a hotel on the moon – Gathy’s approach to a project is all-encompassing, allowing him to further push (and at times break through) conventional barriers.

Arrival experience, luxury

Image credit: Capella Sanya, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

His latest project, Amaala Island will be an ultra luxury resort destination spanning three sites, a first for the region of Saudi Arabia. Designed to evolve and elevate the very best in travel, the island is an ultra-luxury destination that focuses on curating transformative personal journeys inspired by arts, wellness and the purity of the Red Sea.

To find out more about the project, and in homage to the designer’s award-winning career, I managed to speak to the architect/designer.

Hamish Kilburn: Jean-Michel, how will the ultra-luxe Amaala Island – aka the “Diamond of the Red Sea” – challenge conventional island developments?

Jean-Michel Gathy: The development of ‘The Island’ will be an immersive and interactive art-inspired jewel. Its lifestyle components, its landscaping, the museums, and art installations together with the art community will transform this island into the “Diamond of the Red Sea”. It will feature many different venues for permanent installations or temporary exhibitions and artistic performances. The graphic layout of its spine will be distinctive from the air and will be recognised internationally as an iconic landmark. The project features all elements programmed and reflects the areas, numbers and facilities. This is truly unique, nothing like it has ever been planned before.

“It’s not a matter of a specific place; it is the fact that when you travel, your mind is continually challenged by the happenings around you.” – Jean-Michel Gathy

HK: How does your approach differ when designing a destination from you’re designing a hotel?

JMG: Constant travel is a huge part of the job. It allows me to observe and to be constantly inquisitive about my surroundings. Travelling builds a subconscious library of ideas, which are expressed in my work and helps my ideas remain innovative and fresh. It’s not a matter of a specific place; it is the fact that when you travel, your mind is continually challenged by the happenings around you. It’s not about where you travel, either – what counts is that you explore. No matter where you are, every country has something new to offer in terms of inspiration.

Luxury spa area that frames unspoilt view through rustic blinds

Image credit: Image credit: The Chedi Muscat, Oman, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

HK: What have been some of your design highlights in your career?

JMG: Perhaps the one for which I am most renowned is the overwater hammocks or ‘basking nets’, which I initiated in the Maldives at the One&Only Reethi Rah in 2000. Until then, you would find balustrades around the terraces of villas. I decided to alter that – if anyone was going to fall off the terrace, they could fall on to the nets. And I put scatter cushions on them.

Image credit: One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

Today, just about every hotel uses this idea. Another pioneering step was turning standalone tents for safari-style camps into a commodity. The accommodation at these hotels used to be basic but this started to change after I designed luxurious tents for the Amanwana in 1990. I am also known for my oversized, dramatic swimming pools such as the one on the roof of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Large, oversized swimming pool

Image credit: The Setai Miami, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What has been the most demanding request you have received from a client to date?

JMG: I guess I take every client that I work with as a challenge more than a demanding request.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?

JMG: I would love to travel to Iceland to see its rugged landscapes, glaciers, rough seas, hot springs and volcanoes. I’d also like to visit the south of Chile and the peninsula of Kamchatka in Russia, which has extraordinary wildlife and endless forests.

HK: What’s your biggest indulgence when travelling?

JMG: Collecting art – I like to collect and invest in local artwork whilst on my travels.

HK: What lesson would you teach to your younger self?

JMG: The pathway to success is never easy, it takes hard work, dedication and passion.

HK: If you could design a hotel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

JMG: I’d love to design a hotel in Antarctica. There’s an ice hotel in Sweden, but that’s only open four months a year, so I want to do one that permanently remains ice.

HK: What’s been your favourite year on the international design scene?

JMG: To be honest, every year working with my team at Denniston has been and is special to me.

HK: What’s one item you cannot travel without?

JMG: I travel light, but I always ensure I have a cashmere scarf for the plane, and a sweater (I’m a big cashmere fan). I also travel with my camera, a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

“The hotels where you arrive and lay on the beach and do nothing have progressively disappeared.” – Jean-Michel Gathy.

HK: How is the perception of luxury changing – and how is this evolving the way in which you create spaces in the luxury arena?

JMG: Before, hotels were just a place where you go and relax. Today, guests are connected: they want spas, they want food and beverage, they want activities, they want things to do. The hotels where you arrive and lay on the beach and do nothing have progressively disappeared, because life is such that people have become more and more active. I think luxury property clients are now asking for more than simply great rooms. They want retail facilities, a cinema, an extraordinary spa, award-winning F&B offerings and outdoor activities all integrated into the hotel.

“In terms of reliability, price strategy, and brand positioning, Toyota is a fantastic commercial car – but I prefer a Bentley.” – Jean-Michel Gathy.

HK: What’s the value of having designers and architects in your practice?

JMG: There are many good architects, but we have a specific niche. I’m going to compare us to branding: thousands of people buy Toyotas, but few people buy Bentleys. I believe that we are more Bentley than Toyota. This doesn’t mean that a Toyota is not a good car. In terms of reliability, price strategy, and brand positioning, Toyota is a fantastic commercial car – but I prefer a Bentley. Designers are the same; many prefer commercial projects and properties, because their interest is financial. They just want to make money, which means they’re not romantic about their projects. Then you have other designers, which is where I belong, who are more interested in the success of the project, the excitement of the journey of designing a hotel, and having the pride of making something fantastic, even though you earn less money.

Restaurant overlooking ocean in the Maldives

Image credit: One&Only Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

HK: Has the way in which you source inspiration changed over the years?

JMG: I’m someone who designs from the heart so my style is one that’s charismatic. It’s not an ego trip like the architects who design for themselves. I design elements that are a composition of dramatic effect; I create large and dramatic space, in opposition to intimate areas, so the space is always dynamic. Secondly, I design for the sensation you get out of it. I want every space in the hotel to be comfortable and for my clients to come back and say, I like this space. Sometimes they don’t know why they like it, but if they walk in and feel good, I know I’ve succeeded.

And succeeded Gathy has in widening the path of innovative hotel experiences in far-flung destinations around the world. While his past hotel projects have firmly etched his name into the architecture, design and luxury hospitality history books, his latest ideas and concepts that are currently on the boards highlight Gathy and Denniston’s ambitions. Inspired by his worldly perspective of design and architecture, I believe that Gathy’s aspiration is yet to peak as he continues to think big with the future landscape of luxury international hotel design patiently waiting in his sketchbook for its cue to emerge.

Main image credit: Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

5 Minutes With: Talking modern spas with designer Beverley Bayes

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Talking modern spas with designer Beverley Bayes

With pools and spas dominating the headlines on Hotel Designs this month, editor Hamish Kilburn has five minutes with Beverley Bayes, Director of Sparcstudio, which is responsible for the design schemes inside Cottenmill Spa at Sopwell House, The Spa at South Lodge and many more luxury wellness hubs that have challenged convention… 

Earlier this month, Sparcstudio kindly shared its insight on how the current pandemic will affect wellness in hotels going forward.

Although the feature was honest, engaging and informative, it left us and our readers with wanting to know more. Considering the significance of COVID–19, and its long-term affect on the perception of wellness, I caught up the studio’s director, Beverley Bayes, ahead of Hotel Designs LIVE on June 23, where she will be on the panel as we discuss the The Future of Wellness Post-Pandemic.

Hamish Kilburn: Beverley, some would argue that spas and wellness areas are a breeding ground for viruses. Is that a fair statement?

Beverley Bayes: There is a lot of debate about this topic and it’s even more relevant today as spas consider their reopening strategies. I don’t believe it is a fair statement. There are very strict cleaning and hygiene protocols already in place and spas adhere to these stringently. But good design is absolutely key in creating a spa that is easy to maintain and it’s all about the detail. Sadly there are examples of bad detailing even within luxury spas. A common one is not designing in good ‘falls’ to flooring in wet areas, the sloping floor detail enables water to drain off rather than pooling, which around a pool deck is critical. Get it wrong and you face either having your staff constantly going around with squeegees to get rid of excess water , or resorting to the installation of anti-slip matting (as recently witnessed in an otherwise beautiful spa that shall remain nameless!)

Going forward, when spas are given the green light to reopen, I would advise businesses to refer to their equipment and wet and thermal suite suppliers for additional advice on maintaining health and hygiene in a COVID-19 world. I am already seeing suppliers issue new guidance of cleaning rituals that will help to protect guests and staff, so it’s a case of liaising with your current suppliers and following their advice.

Image credit: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How can a hotel sensitively inject its style and branding into the spa/wellness areas?

BB: ‘Sensitively’ is the key word here. I think it’s a real missed opportunity when a spa feels like a continuation of a hotel environment, with similar materials and finishes and maybe a sense of ‘formality’ that you might experience in the Hotel public spaces. For us a Hotel Spa is a chance to enter another more sensuous world where guests can kick off their shoes and ‘let their hair down’ !

For that reason, We always strive to create an informal ‘bare foot luxury‘ vibe to the spas that we design. This can be achieved by adding playful elements, for example at Sopwell Spa where we created a central relax area in the Garden relax room with a group of suspended Swinging chairs arranged around a panoramic fireplace overlooking the fabulous spa Garden. (The garden was expertly designed by Ann-Marie Powell )

Style and branding elements that Hoteliers can inject into a spa include a great service ethic and service style and also a passion for food and beverage, For example at South Lodge Spa, the Exclusive Collection team led by Danny Pecorrelli, applied their passion for F & B to create a  unique 80 seater relaxed all day dining concept for the Spa called ‘Botanica’ (Working in conjunction with the ‘Gorgeous group’ and Sparcstudio for the interiors).

The restaurant offer is designed to complement the other more formal dining options at the Hotel and is open to all hotel, spa users and external guests and is based on botanical, largely plant-based sharing plates utilising ingredients from local suppliers from the south downs.

Image credit: Aqua Sana Spa County Longford, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: From a lighting perspective, has LED lost its place to natural lighting in the spa?

BB: Sparcstudio director Tom Howell, is responsible for all of our lighting design, ‘Being well lit in a spa is key to a sense of wellbeing. We do design spaces to utilise natural light where ever possible, but LED lighting in linear strip or curving tape form concealed in a wall floor or ceiling or joinery feature, provides subtle washes of indirect light and enables us to create great effects. The key with spa lighting is to be mindful of the lighting source position and the guest position which is often in a lying down / facing up position, so the ‘old school’ style ceiling mounted halogen spotlights are definitely  to be avoided in order to prevent uncomfortable glare for guests’.

HK: What will the spa look like in 50 years? 

BB: High tech … low tech. I think the ancient traditions and rituals developed by the Romans in terms of bathing, washing and thermal experiences in a social setting will still be at the core of the spa experience, together with ‘hands on treatments’ reflecting the power of human touch, which will always have a place in spa.

Technology will no doubt have a big role to play in terms of treatments. Fully immersive Virtual reality experiences will no doubt be on the menu, but designed to appeal to all of the senses, including sound, touch and smell, giving wellbeing, as well as cosmetic benefits.

Given our precious link to the natural world, Spas that celebrate unique settings, will be an important part of worldwide Spa Tourism. For example, the world’s first ‘energy-positive’ hotel, Svart, will open in Norway’s Arctic Circle in 2022.

Image caption: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

Image caption: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How do you find out about new products on the market?

BB: Word of mouth, trade shows and social media and we are also lucky to be kept updated with the latest innovations and cutting edge products that are being developed by the suppliers themselves. We also relish the opportunity to create bespoke individual designs – be it furniture,  (for example the double lounger with integral lighting at Sopwell’s Cottonmill Club spa) light fitting or heat cabin and thermal suite, all of  which helps to add to a Spa’s feeling of authenticity and uniqueness.

Quick-fire round

HK: What’s the biggest misconception about being a designer who specialises in spas and wellness areas?

BB: That we design ‘spa pools’- those lovely big injection moulded plastic ‘people soup’ models spring to mind! A common mistake is to design a series of spa ‘spaces’ without really understanding or thinking through the journey and how they connect.

HK: Where is next on your spa bucket list?

BB: Aman Kyoto, Anada in the Indian Hymalas and Aro Hā  (Overlooking the ‘otherworldly’ expanse of Lake Wakatipu) in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

HK: What is your go-to treatment?

BB: A Hammam. A recent Couples Hammam in Bodrum was amazing – the facial loofa part was a bit scary at the time but was amazingly effective!

HK: What has been the most significant innovation on the wellness scene in the last five years?

BB: I would say one of the largest innovations, which is much more low-tech, is the rise of the Spa Garden, particularly here in the UK.

HK: What does luxury mean to you?

BB: Uninterrupted time away from technology and work/ home life distractions relaxing in a tranquil, stimulating/ sensuous environment that is ‘authentic and unique’ and beautifully / thoughtfully designed of course!

Image caption: Cottonmill Club at Sopwell House

Image caption: Cottonmill Club at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How is social media driving a change in the way in which wellness spaces are being designed?

BB: Social media is a powerful influence in the world of spa. Hotels and wellness spaces are very visual and this links perfectly to a social media platform like Instagram as it is all about the perfect picture. What we are seeing, in some instances, is that spas are creating experiences that are very obviously designed to create an ‘Instagram worthy shot’. An over the top (but often used) example is the placement of pink flamingoes in a spa or pool area, or a snug area that is branded and decorated with flower walls. You see this a lot in resorts in the Indian Ocean. The difficulty is that these experiences don’t place wellness or the guest experience at the heart of it. Following short term trends can be a problem as they are short lived and aren’t durable. They will quickly look outdated as Instagrammers hunt the next big thing, leaving your wellness space looking tired and past its sell-by date.

HK: There is a difference between wellness and wellbeing, how can modern spas evoke both in their design? 

BB: Wellbeing is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress Good Spa Design should create a sense of wellbeing by providing experiences that appeal to the senses and are ideally related to natural elements, and provide an escape from the stresses of work and everyday life.

Wellness, the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. Fitness/ wellness facilities are an increasingly important element of a spa offer, in the form of yoga studio or outside Yoga deck, a well-designed gym (sensitively designed to fit with the Spas over-all ambience).

We also anticipate that there will continue to be overlaps or a blurring of the lines between fitness, wellness, spa and medical facilities. High end gyms such as ‘Third Space’ integrate spaces for relaxation and wellbeing with the inclusion of thermal suites and relaxation spaces. The sensuous Hot yoga studio that we designed at the Tower Bridge site has shaker style panelling and end grain Juniper log panelling that emit a soothing aroma when heated.

Sparcstudio, which will be involved in Hotel Designs LIVE on June 23, is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this  three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: SparcStudio

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Robert Whitfield, GM of The Dorchester

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Robert Whitfield, GM of The Dorchester

With the UK hospitality industry drastically adjusting its strategy during lockdown, Hotel Designs takes the opportunity to re-connect with one of the world’s most prestigious hotel brands, Dorchester Collection. Editor Hamish Kilburn speaks to Robert Whitfield, the brand’s Regional Director (UK) & General Manager of The Dorchester

For centuries, Mayfair’s leafy Park Lane has been the epicentre of London’s luxury hospitality scene. At present, though, the streets are bare and the extravagant entrances into opulent lobbies and extraordinary lifestyles remain (for the time being at least) sealed shut – and its not the kind of lock-in one is familiar with.

Among the five-star (currently empty) shells stretched along the east side of Hyde Park is The Dorchester, an iconic place that really does define its destination. Since its grand opening in 1931 – the same year the Empire State Building was completed in New York – the hotel, designed by architects William Curtis Green and Sir Owen Williams, has been setting new standards in premium hospitality.

89 years from when the famous doors first opened, the hotel stands majestically as ever having adapted sensitively to meet the demands of modern luxury travellers while also retaining its illustrious character. However, it, along with the rest of the hospitality industry, is facing unprecedented times, as the COVID–19 pandemic sends hospitality into paralysation.

To learn more about what the hotel is doing during lockdown, as well as celebrating its recent successes, I speak to the man at the helm, Robert Whitfield, who is the Regional Director UK of Dorchester Collection and General Manager of The Dorchester.

Hamish Kilburn: Robert, can you tell us a bit more about how The Dorchester is coping during the global health crisis, and how are you staying connected with your community?

Robert Whitfield: There is no denying that the global crisis has hit everyone hard, and sadly the hospitality industry is one of the worst to be affected. However, what it has re-affirmed for me is the true connection our team members have, keeping morale high and each other in good spirits. If you work in hospitality you have a natural instinct to want to be around people and make them feel at home, it’s in our DNA. So, we have channelled that passion into further helping our community.

Image caption: The living room inside the Harlequin at The Dorchester-

Image caption: The living room inside the Harlequin at The Dorchester

The Dorchester is very proud to have established an ongoing partnership with Manorfield Primary School in East London, working closely with pupils and staff on a number of initiatives since 2019, including helping raise funds to go towards developing their learning kitchen and donating furniture for areas of the school. As part of our continued partnership and as a response to the current global health crisis, we are providing chefs from The Dorchester’s staff restaurant to cook for the faculty and children of parents who are part of the essential workforce. We are also offering recipe classes to the pupils of the school to help keep them engaged and interested in cooking.

Every evening, The Dorchester illuminates in bright blue as a ‘thank you’ to the NHS and essential workers. Employees of The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane, and Coworth Park have pledged their support to the NHS and are assisting in the donation and distribution of food and necessary supplies to those impacted by COVID-19.

Image caption: During the COVID–19 pandemic, The Dorchester illuminates in bright blue each evening as a nod and ‘thank you’ to the NHS and essential workers

Executive chef Stefan Trepp and executive pastry chef Daniel Texter, along with chefs Jordan Champions and Sanjam Nagpal, handcrafted Easter Eggs for distribution amongst patients and staff of Great Ormond Street Hospital to help them celebrate the Easter weekend.

Dorchester Collection has also donated £25,000 on behalf of its UK hotels to Hospitality Action, a non-profit who supports hospitality workers who are in need and to help feed their families. Several colleagues have also signed up to the Golden Friends scheme via Hospitality Action and are making regular check-in calls to hospitality retirees in isolation due to the crisis.

Image caption: The living room inside The Dorchester's Terrace Penthouse

Image caption: The elegant living room that captures a unique London skyline vista inside The Dorchester’s Terrace Penthouse

HK: How do you stay connected to guests when they aren’t able to physically come to visit the hotels?

RW: Several of our team members have fostered great relationships with our guests over the years and are in regular contact with them via calls and email. We are also engaged with our most loyal guests to keep them in touch with news and updates from the hotel.

One of the best ways for us to stay connected to our guests after they have stayed with us is through our social media platforms. We are transferring our team’s talents online, showcasing our chef’s recipes and how-to’s, as-well-as expert tips from our sommelier or florist. This is a fun way for our social community to still see the smiley faces of some of our team members and hopefully learn a thing or two.

Quick-fire round:

HK: What is your favourite luxury item that you own?
RW:
My MGB sports car

HK: What was the last hotel you stayed in and what was the purpose of the trip?
RW:
The Pendry in San Diego meeting up with my kids for the Presidents Day Holiday weekend.

HK: In three words, can you describe the Dorchester Collection family?
RW:
Caring, passionate, fun-loving! 

HK: What superpower would make your job easier?
RW:
Teleporting.

HK: Why is Britain such a hub for luxury hotels?

RW: The hospitality sector contributes hugely to the British economy, with the hotel industry in particular a significant contributing factor. The growth of the hotel market over the last few years here, and indeed looking at what’s to come over the next couple of years, clearly demonstrates how important Britain, and London in particular, is a world class destination for leisure and business travellers.

“You also cannot deny that certain charm Britain has, which lends itself perfectly to hotels at the luxury end of the market.” – Robert Whitfield, Regional Director UK & General Manager of The Dorchester.

It makes sense, then, that some of the world’s most renowned luxury hotel brands are opening their doors in Britain. You also cannot deny that certain charm Britain has, which lends itself perfectly to hotels at the luxury end of the market – travellers are drawn to the rich history and heritage of a quintessentially British experience. Combine that with the fact that Britain occupies a vibrant position on the world stage and it’s a winning destination for the luxury traveller.

It is not just London at the forefront of luxury hospitality; across the country you have the best hotels in the world. Coworth Park in Ascot celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year and from the moment it opened became one of the world’s best country house hotels and remains at the top a decade later.

HK: How does The Dorchester differentiate luxury on the London hotel scene?

RW: There are many hotels that claim to provide the best in luxury, whether it’s the biggest pool, or most expensive wine list, but for The Dorchester our definition of luxury is: service. How do you feel when you come to stay with us? How can we go above and beyond what you were expecting? That is what is most important, everything else is just a given, and for us to be world leaders in service really is a testament our talented people.

HK: How has luxury changed since you started in hospitality?

RW: The biggest change has to be the level of competition, especially in London where all the global luxury players want to have a presence. And that’s a good thing. It has kept London’s hospitality scene at the top of its game.

Luxury used to be about the physical elements of a hotel. The décor, the facilities and this has evolved away from the material to the experiential. Personalised service and recognition is more valued. The guest is also more sophisticated and knowledgeable. Search engines allow access to so much information our team members need to stay up to date and have an intimate knowledge of the very best experiences that might appeal to our guests.

We look for ways to surprise and delight our guests with small and meaningful touches. Often, it is the small things that make all the difference.

“Before I started my role at Dorchester Collection I spent ten years at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii, and prior to this I worked for the company in California and Nevis in the Caribbean.” – Robert Whitfield, Regional Director UK & General Manager of The Dorchester.

HK: How has travel enriched your life and made you into the hotelier you are today?

RW: I have been lucky enough to work in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Before I started my role at Dorchester Collection I spent ten years at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii, and prior to this I worked for the company in California and Nevis in the Caribbean. Having that experience, learning how other countries approach service and operate day-to-day, has really helped inform my management style here in London. I was able to travel to a wide variety of locations from Bora Bora, to Bali, to Jackson Hole in Wyoming to the snowy peaks of Whistler.

I have developed an appreciation for different cultures and for diversity and the strength that this can bring to a business. It has also told me that service is about humility and caring for others. I am so proud to have worked with some extraordinary people who have shaped my career and taught me so much. Many lessons have come from my bosses, but also from the employees I have worked with.

HK: There has been a huge buzz around the re-launch of The Grill at The Dorchester. Why did you choose to relaunch?

RW: The Grill has been an integral part of The Dorchester since the opening in 1931, in order to keep the restaurant busy you need to ensure its identity and offering is relevant to your guests. We appointed Tom Booton, who happens to be our youngest ever head chef of The Grill, to lead the next chapter of the restaurant, supported by a fantastic team of fresh talent. The idea of creating an experience that would juxtaposition away from people’s  more traditional expectations of The Grill at The Dorchester was exciting and Tom was the perfect catalyst that made this come to life.

Image caption: Head chef of The Grill, Tom Booton and a few of his  special dishes on the new menu

Our aim was to create a more relaxed dining experience for guests through the development of new menus and a series of interior updates. The most prominent interior change is our statement ‘Pudding Bar’, which adds an element of theatre to the dining experience. Guests are invited to dine here for their final course to watch the pastry chefs in action.

HK: How will the newly adapted restaurant embrace the legacy of the 89-year-old hotel while also reflect the future of luxury F&B offerings?

RW: Our rich past matched with our ability to embrace ‘the new’ is deeply rooted in The Dorchester’s culture, and our guests are charmed by that.

At its core, The Dorchester has always been a hotel to celebrate. The new chapter of The Grill is no exception, and Tom’s dishes alone are a reason to come back to visit. Original features of the restaurant have remained, but new elements such as The Grill Bar, with a cocktail menu by award winning senior bartender Lucia Montanelli, and the Pudding Bar concept offer something new.

HK: You have, for the first time, a physical florist boutique within the hotel. Can you tell us more about this project?

RW: The Dorchester has become world-famous for its floral arrangements, all to the credit of our in-house designer florist Philip Hammond and his fantastic team. It is also a place of celebration. Guests come to celebrate, birthdays, anniversaries and all kinds of milestone moments in their lives. Flowers are a wonderful sign of celebration. We wanted to create a physical space where guests and visitors to the hotel could buy flowers and we found the perfect spot at the entrance to The Promenade.

Image caption: Philip Hammond, the Florist at The Dorchester

Image caption: Philip Hammond, the Florist at The Dorchester

We coincided the boutique opening with the launch of ‘The Dorchester Rose’, which is a really beautiful new variety of rose. The rose took seven years to make and was created by Meijer Roses, a family company with a long tradition of creating the highest quality roses who selected The Dorchester to carry the name of this new variety. The rose now fills the entirety of The Promenade and the colour is perfect to complement the interior tones of The Dorchester.

Main image credit: Dorchester Collection

In Conversation With: Geraldine Dohogne, former designer at Zannier Hotels

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Geraldine Dohogne, former designer at Zannier Hotels

The designer behind many of Zannier Hotels’ authentic properties, Geraldine Dohogne, is expanding her horizons to go solo on the international design scene. Speaking exclusively to editor Hamish Kilburn, the designer unveils the truth behind her unorthodox arrival into the industry, discusses the challenges she encountered when designing many of Zannier Hotels’ success stories and explains why the meaning of ‘lifestyle’ in design is rapidly changing…

It comes as somewhat of a surprise – I was almost lost for words – when Geraldine Dohogne tells me that she didn’t have any design experience whatsoever prior to when she was handed the reigns to become Zannier Hotels’ Head of Design. In fact, she was not a designer at all, nor was she some talented ‘inner designer’ who was trapped in an architect’s title, which is not uncommon in this industry. Armed with simply an international business degree and a naturally acute eye for detail, Dohogne proved that you didn’t require a design degree to become a top-notch designer.

Open air design, with bath overlooking desert

Image caption: The open-air design of Zannier Hotels Sonop allows a connection between nature and its guests | Image credit: Tibodhermy for Zannier Hotels

That’s not to say that anyone can be a designer – far from it. Spending time with Dohogne, who accurately, in my opinion, describes herself as a designer by passion, allows one to see beyond the brilliant brand her name has been aligned to for years.

We meet in Mayfair’s The Conduit, an airy private members club that was once described by GQ Magazine as a place that provides the brightest minds with the opportunities to meet up and thrash out new ideas. It all sounds wonderfully fitting as it has also become one of Dohogne’s favourite places to work from in recent years.

“I was Zannier Hotels’ first employee.” – Géraldine Dohogne.

Although it may read shocking to some that a curious mind with no design background was asked to lead an entire luxury brand’s design ethos, Dohogne, for many reasons, was the perfect person for the job. For starters, she arguably knew the DNA of Zannier Hotels better than any established designer on the scene did. “I was Zannier Hotels’ first employee,” she explains. “I started in development and also did my time in operations before working in the design department. I mostly worked on my own, doing all the ordering and specifying by myself. It was at this point when I truly believe that my degree in international business kept me organised, focused and on track.”

It’s hard to believe that the premium hotel brand that has been so influential on the luxury travel and design scenes only launched its first property in 2011. It all started in The Alps with the opening of Le Chalet in Megéve. However, considering at the time the brand had already purchased land, properties, and had projects on the drawing boards in Asia and Europe, Zannier Hotels was considered an international player from the moment it was born.

“Without even knowing it, I was always interested in and inspired by design,” – Géraldine Dohogne.

Its unorthodox approach to luxury in both design and service soon gave it its esteemed award-winning reputation. The same way of thinking, I see, is shared – dare I say inspired – by the designer who is sat casually and confidently in front of me in a cosy beige jumper and blue jeans. “Without even knowing it, I was always interested in and inspired by design,” she says, “My curiosity in interiors and luxury travel was married up to the brand’s vision.”

For all designers, however many years’ experience they have amassed (or not), all projects come with a number of different challenges. One of Dohnogne’s most memorable projects was 1988 The Post, an intimate hotel in Ghent, Belgium, that shelters no more than 38 keys. The boutique hotel has been inspired by the old post office building’s 19th century architecture and charm. “Inside, all the fabrics, materials, lighting and colours were inspired by the atmosphere of a post office and from the building period,” the designer explains. The rooms were decorated in a warm style – with high ceilings, dark green walls and antique furniture – complementing the building’s former life.

Masculine looking luxury room

Image caption: 1988 The Post became one of Dohogne’s most challenging design briefs, because of the building’s irregular architecture and heritage in Ghent, Belgium

Although each hotel under the Zannier umbrella is unique to the destination, each follow the same journey of discovery when it comes to establishing the interior scheme and overall narrative. “We always look beyond the obvious,” says Dohogne. “Most of the antiques are sourced locally, which can be harder in some places than others.” For the brand’s most recent hotel in Namibia, more than 550 antiques were handpicked by Dohogne and injected into the property’s interiors that were uniquely constructed on stilts atop of natural boulders in the middle of the Namib desert.

Right when you thought Zannier Hotels had reached its limit of creativity, it is about to open the authentic doors of its next hotel, which will be situated in Vietnam. It’s 75 suites and villas will be sheltered under three various architectural styles, each of them melting into the lush natural background while referencing the local Ede and canal houses that are culturally embedded in Phu Yen (Vietnam). “Most of the villas and suites will have private pools and the public areas will be on the 1km-stretch of beach,” she explains. “The restaurants will really re-discover Vietnamese cuisine.”

Minimalist nature-infused public areas

Image caption: A sneak peek of the interiors inside the soon-to-open Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang, designed by Dohogne | Image credit: Zannier Hotels

While Dohogne continues to piece together Zannier Hotels’ vision of future properties with timeless interiors, in January 2020 embarked on a new, personal and profession journey; branching off to become a solo designer no restricted to hotel design. “It’s a new challenge,” she says, “but when you are challenged, you can bring much more to the drawing board. There is a gap in the market for high-end lifestyle projects in Europe and beyond.”

Quick-fire round

HK: What’s a trend that you hope will never return?
GD: I believe that if you want a project to be ‘timeless’, it should not follow a trend.

HK: What’s the most difficult project you have worked on?
GD:
1988 The Post was challenging because it was an existing building.

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without?
GD: My Swimming costume and my noise-cancelling Bose headphones.

HK: What does luxury mean to you?
GD: A place where you can disconnect with technology and the world, and where you can feel at home.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
GD: Antarctica, Japan and Argentina.

HK: What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
GD:
Always show your work to a lot of people, and always question yourself until you are 100 per cent sure.

HK: When you pitch an idea, do you keep an open window?
GD: Yes, because the world has changed so much from the beginning of a hotel project to the end.

For more than year now, Dohogne has been setting up the foundations of her own design studio. What strikes me is the link between the authenticity of Zannier Hotels’ expansion and the journey that the designer is also on. Although there is yet a comment as to what projects she is working on, it is clear that Dohogne is meaningfully expanding her reaches to purposefully design a new era of high-end lifestyle social areas and workspaces. Her journey in design continues…

Main image credit: Géraldine Dohogne

In Conversation With: Interior Designer of the Year 2019, Jo Littlefair

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Interior Designer of the Year 2019, Jo Littlefair

Securing her place in the history books, Jo Littlefair came out on top last year at The Brit List Awards 2019, spectacularly winning the coveted title, Interior Designer of the Year. A few months later, she welcomes editor Hamish Kilburn into the Goddard Littlefair HQ to give him a glimpse into studio life…

“Jo, can I borrow you for just a second,” says senior associate and architect David Lee Hood as Jo Littlefair and I walk through the studio. “This archway,” he says pointing to a life-like rendering on his monitor, “what are your thoughts on adding in a line of colour here?” As he shows the before and after, it is a game of ‘spot the difference’ to the untrained eye. But for the multi-layered studio Goddard Littlefair, where the devil is so often in the detail, it could be the difference between winning a pitch or losing it, as any design practice operating on today’s international scene will confirm.

“We have made a few changes to encourage people to come and talk to us more.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

The short but important moment is proof, if ever I needed it, that Littlefair likes to naturally lead from within her team. And as we walk through the open-planned office that is flooded with natural light towards her workstation, I notice also that there is no door, and no boundary, between herself and everyone else in the building.

Image caption: The Lowry Presidential Suite, designed sensitively by Goddard Littlefair

Image caption: The Lowry Presidential Suite, designed sensitively by Goddard Littlefair

“We got to the point last year when, as we reached 60 employees, we decided Goddard Littlefair was too big as a studio,” she confesses. “We have made a few changes to encourage people to come and talk to us more, because I would rather know about something – and be able to comment at a point where it is possible to comment – rather than get further down the line and it be too late. At the end of the day, leading this design studio with Martin Goddard has always been a collaboration, not just between himself and I but also our team.” As the designer is explaining, I notice that there’s a cordial and relaxed atmosphere in the Clerkenwell studio, and the strong relationship between the co-founders and their team is apparent.

Image caption: The bar inside Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, designed by Goddard Littlefair

“We look at the finer details, as you have just seen, that perhaps make a space look and feel more residential,” the designer explains. “Things like tabs on the curtain pole having a little leather strap and a metal rivet, and it’s those elements that give it quality and detail. It’s important that someone has thought about it in that much detail, and there is a reason why it’s leather and why it’s embossed, or whatever.”

“What’s most important is that it has to be right for our client, the property and the location every time.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Recently completed projects within the studio’s portfolio include The Biltmore Mayfair  London, Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik , Sheraton  Grand Warsaw , the new F&B areas inside Hilton Munich City, The Lowry in Manchester and the Kimpton Charlotte Square. Having followed many, if not all, of these projects from concept through to completion, it’s fair to say that the studio believes that variety is the spice of life. “We don’t like being pigeon-holed,” explains Littlefair. “We have a great variety of style, which is fantastic. Also, we are not divas when it comes to our personal taste. What’s most important is that it has to be right for our client, the property and the location every time.”

Modern award-winning bar

Image caption: The award-winning Juliet Rose at Hilton Munich, designed by Goddard Littlefair, has become the city’s new destination bar.

Despite the studio clocking up the air miles with unavoidable trips abroad for site visits and account management, in order for the team to understand the culture and fabrics of new destinations, the studio’s HQ is positioned slap-bang in the epicentre of the design community in London, just a few streets behind some of the city’s major design showrooms in Clerkenwell. “There is always a corner of London that you can find a narrative to that is really individual,” says Littlefair. “Whether  When? you are living, working and breathing in London, like many of our designers, the city becomes a fantastic place. I think that’s because it is made up of villages that have, over time, morphed together. As a designer working on a project here, the identity of what those villages were can really shine through.”

“I literally had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Despite London having its place in the designer’s heart, Littlefair mostly finds inspiration in design from nature, and decompresses daily from city life, after a hefty commute, in Buckinghamshire where she lives. “It’s a very open community, close enough to London for work, but full of fresh air,” she explains. “My kids love it there, and so do I!”

But where was Littlefair’s inquisitive nature born, I wonder? “When I left university and went travelling, technology as we know it now didn’t exist; email had just come out for crying out loud,” she admits. “I used to pay to sit in a café to type an email home to say I’m alive. For me, that was about really cutting off from the world. My mum didn’t think I was going to come back,” she laughs, “I did some crazy things; I worked out on boats and I threw myself into experiential travel, albeit on a shoestring. I literally had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person. Experiencing places and learning about people and cultures.”

Image caption: The Principal York's luxe, residential look and feel was designed by Goddard Littlefair

Image caption: The Principal York’s luxe, residential look and feel was designed by Goddard Littlefair

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What trend do you hope will never return?
Jo Littlefair: Rag-rolled walls and transitional furniture.

HK: What’s next on your travel bucket list?
JL: Chile , Argentina and Egypt.

HK: What would you say is the number-one tool for success?
JL: Hard work, and you can’t teach taste. I learn something new every day, nobody can know everything!

HK: Who was your inspiration growing up?
JL: The reason I made it into interiors is because I used to work on super yacht designed by Terence Tisdale. I couldn’t believe that somebody got paid to put this together and design with  all those beautiful timber veneers and mirrors everywhere, which I had to clean! I spent four months in the Med working on this 64m Feadship  . It had everything and gave me an insight into luxury and interior design.

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without?
JL: This is ridiculous but my cashmere jumper, which is so not me. You will always find a lightweight cashmere jumper in my flight bag!

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
JL: Whole beans for my coffee machine. Always buy a small bag because you want the freshest roasted beans for your coffee.

HK: What has the last year taught you?
JL: To keep everyone in the studio on one floor, so that we are working together. Also that quality far outweighs quantity.

“Think of it as the destination’s answer to The Ned.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Back to today, and the studio is currently hard at work with a number of projects on the drawing boards. The studio is currently working on designing four restaurants and bars inside the soon-to-open 360-key Villa Copenhagen. “Think of it as the destination’s answer to The Ned,” Littlefair teases. “But it’s so not about men and women in suits. Instead, the whole project has been about understanding the Danish vernacular, the locals’ way of life.”

Other projects that the studio is working on include five star resorts on the Mediterranean coast line, the repurposing of a beautiful Viennese building to a 150 plus bedroom five star hotel and what may be the future best spa in London.

Image credit: The atmospheric restaurant Cucina Mia inside Shertaton Warsaw, designed by Goddard Littlefair

Image credit: The atmospheric restaurant InAzia restaurant in Sheraton Warsaw, designed by Goddard Littlefair

As two people who are, parallel to others in the industry, so thoughtfully leading interior design forward in terms of meaningful innovation, Goddard and Littlefair both feel pressure to adapt sensitively with the times while also maintaining a fundamental quality. And their approach to evolution is enlightening.  “Someone once told me that everything in life is a phase,” explains Littlefair. “I have learned to embrace change and see it as a positive. It is intrinsically scary to human nature, but when you learn that it is necessary to be a little bit cathartic about things, life runs smoother.” I would argue that it is this breath-of-fresh-air attitude that led the designer to win The Brit List Awards’ Interior Designer of the Year 2020.

“You have no idea how much the award means to me.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

“I just can’t believe it,” she said fresh off stage at the event in November when her new-found title was revealed in front of a sea of leading designers, architects, hoteliers and developers. Months later, and the reality of ‘that win’ hasn’t quite sunk in. “You have no idea how much the award means to me,” she says now. “The line-up of people you had there was fantastic, they are my peer group and I am very respectful of what everyone else is doing. So, that people within this industry consider what we are doing here to such high regard means everything!”

Image caption: Interior Designer of the Year, Goddard Litterfair's Jo Littlefair with editor Hamish Kilburn at The Brit List Awards 2020

Image caption: Interior Designer of the Year, Goddard Litterfair’s Jo Littlefair with editor Hamish Kilburn at The Brit List Awards 2020

In a recent roundtable discussion that Littlefair attended, it was mentioned that all designers are having to work harder than ever before in order to differentiate from other styles and common motifs. As I sit around the table in the hub of her studio, I wonder how Littlefair and her team approach this topic when it comes to designing future hotels. “We are getting to the point where people have not seen a beautifully letter-pressed card before,” she says. “The ‘tech revolution’ has changed everything that we do and the way our work is perceived, but we can’t lose touch of humanity in the process.”

“We crowned a really worthy winner,” I can’t help by think to myself after I’ve said my goodbyes to the  Goddard Littlefair team. For me, it’s not necessary  necessarily? Littlefair’s work that is the most inspiring thing about but  the designer, but more her incredible journey, which was fuelled by hard-work, passion and determination, that I believe every single designer can learn from – or at least be energised by.

Main image credit: Goddard Littlefair

5 Minutes With: Emma Masters, associate at Richmond International

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Emma Masters, associate at Richmond International

Taking five minutes out of planning and designing luxury hospitality scenes of the future, Emma Masters, Associate at Richmond International, speaks to editor Hamish Kilburn about landscape changes, client demands and over-used words in the industry…

Hamish Kilburn: How long have you been involved in interior design, and how has the landscape changed from when you started to now?
Emma Masters: I’ve been working in the industry for around 16 years, 15 of those have been with Richmond International. In this time the industry has steadily changed, largely due to technological development, i.e. the changes in the ways we research subjects and destinations, to retrieve design references and influences. The proliferation of imagery shared internationally makes the world feel smaller and more accessible.

CGI and VR experiences are becoming a minimum expectation, having replaced hand drawn and coloured renderings. Whilst computer generated images provide almost an exact representation of the design proposal, hand drawings were very evocative and left some element of wonder to what would finally be revealed in reality.

We’ve also seen massive advances in manufacturing techniques, the materials used, and specialist finishes to the extent that we can add unique signatures to interiors.

There’s also certainly a greater awareness of our environment and the need to be mindful of our design impact, ensuring our designs have longevity, rather than being based on trends that will date and need replacing frequently.

Large, luxurious and grand penthouse

Image credit: London West Hollywood penthouse, designed by Richmond International

HK: What are your clients currently looking for in hotel design?
EM: We’re seeing a demand for public spaces that are transitional, for environments that work for social dining, meetings, shared workplaces and seamlessly blend together to create one holistic space.

Additionally, we’re regularly creating designs that are authentic to the location and with strong narratives – this helps us bring the interiors alive for their guests.

“We as a company have regular team meetings where everyone from junior designers to associates can contribute their ideas and participate in the building of the narrative of a project.” – Emma Masters, Director, Richmond International

Bath in modern marble bathroom, with skyline of Chicago in the background

Image caption: Bathroom in Langham Chicago suite, designed by Richmond International

HK: Where do you find inspiration to keep your designs fresh and meaningful?
EM: Trade shows like Salone de Mobile and Maison et Objet are a great source of new products and styles. I also get a lot of inspiration from travelling, working with artisanal manufacturer and, in general, a lot of research.

HK: How important is nurturing young talent for Richmond International?
EM: It’s a very important part of our company and something I experienced first-hand having started at Richmond as a junior designer. It was a hugely nurturing experience and I was able to work with talented designers who allowed me to explore my capabilities and mentor me in my development. We as a company have regular team meetings where everyone from junior designers to associates can contribute their ideas and participate in the building of the narrative of a project.

“F&B areas have also evolved to become destinations in their own right aside from the hotel and are a draw not just to hotel guests but the general public that wish to dine.” – Emma Masters, Director at Richmond International

HK: We had Terry McGillicuddy join us on the Vision Stage at the Hospitality Restaurant and Catering show. How are F&B areas in hotels evolving?
F&B areas now blur the boundaries between lobby lounge, restaurant, bar and meeting spaces. The public spaces are the heart of a hotel and the is a desire for them to be vibrant has activated a move away from the traditional lobby lounge space. F&B areas have also evolved to become destinations in their own right aside from the hotel and are a draw not just to hotel guests but the general public that wish to dine. They now have a different identity to the rest of the hotel, where it previously was designed to work with the overall feel of the rest of the hotel. F&B is now more independent and can have a completely different narrative that may relate to the food served, for example rather than being simply a functional part of the hotel.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What trend do you hope will never return?
EM: String curtain dividers, they were everywhere and not surprisingly disappeared as quickly as they arrived after the realisation that they were really impractical for public spaces and looked neat for all of five minutes before tangling an unwilling hotel guest who had stumbled into one.

HK: What is one word that is overused in our industry?
EM: Two words admittedly and the phrase we all dread – Value Engineering.

HK: What would you say is the biggest catalyst driving change in the hotel design area recently?
EM: Sustainability and authentic experiences across the board.

HK: What would you be if you were not a designer?
EM: I had always wanted to be an art teacher until I went to St Martins for my foundation year. My tutor was very inspiring and introduced me to the idea of interior design as a career instead of teaching.

HK: What’s one lesson about the industry that studying didn’t teach you?
EM: My role at Richmond has been predominantly FF&E focused and I feel it can really complete and enhance a design. As an Interior Architecture student, spatial design was key, and furnishings were more secondary, but I feel one cannot work as a cohesive design without the other.

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear in interior design?
EM: Designing to a trend and not for longevity.

Luxurious longe area in suite

Image caption: Metro Suite inside London West Hollywood, designed by Richmond International

HK: What has been your favourite project to date?
EM: My favourite project would have to be working on The London, West Hollywood Penthouse with Vivienne Westwood. Alongside the interior design we also worked closely with her team to develop custom fabrics, rugs and wallcoverings, as well as bespoke bath robes and towels. We worked with an archive of scarves that were then mounted and framed to use for the penthouse artwork.

Main image credit: Richmond International

In Conversation With: Hamish Brown, Partner at 1508 London

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Hamish Brown, Partner at 1508 London

Following some major global project wins, 1508 London’s entrance into hospitality was one that was led by a burning desire to reference local culture, unique design and organic materials in a new generation of luxury hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins one of the firm’s Partner, Hamish Brown, in the London-based studio to learn more…

“There’s a real desire at the moment for brands not to be completely dictatorial about what their hotel should look like,” comments Hamish Brown, Partner at 1508 London, who warmly welcomes me into the studio moments before arriving himself having just walked off the red-eye flight from New York to London. “There are operational and functional standards, for sure, but in terms of design and aesthetics, there is so much more freedom now than there ever has been in hotel design.”

Could it be this movement that opened the door from residential into hospitality for the design studio? Or maybe it’s Brown’s ability to sharply define where the industry is at in this moment even while enduring transatlantic jetlag. Before then, the team at 1508 London were residential pioneers who had created a unique thread of new design standards on the high-end market around the globe; an appealing DNA for developers and operators in the hospitality arena.

It’s a refreshing experience, visiting a working studio that is – despite having already completed The Spa at The Lanesborough, awarded Best Hotel Spa 2019, and is currently working on new spaces for brands such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Park Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels and Jumeirah – still relevantly new on the international hospitality scene. It is perchance the gems that are on the boards, as well as the major project wins that the studio has achieved recently, therefore, that is causing the heads in the industry to turn towards the direction of 1508 London.

“I have always really hated the ‘one size fits all’ approach in design.” – Hamish Brown, 1508 London

Most recently, the studio’s pipeline of statement projects includes Rosewood Doha, which is said to become “Qatar’s latest landmark five-star hotel”, the first branded residences in Beverly Hills’ golden triangle and the redesign of Jumeirah Carlton Tower in London, which will infuse a new, lighter sense of grandeur to elevate the guests’ arrival experience.

Render of two towers in doha

Image caption: Render of the majestic towers that will shelter Rosewood Doha, slated to open in 2020 | Image credit: 1508 London/Rosewood Hotels

The structure of the 70-strong designers at 1508 London is supported by four design directors, one of which, Akram Fahmi, was published in The Brit List 2019 following his recent move from his success at another studio. “We try as much as possible here to throw things up in the air, because I have always really hated the ‘one size fits all’ approach in design,” Brown tells me. “We start by first understanding the building’s context – the architecture and the local vernacular – and, as designers, it is our job to be able to draw inspiration from that.”

Brown, who The Times named as a ‘tastemaker’ in 2018, joined the firm in its infancy in 2010. Before that, he worked for a property development firm, swerving anything design-related succeeding a full-on interior architecture degree at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. “To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed after my studies,” he admits. “The modules were attempting to be sensible, but, in reality, they did not prepare me for what life is really like as a designer. It felt a bit like passing my driving test and then merging onto the motorway for the first time.”

Render of the outside of the building

Image caption: Render teasing what the front of Jumeriah Carlton Tower will look like when it majestically remerges back onto the London scene later this year. | Image credit: 1508 London/Jumeriah Hotels

After flirting with the idea of working in high-end residential and retail development, giving student life some time to deliquesce in the memory, Brown initially joined 1508 London as a Business Development Manager. Climbing the ladder rapidly, in 2011 he became Head of Projects, was promoted one year later to become Studio Director and in 2013, he joined CEO and Partner Stuart Horwood as a Partner. “Originally, we were just four people with one vision, and we deliberately didn’t have a house style.” Walking around the studio, I am presented to the brand’s perhaps most impressive creation: the carefully curated cluster of characters – AKA, the designers – who are all driven, I’m told, by the idea of producing better spaces. “We take pride in being very client-centric, and that’s not to put anyone else or any other studio in the industry down – we really do try to respond to briefs with creativity,” Brown adds.

In a recent exclusive roundtable discussion on the topic of meaningfully differentiating luxury in hotel design, Brown mentioned that the studio tries to always capture and create sense-of-place with every project it works on. “Intrinsically, we believe that the exterior and interior of a building should have a strong relationship,” explains Brown. “And that’s often the starting point on most projects. We ask about the location, the architecture and the materials. Quite often, our inquisitive nature then takes over and we will investigate more about things like the culture, the art and the food.”

Luxury pool area inside The Lanesborough

Image caption: Thoughtfully designed, The Spa at The Lanesborough shelters a luxurious hydro pool area. | Image credit: 1508 London/The Lanesborough

In regards to the company’s own sense-of-place, the studio is situated in the heart of the capital and has famous neighbours, sharing the same roof as fashion house Tom Ford’s studio and showroom. With 27 different nationalities under one roof, 1508 London is an outwardly thinking practice that is inspired by different cultures. “Britain is a design hub because of its education,” Brown says. “Our studio is a perfect example. There is a natural flow of talent in London, and that is because individuals from all over the world choose to operate here.”

“Although the first impression in a hotel usually comes from the look and feel, the last impression is of equal importance.” – Hamish Brown, 1508 London.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: Where do you feel most at home in London?
Hamish Brown: In South London, with my wife and two children

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
HB: Sri-Lanka

HK: Was there a designer/or designers who inspired you when you were studying?
HB: Zaha Hadid and Antoni Gaudi, I’ve always fascinated by their uses of materials.

HK: What is the most rewarding part of your role?
HB: Working with people, and learning about cultures. I have learned more about geography as a designer than I ever did at school.

HK: If you were not a designer, what would you do?
HB: I would restore furniture, which is what I want to do when I retire.

HK: How would you describe your four design directors?
HB: They are completely open-minded and expansive beyond belief. You give them a challenge and they will each respond in the most wonderfully exciting ways.

HK: What’s the last item that shows up on your bank statement?
HB: A tactical coffee a Gatwick airport.

One of Brown’s most valuable lessons that he has learned is the balance between design and function. “Although the first impression in a hotel usually comes from the look and feel, the last impression is of equal importance,” he says. “The lasting memory comes from the service and function. To make someone fall in love with their stay, to attract them in the way it looks, you have to be able to deliver on that promise – and that is where the symbiosis happens between design and function.”

For most designers, one project will stand out in the portfolio. For Brown, that project sits majestically on Hyde Park Corner, just a few miles from the studio, and was also one of the first luxury hotels I checked in to as a journalist. “Working with the hotel’s Managing Director at the time, Geoffrey Gelardi, on the design of The Spa at The Lanesborough was incredible,” he says. “He had unbelievable knowledge on how the back-of-house operated, which allowed us to design spaces with complete precision, and enabled us to learn exactly how each area should be utilised. Without a doubt, those lessons have been the major transition between residential and hospitality.”

striking bar with marble surfaces featuring distressed mirrors

Image caption: Worlds away from the hustle and bustle of London life above, The Spa at The Lanesborough is an urban sanctuary unlike any other. | Image credit: 1508 London/The Lanesborough

The fact that we are sat around a beautiful oak table that I find out was rescued by the 1508 London team from an antique shop in Chelsea, exemplifies the studio’s respect for objects and restoration. “In many ways, you are only as good as your materials,” explains Brown. “This rug, even, came from a woman I met in the Middle East. She devoted her life to travelling to tribal areas, bringing groups of people together in the process to make these detailed rugs.”

“I remember using a recycled car windscreen in a bar, which a supplier fused together in order to create a striking bubble-like surface.” – Hamish Brown, 1508 London

The studio is so passionate to learn about new materials and products that it even dedicates time, one day a week, to invite select suppliers into the studio. “This time is an opportunity for us to learn, which is fascinating,” he says. “I remember using a recycled car windscreen in a bar, which a supplier fused together in order to create a striking bubble-like surface. When you backlit it, the result was incredible. The point is, I would never have thought about doing that on my own, and it added a new layer to the high-end project.”

Inspired by the studio’s infectious ethos – as well as its ability to sensitively lead the industry’s evolution ­– I leave Brown and his team in peace to continue reshaping the international landscape of luxury hotels. My evaluation of Hamish Brown? He is a polite and modest man who you can effortlessly spark up a conversation with. Listening intently to hear his passion for design, architecture and the carving out of a new era of hospitality, I can conclude that we do, after all, have more in common than simply a memorable name.

Main image credit: 1508 London

In conversation with: Pierre Yovanovitch, interior design’s answer to haute couture

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In conversation with: Pierre Yovanovitch, interior design’s answer to haute couture

With his latest project Hotel Le Coucou in the French Alps as an apt backdrop, Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year Pierre Yovanovitch joins editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss milestones, new directions and his signature couture approach to interior design…

In my official review of Hotel Le Coucou, I mention that it is the hotel’s idiosyncratic take on slope-side luxury that has made it onto the radar of winter luxury travellers. Far removed from the conventional ski-in/ski-out luxury hotel, Hotel Le Coucou, more than 1,400 metres above sea level, takes unapologetic risks in its design to boldly shelter contrasting tones, bespoke lighting and animal-shaped furniture.

“They told me about the project, and mentioned that I was the only designer they were interested in working with for it.” – Pierre Yovanovitch.

The creative genius behind the project who in just three years sensitively created the 55-key new-build hotel, from a piste ski route into the jewel it stands as today, is Pierre Yovanovitch. The fashion designer who turned architect/designer was recently crowned Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year 2019. He joins me for breakfast during my review of the hotel in the property’s Bianca Neve restaurant. Together, we discuss overcoming project obstacles, working to tight deadlines as well as the key moments that have shaped his abstract career.

Making the headlines recently for becoming Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year 2019, Yovanovitch’s unique style is in hot demand. “For me, being celebrated in that way was completely unexpected,” he tells me. “For the business, though, it has been a real turning point. We have just opened an office in New York, which was completely necessary because of the increase in projects we are working on in North America. However, regardless of where we open offices, we will always be proud to be a French design studio in our approach to all projects.”

Room with interesting pieces of shaped furniture and art with man lying dead on beach

Image caption/credit: Chateau de Fabrègues, Provence/Jérome Galland

Hamish Kilburn: Let’s talk about Hotel Le Coucou. Why was was it your most challenging hotel project to date?

Pierre Yovanovitch: First of all, where we are sat right now was a piste slope before. Meribel has many constraints when it comes to architecture. Some ski resorts in France made a lot of mistakes in the ‘70s and ’80s when they built new properties without respecting the mountain-chalet style.

“Hotel Le Coucou is a complex design; its structure cascades down more than 10 levels and has very narrow areas.” – Pierre Yovanovitch.

Here, buildings have to be made from local materials, they have to match the colour of other buildings in the area and even have a specific shape. While in some ski resorts, designers and architects are able to create architectural masterpieces, in Meribel that simply is not possible. Hotel Le Coucou is a complex design; its structure cascades down more than 10 levels and has very narrow areas. Therefore, it was not an easy project to work on.

White fluffy chair and bold blue sofa

Image credit: Hotel Le Coucou

HK: Can you explain how Maisons Pariente reached out to you with this project?

The Pariente family approached me three years ago, which only feels like yesterday to be honest. They told me about the project, and mentioned that I was the only designer they were interested in working with for it. Yes, there was a burden, but I was also very honoured, and the pressure was good. 

HK: What inspired you when you first started drawing the design for Hotel Le Coucou?

PY: The views! In most hotels, you have rooms with good views and bad views. Here, though, every room opens up to capture an amazing panoramic vista of the area. It was important to me that each room utilized this fabulous site. Sometimes, the view even becomes more important than the décor.

HK: How did the hotel’s concept come to life?

PY: There were so many local constraints, so I worked with a very local architect on the building’s construction. Once we had the shell of the building, I started to draw everything inside, and some changes were made in order to open up the space. The ceiling in the lobby, for example, was too low and we had to lose a bedroom in order to create that dome-like structure you see when you arrive.

We designed everything and we had to work as quickly as possible. We drew and designed more than 140 pieces of furniture and lighting for this project. I wanted to create something special, and when we decided to purchase something over making it, it was usually because it was vintage. Creating so many pieces was a good exercise for me, because I want some of my items of furniture and lighting to become more accessible.

HK: What is it about the Scandi/American style of furniture that you love?

PY: Scandinavian furniture is instantly recognisable, but it is also timeless and I like the fact that you cannot link it to a period in time or a trend. It becomes more chic. It is also simple, made from nice wood and has a good shape. My experiment was to blend this with a Californian style, which was something new to me and other French designers.

Bear chair next to lamp and on snow-inspired carpet

Image credit: Hotel Le Cou cou/Jérôme Galland

HK: What was it like to work with Christian Louboutin in 2015, and how did that change your career?  

PY: Chistian Louboutin called me one day, out of the blue, and asked me to design the global concept of his first boutique dedicated to beauty. It was a lot of fun, and I love working on projects that are very different because they challenge me in the best way.

Image of Christain Louboutin and Pierre Yovanovitch in white space

Image credit: Louboutin Beauty Boutique Paris, 2015

HK: What other highlights in your career can you now identify as milestones?

PY: As you can see, I have a very strong interest in furniture, and I have always taken a lot of inspiration from the short yet impactful ‘Swedish Grace’ movement from the early 20th century. In 2005, my profile as a designer grew quickly after I decided to create an exhibition that was inspired by this movement.

Another moment happened two years ago when I was asked to put on an exhibition at Villa Noailles Hyères. I invented a narrative about a woman. In each room, different pieces of art and furniture as well as text told the story of this character. The area sparked a lot of interest from press and the design community. People understood my love and passion for art, theatre and literature. You see, design is larger than interiors. It sits somewhere between art and craftsmanship. I don’t like to be enclosed and I work better when I have freedom on where I source my inspiration from.

HK: Who inspired you to take risks in design?

PY: I worked with fashion designer Pierre Cardin. He warned me that if I didn’t take risks then I would stay small. He has a very strong style and, in a way, he is an architect. Working with Cardin was a very good experience for me, and his words still inspire me today.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND:

HK: What trend do you hope never returns?
PY: Trends are not interesting. I hate the idea of following trends.

 HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
PY: Glasgow. I am taking my whole team there next week to learn the work of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I really need to learn new things when I travel.

HK: Describe your team in three words?
PY: Family, friends and positivity

HK: If you could start from scratch with Hotel Le Coucou, would you change anything?
PY: I would change everything! I have new ideas all the time, but this project is a moment in time that I am proud of.

HK: What have your learned from this project?
PY: That constraints are fantastic because budget and time limits allow you to be more creative.

While working on the final stages to complete Hotel Le Coucou, Yovanovitch’s time was split among other projects. In London, he was given just two months to design new interiors for high-end restaurant Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. With the history and heritage of the building on his shoulders, the designer injected style into the space with a sensitively blend of salmon-toned surfaces, bespoke curved furniture and a distinct refined yet comfortable style.

“For me, there are two reasons why I liked that project, Yovanovitch explains. “The first is the chef, Hélène Darroze, who is such a lovely lady. And second was the building itself. Darroze asked me to design something feminine and she ended up loving my idea to narrate through design the tension between masculine and feminine. This project was another example of me drawing everything from scratch – from the lighting to the furniture and even the ceiling. It became a haute Couture project unique for her.”

As our breakfast comes to an end, I am left with little more than a teaser that unveils the designer/architects next movements will be as bold as his latest project. “I am currently working on a few projects, which means that I am travelling a lot” he concludes. “Expect something loud and over the top.”

It’s difficult not to be touched by Yovanovitch’s approach to new challenges. His confident approach to say yes to projects that will stretch his limits as a designer has allowed his to take the industry to a new level – one that is playful, couture-driven and always meaningful.

It’s clear that overhauling iconic spaces into something more is, each time, a personal journey itself that allows Yovanovitch to grow as a creative and artist. Although the challenges that Yovanovitch faces often come with insomnia and the inability to simply switch off, it is his passion and devotion to innovation in the industry that has made him one of the greatest designer/architects of our time.

Main image credit: Pierre Yovanovitch Studio/Vincent Desailly

Discussing biophilic design in hotel surfaces

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Discussing biophilic design in hotel surfaces

Ahead of their panel discussion at the Surface Design Show next week, editor Hamish Kilburn and Parkside Architectural Tiles’ architectural consultancy manager Fraser Lockley discuss sustainable surfaces in hotel design… 

Design is all around us, and we interact with it from the moment we get up in the morning, through our working day and into leisure time.

Design is a reflection of society and impacts on how we interact in our daily lives. The way in which buildings and spaces are designed has the potential to greatly impact the wellbeing of those interacting with it, so to promote biophilic design seems a given.

Ahead of hosting a panel discussion (February 13 at 12:30pm on the Main Stage) at the Surface Design Show next week, I caught up with one of my panelists early to understand, from a suppliers perspective, how designers’ methods for injecting biophilic design into projects is allowing new possibilities to emerge in surface design.

Hamish Kilburn: What makes biophilic design more than just a trend?
Fraser Lockley: The ideas and principles of biophilic design have been around for many years, it is only the term that has come to the forefront of the design world more recently. The use of natural materials was a foundation for many of the classic societies (Egyptians, Greeks etc), so biophilic design is definitely not a new trend. It’s more a return to exploring the use of natural shapes, colours, textures and patterns as well as sustainable materials and interpreting these to modern designs and how they impact on end users.

HK: Can you explain what Parkside is looking for when it investigates new materials?
FL: We are always looking for opportunities to bring new products to the interiors and A&D sector. Our Sequel range is a great example, using recycled glass and ceramics normally discarded in the sanitary products manufacturing process, we were able to offer a great looking tile that appealed to the aesthetic requirements of clients while embracing sustainability and a biophilic ethos.

“While 15-20 years ago the idea of using recycled content was associated with inferior or cheaper products, now producers are more comfortable in declaring the resourcing of products to create new tiles.” Fraser Lockley, architectural consultancy manager at Parkside Tiles.

HK: What would you say are the least sustainable materials available in the marketplace?
FL: Sustainability can be measured in various ways, so it is not always easy to pinpoint exact materials, for example some materials may be more energy intensive to produce but then have a much longer product life than sustainably produced equivalents. In addition, products that stand the test of time in terms of look and performance could arguably be more sustainable over something very niche and on-trend for a particular timeframe. For us, it’s about achieving a balance across all of these and providing products that have a long-term design, good product life and made without over-exploiting earth’s natural resources.

HK: How is technology unlocking the potential for designers to affordably access sustainable tiles?
FL: Digital printing technology means that a majority of looks, finishes and styles can be replicated onto tiles, thereby protecting valuable natural resources such as marble, slate, quartz etc. It’s worth bearing in mind that tiles are generally long-lasting and hardwearing. In fact, tiles are only likely to be removed because someone wants to change them rather than through necessity. Looking around modern-day London, our tube stations are testament to some of the iconic tiles from the 1900s that are still in use today.

HK: How many of Parkside’s tiles would you consider to be sustainable?
FL: With the longevity that tiles provide we consider tiles to be a sustainable option for exterior and interior finishes. Many of the major manufacturers are using a percentage of recycled content within their production processes. While 15-20 years ago the idea of using recycled content was associated with inferior or cheaper products, now producers are more comfortable in declaring the resourcing of products to create new tiles.

HK: How can designers on a budget sensitively inject biophilic design in public areas?
FL: Designers can concentrate on one or two of the biggest elements of a project that will impact on the overall design, this could be key features or focusing on particular aspects like the lighting or flooring and sourcing one or two products that embrace the biophilic ethos. This one change may seem small but incorporating even just a single element can have an impact on how the end user interacts with public areas.

HK: In your role, how has demand for sustainability increased in recent years?
FL: There has been a massive increase! Architects and designers continue to incorporate sustainability within their projects and the latest generation of designers have been introduced to sustainability from the start of their careers, so we predict continued demand for new products that address these practises.

HK: What are the consumer benefits of biophilically designed tiles?
FL: Any biophilic design which helps end users connect with nature while inside, provides the benefits of reducing stress, supporting wellbeing, and helping with performance in an ever-hectic environment.

Hotel Designs’ Hamish Kilburn will host the panel discussion entitled: Biophilic Materials in Surface Design. He will be joined on the sofa by Fraser Lockley (architectural consultancy manager at Parkside Architectural Tiles), Jeremy Grove (Managing Director of Sibley Grove) and Richard Holland (Director of Holland Harvey Architects).

5 minutes with: Interior designer, Yuna Megre

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: Interior designer, Yuna Megre

Following the impressive VIP Suite that was unveiled Sleep & Eat 2019, interior designer Yuna Megre joins editor Hamish Kilburn for a five-minute chat on how the design concept came together…

It was one of the most popular elements of last year’s Sleep & Eat. Not only was the VIP Suite fit for purpose – giving designers, architects and the press a place to hide from the exhibition – but it was also flawlessly designed to look and feel like a premium space.

Named ‘Gather’ by the designers, the original oak panelled Olympia Club Room was transformed into a whimsical flora and fauna-inspired space. Drapes, upholstery and even the flooring were in a fabric depicting exotic flowers. Specially designed by MEGRE INTERIORS cascades of fabric flowers looped through the space and, in the epicentre, a large-scale light installation flickered warmly like a fire. Surrounded by orbicular seating – referencing the circular gathering places of human history and drawing a parallel to the primeval pleasure of coming together around a fire pit – the space was inviting, exciting and original.

Hamish Kilburn: Sum up your Sleep & Eat 2019 experience in one sentence?
Yuna Megre: Meaningful, inspiring, humbling experience, and there was an overwhelming appreciation of our ‘Gather’ concept.

HK: What was the brief?
YM: The brief was to create a VIP lounge that would reflect this year’s theme of the event of Social Flexibility. We went beyond that brief and created an experience rather than just a space, attacking all senses and immersing guests into a powerful atmosphere.

Image caption: Yuna Megre inside the VIP Suite at Sleep & Eat 2019

HK: Can you explain your choice of materials?
YM:
Straight away we knew we would keep to a mono-material / look as much as possible to create an atmosphere of immersion and to make shapes disappear, taking a back seat to colour and pattern. Originally we were aiming to cover all surfaces with fabric, and developed such fabric with Sahco, that could withstand all the application we would need. However, in development, we came to the conclusion that for fire safety, for ease of cleaning, for ease of application – we will produce glue backed vinyl with the same print to use on floors and some furniture. We further pushed the boundaries by creating fabric flowers and leaves that matched those drawn on the print and strategically placing them as if they burst out from the two dimensional world into the three-dimensional one. Everything but the print we wanted to disappear as much as possible and to create some spacial illusions – which we achieved through the use of mirrored furniture and surfaces. We also view the scent and music that we created for this project as the materials we used. Because for a concept to be experiential and immersive it must work with all human senses. 

“It is no longer enough to design spaces. We have to design experiences, environments, emotions.” – Yuna Megre, Founder and Head of Design at MEGRE INTERIORS.

HK: How does your design challenge conventional ideas of a public space?
It goes beyond space – that I feel is the biggest challenge to the convention. The way that our world is evolving, the way we consume our surrounding is evolving. It is no longer enough to design spaces. We have to design experiences, environments, emotions. There has never been such a cross-disciplinary overlap as today between interior design, event and experience design, art, digital design. And we are only at the beginning of this new paradigm. Our concept explores this new reality, a new approach to public spaces. It looks at space as an environment of interaction which has to create an emotion, a memory, rather than just serve a function.

HK: Can you explain your use of layers within the design?
YM: As we used a mono-material approach, we layered the project through senses rather than conventional visual layering. We addressed all six senses – the visual, the sound, the smell, the touch and with it ergonomics, the taste, and our last but most important one – emotion. We unravelled the concept of gather through them all. This is layering in the new era of design, not just visual layering. 

HK: What were the main challenges throughout this project?
YM:
Many people believed it could not be done. Throughout the journey multiple people were telling us to simplify it, to make it less complex. But we achieved what we set out to do, at 60 per cent of original cost estimations, on time, with everything as we envisioned. It is our teams approach to everything we do. There is always a solution, always to get things done. If you cannot see it, you are not looking hard enough. GATHER was such an overwhelming success because of this unwavering dedication to the concept and the support of all-out partners and contractors.

Main image credit: Megre Interiors 

In Conversation With: Hotelier of the Year 2019, Thomas Kochs

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Hotelier of the Year 2019, Thomas Kochs

The Managing Director of Corinthia London, Thomas Kochs, has confidently evolved – and arguably led – the luxury hospitality scene in London for decades. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the man of the moment who was recently crowned Hotelier of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2019

London’s luxury market stands and operates alone on the global hospitality map. Although ‘competition’ is a rare word spoken among hotel operators in the city, there is no denying that the luxury hotels in the capital are all vying for the title of being the best and most interesting hotel in London.

One man who knows more than most hoteliers about the luxury hospitality scene is Thomas Kochs, the Managing Director of Corinthia London. In the last decade alone, the German-born hotelier has managed properties such as The Berkeley, The Connaught Hotel, Claridge’s and Hotel Café Royal. More than likely, it was this impressive portfolio that qualified him as the man for the job to take the helm of Corinthia’s flagship property in 2017.

Roof terrace that has modern furniture, a large chess board and the view of the London Eye

Image credit: Corinthia London’s Whitehall Penthouse

Since its opening in 2011, in a building that dates back 1885, the 300-key property has proven, time and time again, that Mayfair is not the only neighbourhood for premium hotels in London. Sitting undisturbed on the bank of the River Thames; a hop, skip and a jump away from London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Corinthia London faces, and in some suites frames, the iconic London Eye and the contemporary and eclectic South Bank.

Having just clinched the prestigious title of Hotelier of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2019, Kochs is rightfully considered one of the best in his field. With an acute eye for detail, and a calm, collected yet dynamic approach to leadership, the hotelier has seen – perhaps even led – the evolutions of many hospitality trends driven by consumer behaviour and demands. “Design has evolved,” says Kochs. “10 – 15 years ago, hotels had more opportunities to impress through design. However, a good design formula alone is no longer enough in today’s market. There are some design-driven brands where the customer only checks in because of the design and aesthetic, but we don’t consider ourselves one of them.”

Spacious and luxury hotel lobby. Grand piano in the centre, and a large chandelier in the background

Image cpation/credit: Corinthia London’s luxurious lobby | Jack Hardy

Last year, Corinthia London was the backdrop of a BBC docuseries entitled: A Hotel for the Super Rich & Famous. The two-part series, which echoed a similar format of another series that featured Kochs when he was General Manager of Claridge’s, gave consumers a window into the inner workings of a luxury hotel.

As well as following the day-in-the-life of housekeepers, florists and the concierge, the cameras were also given access to creative meetings with the hotel’s Futurists-in-Residence, The Future Laboratory. The trend forecasters, who began their partnership with the hotel in 2018, believes the future of luxury is about intelligent encounters – think cool cultural exchanges, and the kind of exemplary food for the mind, body and soul that stimulates thinking. “These are dear friends of ours,” Kochs explains. “The Future Laboratory were trying to make the point that that consumers are too busy with themselves, to the point that only severe disruption would make them talk to each other.” One option suggested was to deliberately shut down one of the lifts. “That’s all well and good,” Kochs adds, “but that just doesn’t work in hotels. The aim of the partnership was to position ourselves as a forward-thinking hotel that also respects our history and brand values.”

Another common theme explored in the TV series was how decisions were made, and often changed. “Why would you stick to something that your mind is warning is not the right decision?” Kochs rhetorically questions. “I know it can sometimes be exhausting and an inconvenience to people around you, but it’s important to get it right and sometimes you just have to trust your gut.”

Quick-fire round

HK: Congratulations on your win at The Brit List Awards 2019. How does it feel, being Hotelier of the Year?
TK: It’s amazing, I have never been a hotelier of the year before.

HK: Why is Britain a hospitality hotspot?
TK: Because creativity, design and hospitality is deeply rooted in British culture.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
TK: Japan.

HK: What’s the one item you cannot travel without?
TK: My Bottega Veneta holdall travels everywhere with me.

HK: What is the one hospitality trend you hope will not return?
TK: The idea that the most expensive is the most desirable. That was vulgar.

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
TK: Organic dog food, hand-cooked in Devon, for my new puppy.

HK: What is the most important element to get right in hospitality?
TK: The team is essential. The team here really do inspire me every day.

HK: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
TK: A GP in the countryside.

HK: If you were not living in London, where would you be?
TK: Somewhere with a beach, potentially Los Angeles.

HK: Who inspired you when you were early on in your career?
TK: It was more the feeling of quality hospitality that inspired me.

HK: What’s your favourite part of the hotel?
TK: I really like the Northall Bar. I like the high ceilings and the historic elements, but also there is space to breathe.

As a someone who has been at the top of the luxury hotel triangle in London since 2001, Kochs understands that the roles of a hotelier are changing, and evolving fast. “The structure of having your strategy, the next five-year plan and the budgets has remained the same, explains Kochs. But now, more than ever, you need to be really close to your team; understand your employees and what they are working on. You also need to spend time with the guests, and really consider the sense of location when doing so. The minute you lose interest in any of these components, you’re fighting a losing battle. That brings me nicely onto relevance. The hotel has to understand how to remain an exciting place. It is a beating heart; a live operation. It’s not something that we can put into storage and sell later. Instead, it’s happening now.”

modern, contemporary guestroom with green cushions and bed throw.

Image caption/credit: Corinthia London’s Duluxe King guestroom | Jack Hardy

It’s an interesting time for Corinthia Hotels. Following its announcement to debut in Dubai, which CEO Simon Naudi explained the ins and outs of in an exclusive interview last year. While the brand expands sensitively, the London hub remains the mothership of the group, where the DNA of its award-winning style and service was born and refined. “I do certainly feel the responsibility,” adds Kochs. “We are in one of the most exciting cities in the world, which is all too easy to forget because we have access to it every day. We are lucky and blessed that we identify trends before others. This, I believe, comes with experience. It’s crucial to stay alert and awake to consumer trends and shifts in demands so that we capture them both verbally and intellectually, which we can then communicate seamlessly through the hotel experience.

Render of luxe, light and airy suite.

Image caption/credit: Render of Corinthia Dubai | Corinthia Hotels

Considering its widely known reputation, it’s easy to forget that the hotel group currently only has one hotel on UK soil. “We have the advantage of being small,” says Kochs. “Look at what is going on around us. Everything is getting bigger. Travel to Vietnam, for example. You enter Saigon and the streets are a bit dusty, and souk is steaming on the side of the road. But then you are confronted with Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada; the same brands and products you would find on Bond Street.

“The hotel industry is not too dissimilar. The Corinthia brand is small, and we are quick in our decision making. There isn’t a corporate paralysation and we are not overly governed by brand guidelines. A large brand would argue that the opposite is their advantage, which can also be true.”

Dark spa with fire on the left and luxe sauna on the right.

Image caption/credit: The Spa inside Corinthia London | Jack Hardy

What I believe is most telling of Kochs’ style as a hotelier is the fact that, throughout our interview, he had a subtle, non-invasive watch on everyone else in the room. The self-proclaimed perfectionist continues to stand as a leading example for the brand that is slowly by surely expanding its luxury offering in far-flung destinations around the world.  Personally, I believe that Kochs’ attention to detail is what sets him apart – like how, during this interview, he paused politely to ask for the lighting to be lowered as the last of the London light filtered into the late afternoon. Despite his impressive background in hospitality, Kochs remains humble, warm and a worthy Hotelier of the Year.

Main image credit: Corinthia London

In Conversation With: The founders of design studio BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: The founders of design studio BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

With W Ibiza about to open, Hotel Designs gets a backstage pass to exclusively interview the design and architecture heroes behind the project. The founders of BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG, Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz, have led the completion of some of Europe’s most iconic hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the pair to understand how to effortlessly confront convention in the ever-evolving hotel design arena…

A few miles away from where the spotlight is being cast on the designers and architects who are attending Sleep & Eat 2019, The Standard London’s playful interior design scheme provides an apt and backdrop for my next interview to take place. I don’t know it yet, but I am about to experience a pivotal moment in my career as I prepare to meet face-to-face with the designers behind one of my very first ever hotel reviews, which took place almost half a decade ago.

Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz are the founders of BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG, and have – for some time now –  led an exciting movement on the hotel design scene in Europe and in the Middle East. Their two studios in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv consist of a group of talented designers and architects, all of whom have graduated from institutions around the globe.

Among a sea of residential projects within the studio’s portfolio, there are also a number of hotels that have marvellously opened to disrupt the tide of the pre-existing hospitality spaces. These include the likes of Sir Albert Hotel, Mendeli Street Hotel, Wyndham Grand Frankfurt, as well as a handful of W Hotels for good measure in pockets of Europe that have become major travel hotspots.

“I like to think it’s the building talking back when we face challenges.” – Alon Baranowitz, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

It’s a daunting prospect to reconfigure a respected building that has formed part of history and a community for centuries, and sensitivity from concept through to completion is called for for such briefs. “We have a beautiful dialogue with buildings that allows us to converse and work with them,” explains Baranowitz. “I like to think it’s the building talking back when we face challenges. It really is a journey. When you start from scratch, anything is possible. And then you start confronting elements that affect the original ideas and plans. The trick then is to work around constraints and not against them. Often, these end up being the most exciting and rewarding projects.”

“In that moment, we moved from being functional designers and became narrative creatives.” – Irene Kronenburg, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

1998 was a defining year for the studio. The two designers were approached by a client to create a new restaurant and dining experience. “We remember the birth of Zo Zo Bra’s design concept like it was yesterday, and it was a turning point for us,” says Kronenburg. “I even remember what the lady was drinking on the table adjacent to us during our meeting. We sat there for hours trying to understand the concept of ying and yang. We went in completely open-minded, and only after we had succeeded in defining the energy of the concept and space did we start designing. “In that moment,” reflects Kronenburg, “we moved from being functional designers and became narrative creatives.”

projector above tables and open front windows, the studio's design take on ying and yang

Image caption: The ying and yang concept executed in Zo Zo Bra in Tel Aviv

A few decades later, having perfected their innovative design method with a string of hotels and residential projects, the studio was awarded the opportunity to design W Amsterdam, which I first reviewed in 2014 during its soft opening. It was another one of those projects – a ‘labour of love’ hotel, which I’m assuming received more labour than love during key moments. “It was an incredible project to work on,” beams Kronenberg. “It felt like our role was to stitch all the elements together. Before we made any decisions, we had to understand the buildings as well as the city of Amsterdam. The biggest challenge was to breathe new life into the building while remaining sensitive throughout.”

The hotel, which takes shelter in the pre-existing 1920s telephone exchange building as well as the former KAS Bank down the road, challenges design and behavioural conventions in many ways. For starters, the check-in area is positioned on the top floor of the exchange building, which flows seamlessly into the rooftop bar and restaurant and heated outdoor pool, allowing visitors to feel part of the W’s energy immediately upon checking in. “It’s a party place, but Amsterdam does not the same night life you have here in London,” explains Kronenberg, and I can only assume the designer is referencing the city’s open-minded attitudes as well as an underground party, design and fashion scene. “It was important for us to create a venue that the locals would accept as a new destination that breaks boundaries. Without the locals using the hotel’s facilities as we intended, the design would not have worked as a concept.”

Hotel designers are moving – or have already shifted – into a new era, where their design projects on the boards being influenced as much by quality materials as they are aesthetics. Having led the industry as innovators for so long, I am intrigued to understand how this greater awareness has impacted the studio. “It’s a really exciting time to be operating in the industry at the moment,” explains Baranowitz. “Perspectives on sustainability are definitely changing. Before knocking down a building, for example, we should be investigating what we can restore in order to create a continuation of urban fabric that would otherwise be forgotten. Thinking in this way has become more of a reflex.”

“It really is as simple as adjusting the way we live in order to design more thoughtful spaces.” – Irene Kronenburg, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

For the studio, while consumers checking in and out of hotels become more savvy to consciously designed properties, it is less about designing purposely, and more about living sensibly and within ones means so that an eco-approach becomes second nature. “There shouldn’t need to be someone telling us to design responsibly, just like there shouldn’t be someone telling us to recycle,” adds Kronenberg. “It really is as simple as adjusting the way we live in order to design more thoughtful spaces.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn (HK): Where’s next on your travel bucket list? 
Elon Baranowitz (EB): Japan
Irene Knonenberg (IK): The Azores

HK: What is the secret to good design? 
IK: Good design is about what you don’t see.

HK: Why should people visit your hometown of Tel Aviv? 
EB: We live each day like there is no tomorrow. No, really, the energy on the streets is electric!

HK: What would you say has been the most significant change on the international hotel design scene recently?
IK: Respect for specialists and sourcing inspiration outside of design territory.

Not understanding the 360-degree relationship between the designer, architect and operator is a pitfall I try to avoid when reviewing hotels. When researching into the studio’s latest project it is about to complete, W Ibiza, I find it uncommon and interesting that BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG was commissioned to work on the architecture as well as the interior design scheme.

W Hotels has a habit of doing things differently – and considering the studio’s wealth of architecture experience as well as interior design – the renders of W Ibiza say rather a lot about the buildings need for a strong relationship between both elements. The colourful renders depict a vision that is the result of a seamless and understood relationship between the shell of the building, its practical properties catering to the modern traveller and and evolution of the W-style within the vibrant interiors sheltered inside. “When we first entered the building, which is positioned on the beach front, we couldn’t even see the sea. There had been no thought as to how guests would and should use these public spaces,” explains Kronenberg. “As a result of us opening up the structure of the building sensitively, guests now capture the sea from the outside of the property.”

Render of a colourful green and blue architecture of W Ibiza

Image credit: W Ibiza/Baranowitz + Kronenberg

W Ibiza is slated to open in April, ahead of the 2020 Summer season. Located off the beaten track, the 167-key hotel will strike a pose on the palm-fringed beachfront of Santa Eulalia. As the only global brand on the island, the design brief was to marry the parallel realities of Ibiza with a magnetic pull that turns up the sass.

By opening up the public spaces to become a flexible social hub, the hotel becomes a place that nurtures human connections, and through the use of subtle levels creates touchable distance between each functional area. “The idea is that the energy descends into the unconventional pool area,” adds Baranowitz. “As you move up levels, the lobby/lounge area becomes more reclined, but the open architecture scheme allows for a clever connection between all spaces.”

 

60 minutes in the company of Kronenberg and Baranowitz has allowed me to find a fresh perspective on the industry, as well as the possibilities that can emerge from taking the time to listen before acting. As the pair rush to catch their flight back to Tel Aviv, their boundless energy has awakened my senses. Nearly five years after checking in to W Amsterdam, it is as if fate has finally brought this moment together. My barely touched coffee has gone cold, which I now believe is the sign of a great conversation that will continue soon.

Main image credit: BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

In Conversation With: Marcel Wanders – “bathroom design can be poetry”

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Marcel Wanders – “bathroom design can be poetry”

Ahead of Sleep & Eat 2019, editor Hamish Kilburn speaks to acclaimed designer Marcel Wanders to understand how he hopes his new collection and collaboration with bathroom manufacturer Laufen will create long-lasting poetry in the modern bathroom…

Designing interiors and designing an interior design product are two very distant things that should not be confused with the other. They both require two separate methods, and most of the time, two separate designers.

For an individual to be able to effortlessly switch between the two disciplines shows great versatility, creativity and passion. Combine these three elements together and you have something close to Marcel Wanders’ drive, determination and dedication when it comes to creating timeless interiors. “Designing a product is much like creating a new word in an empty sentence,” Wanders explains. “Depending on how the words are curated will determine the dynamics of the sentence, and in effect, the quality of the poem it becomes. I love seeing what sentences and poems designers will create with my empty words.”

“I wanted The New Classic to break into a new territory, which I think makes it interesting.” – Marcel Wanders.

If Wanders’ latest collection was to be described in one word only, he would use simply the adjective of ‘contemporary’, which balances both sides of the coin when it comes to sensitively depicting the delicate, classic lines with modern architectural details that seems to be the DNA strand within all the pieces in Lauren’s The New Classic collection, which first previewed in Milan earlier this year. “I wanted The New Classic to break into a new territory, which I think makes it interesting,” Wanders explains.

The collection, which makes its UK debut at Sleep & Eat 2019, is complete with washstands, countertop and vanity washbasins, WCs, faucets, bathtubs, showers and furniture to match, and arrives on UK soil after a healthy amount of anticipation in the build-up to the event, making it one of the most exciting product launches of this year’s two-day show.

“The idea is not about throwing away the past,” adds Wanders. “Instead, it is about trying to blend the past into the now and the future. I started with the concept of a table you would find in your Grandma’s home, for example, and used that as a strong metaphor to create the structure of the range,” explains Wanders. “I then added some soft, elegant shaping and the whole collection started to take form.

“Like all architectural fittings, The New Classic had to feel timeless and designed with purpose. I kept imagining these pieces in a house that’s just been sold. I wanted the new owners to feel as if they didn’t need to change the fittings, because they become the foundation of its design. Bathrooms are not meant to feel disposable or stuck in the past. The durability of the materials, therefore, was paramount.”

Originally, Wanders had designed this collection to be made from ceramic, but Laufen’s unique SaphirKeramik gave the design – and its creative process – unmatched strength. “SaphirKeramik is differnet because it allows you as a designer to create thinner products that don’t loose their strength,” says the designer. “Considering the design concept was to create elegant pieces, it was the perfect material.”

The major challenge when designing the new iconic statements was to ensure that the idea and design approach was also functional. “We are talking about minuscule changes that can totally change the way in which the product performs,” adds Wanders. “For me, this area of product design is interesting as well as complicated – and it takes time to perfect.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: If The New Classic was a music artist, who would it be?
Marcel Wanders: Puccini, because I think opera can also be contemporary.

HK: What item can you not design with?
MW: Honestly, I can design without anything. It is all in my mind.

HK: What would you say has been the most bizzare collaboration you have worked on?
MW: Antiques Capellini, because I don’t think anyone was expecting something so bold.

HK: Which bathroom trend to you hope will never return?
MW: Trends in general!

HK: What is the secret to a successful collaboration?
MW: Mutual respect.

For a designer who is well-known for entering meaningful collaborations, I am intrigued to know more about what makes this particular project special and memorable among the more than 1,500 other projects to his name. “I love to work,” Wanders projects. “It’s been the first time we have done a serious project of scale in the bathroom. I am so excited to see my designs injected into projects around the world.”

In regards to the humble designer behind Lauren’s The New Classic, I believe this collection has the narrative and strength to win the hearts of designers and specifiers and to become the great bathroom love story sheltered in many hotel projects in all corners of the globe, that we, as industry, will reflect on decades from now as a significant moment in bathroom design.

Laufen, which will be showcasing The New Classic collection on stand L10 at Sleep & Eat, is one of our recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email  Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: Marcel Wanders

In Conversation With: Britain’s design legend Martin Brudnizki

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Britain’s design legend Martin Brudnizki

Last year’s crowned Interior Designer of The Year at The Brit List Awards, Martin Brudnizki, invites editor Hamish Kilburn to his Chelsea London studio to explain some of the major milestones in his career as well as how he logistically manages his time in a truly international market…

Design gems are not hard to come by on the British hotel design scene. You have only to open the pages of last year’s edition of The Brit List – and this year’s shortlist for that matter – to find the top 75 influential designers, architects and hoteliers.

However, design legends are less common. It’s not a question of talent or ability, but more a reflection of style, class, personality and being about to really set oneself aside from others in the heavily congested international hotel design market.

There is only – and will only ever be – one Martin Brudnizki, for example. Last year, Hotel Designs’ The Brit List crowned the acclaimed visionary as its Interior Designer of the Year – and for good reason. “Brudnizki is an international leader, standing as an icon as well as inspiration to so many young aspiring designers,” commented last year’s expert judging panel. “His recent work in University Arms Cambridge is a credit to his studio’s ability to give a building a new lease of life in the most sensitive and creative way.”

Image caption/credit: The Library designed by MBDS/University Arms Cambridge

Almost one year later, while the editorial team at Hotel Designs are gearing up for yet another spectacular awards ceremony, I aptly caught up with the Brudnizki in his Chelsea studio in London to find out more about our ‘poster boy’s’ journey to become one of the world’s most celebrated interior designers of the moment.

“I grew up in Stockholm; my mother was a stylist and my father an engineer and I think this blend of approaches to living and design, in particular, rubbed off on me,” Brudnizki explains. “My mother is incredibly stylish and filled our home with beautiful colours, patterns and objet. My father on the other hand, worked in a very precise and thought-through way. Both aspects of their personality has certainly informed the way I work today.”

Brudnizki’s early career in design saw him working at the likes of David Gill Gallery and David Collins Studio before branching off and putting his own practice in 2000, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) in 2000. “I learned a lot during my time in other places,” he adds, “which has served me well when establishing my own studio.”

“We have a number of up-coming projects that I also hope shape our studio’s story. It’s an exciting time.” – Martin Brudnizki

Since then, MBDS has become one of the leading international design studios, with bases in London and New York and projects including The Beekman, University Arms and Four Seasons Athens. But, like all designers, Brudnizki remembers the milestone moments; the hotels and buildings that captured his and his team’s incredible imagination, usually sheltered in iconic shells. “All the projects we work on are exciting and help shape the future of the studio however, there are a few that really stick out as being pivotal,” the designer explains. “Scott’s in Mayfair presented us with the opportunity to design our first fine dining restaurant, it also cemented our relationship with Caprice Holdings, who have since become important clients of ours. Working with Nick Jones on Soho Beach House Miami was exciting as this saw us introduce the successful Soho House brand to a new region. The Beekman in New York opened in 2016 and helped stamp our mark on New York. It’s located in a beautiful building and we were lucky to garner a lot of attention from it. Finally, Annabel’s in London has proved incredibly popular for us. It’s such an iconic club so we felt very honoured to be asked to redesign its incarnation. We have a number of up-coming projects that I also hope shape our studio’s story. It’s an exciting time.”

Dividing his time between both London and New York has given Brudnizki the unique freedom to position himself in two of the world’s most respected design hubs. “Both cities have very unique identities,” Brudnizki explains. “They are both are melting pots of culture and excitement and whilst very different, they both present wonderful opportunities to mark your mark.”

“Luxury travel to me is being able to combine a sense of curated experience with spontaneity; finding new places but also the having the flexibility to be adventurous and go off piste.” – Martin Brudnizki

From the outside looking in, the luxury market in hotel design may look like a desirable place to start when setting out to build a reputation as being a leading designer, but it also comes with risk to cater to the ever-changing demand of the modern luxury traveller. For Brudniki, the true art of luxury travel is a reflection of his own experience and personality. “Luxury travel to me is being able to combine a sense of curated experience with spontaneity; finding new places but also the having the flexibility to be adventurous and go off piste,” he defines.

Since winning at The Brit List 2018, Brudnizki’s vision on a new hotel brand has come to life in the shape of Mr C Hotels, which opened in Miami earlier this year – and has, as a result, put him in the running for the second consecutive year for this year’s awards. “Mr C is situated in a modern new build in the green surroundings of Coconut Grove,” he explains. “New builds have many benefits, including up-to-date technology and no listed statuses to content with however, new builds often lack the characterful details of older properties. With this in mind, we often have to dig deeper to find a strong narrative to wrap the hotel’s design in. For Mr. C we looked to the landscape of the region and the glamorous boating heritage and incorporated elements of this into our scheme.”

As well as technology, another area that has peaked recently in popularity among developers as well as designers and architects is the value of sustainability and designing consciously. “I think it depends on the project and the client, Brudnizki admits. “We are working with Six Senses on their new hotel and resort in Kitzbuehel Alps and the whole design is focused on sustainability and using organic and local materials. This is to mirror the brand’s values so we’ve had an interesting time researching new materiality and local artisans who can help reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint and up their sustainability accreditation.”

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
Martin Brudnizki: Portugal.

HK: What is the number one item you simply cannot travel without?
MB: A silk eye mask.

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
MB: Probably food from Bayley & Sage.

HK: What is your favourite place to unwind in London?
MB: My home in Parsons Green. As a travel so much, it’s nice to just come home and relax in the peace and quiet.

HK: What trend do you hope will never return?
MB: International Beige.

HK: Where are you travelling to next?
MB: My New York Studio next week.

Before I leave the designer in peace to create with his team the hotel interiors of the future, which include hotels in London, Austria, LA and Cape Town (among others), I am interested to explore, on the surface at least, new materials that have emerged on the designer’s radar. “I am really interested in straw marquetry at the moment; it’s such a beautiful natural fibre that can be used in the most unusual of places, such as walls and furniture,” Brudnizki says.

MBDS itself is incubating a strong network of talented designers that will further position Britain as a globally regarded leading design hotspot. With his name on the door of two dynamic studios – and also in the minds of I would argue all aspiring interior designers – Brudnizki is leading the ever-evolving industry into new territory.

The shortlisted finalists this year’s The Brit List have been invited to The Brit List Awards 2019, which takes on November 21 at Patch East London (Aldgate). To purchase limited tickets, click here

Main image credit: Luca Marziale

In Conversation With: Andrew Sadler from CTD Architectural Tiles

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Andrew Sadler from CTD Architectural Tiles

Editor Hamish Kilburns sits down with the Andrew Sadler, CTD Architectural Tiles specifications sector manager, to discuss how the industrial trend in surfaces is evolving, sustainable wall covering solutions and how tech is driving a new age in tile design… 

2019 is proving to be a pivotal year for surfaces. While trends are being replaced for a burning need for designing with purpose, sustainability is being discussed widely in more ways than ever before.

Meanwhile, art on the international hotel design scene continues to spill outside the frame, and often onto the walls. To understand more about how surface suppliers are coping with the rise in demand for vivid wallcoverings that can completely change an interior designs space, I spoke to CTD Architectural Tiles’ specifications sector manager, Andrew Sadler.

Hamish Kilburn: Can you explain how the industrial trend (especially in wallcoverings) has evolved recently?

Andrew Sadler: The industrial trend has developed mostly due to production technology. The introduction of ‘Continua Plus’ has allowed the production of larger sizes than ever before, which has been a real change in the trend, and the products specified. The first generation slabs were marble-based designs but now we are seeing more industrial design themes such as concrete and metal coming through. See Maiora Concrete 2.4 x 1.2 metre slabs.

Some factories are however are embracing the desire amongst specifiers and clients for authentic production techniques. We can see this in both our Zelij and Croma ranges.

Image caption: Zelig from CTD Architectural Tiles

Another development has been the fusions of traditional ceramic techniques and new industrial design concepts. This is best captured in a range like Diesel Glass Blocks, where a 1950s style glass brick has been captured in ceramic tile using decade-old glazing techniques updated for the 2020s.

HK: What would you say is the biggest pitfall among designers when specifying wallcovering?

AS: With tiles, the biggest pitfall among designers is probably understanding that the tile is just one element of a system. Consideration needs to be given to the substrate the tile is being fixed to and how the area is tanked to mitigate water ingress and potential failure. CTDA work with both Schluter Systems and Jackon to offer the specifier peace of mind through provision of a wide range of wetroom and substrate solutions. From a design perspective, trying to replicate the popular brick bond or herringbone/parquet style of floor tile used on walls can cause a challenge when the room is fitted with spotlights. All of a sudden the lipping on the tiles, unevidenced on the floor becomes all too apparent.

HK: Why are surfaces within public areas more important now than ever before?

AS: The public areas are the key selling areas of the space – the face of the project – so an aspirational appeal is crucial. This appeal needs to married however with a floor surface that is safe to use to protect the client from slips and trips and the hotel from litigation or reputational damage. We have seen the adoption over recent years in the UK of the Pendulum Test as the acceptable measure of a tile’s slip resistance. The implication of this is that we are seeing public spaces being fitted with tiles that have a higher slip resistance than was previously the norm. Whilst this is great from a safety perspective, it does cause challenges with cleaning these spaces as the more textured surfaces are more attractive to dirt. We see therefore a move away from lighter tones (whites, creams and ivories) towards darker tones (grey and anthracites) where the floor does not reveal its secrets so easily.

HK: How sustainable are CTD Architectural Tiles’ products?

AS: There are many advantages to ceramic tiles against alternative materials. Made from water, clay and fire – these elements give rise to a natural and quality material which is free of toxic substances, making it a strong alternative to materials such as plastic laminates or vinyl. Ceramic also has a very long life cycle and is therefore sustainable from a longevity point of view. There also isn’t the need for excessive maintenance, which makes it more advantageous than wood or parquet flooring for example.

HK: How was nature used as inspiration in your latest collections?

AS: Launched earlier this year, our Amazonia collection is the epitome of how botanical influences are finding their way into the commercial and hospitality sector. A celebration and seamless marriage between rustic handmade influences and the trend for biophilic design, the Amazonia collection is versatile and unique. Combining botanical patterns with a pared-back, nature-inspired palette to enliven spaces of all sizes, the collection offers endless opportunities to combine and mix distinctive tiles.

Image caption: Amazonia Grey Hexagon from CTD Architectural Tiles

For a more floral take on the botanical trend, ranges such as Maiora’s Custom Décor’s offer the possibility to create true feature walls with over-sized tiles – see p36 in this catalogue.

HK: How is technology allowing you to create more immersive products?

AS: One of our key launches this year was our 20mm-thick Porcelain Pavers collection, which is a testament to the advances in technology having a direct impact on the options that are available. The Porcelain Pavers collection is made up of 22 different tile ranges and each and every product meets all the technical and design requirements for exterior applications as well as indoor applications. The 20mm thickness means that it is extremely durable and resistant to breaks and scratches as well as being fade and frost resistant. Boasting a +36PTV (wet) slip-resistant structured surface, the tiles are also extremely low maintenance thanks to their exceptionally low porosity.

Image caption: Porcelain Pavers from CTD Architectural Tiles

Offering the added benefit of easy installation, the 20mm ranges can be installed in a number of different formats depending on the environment and project requirements. Providing the ultimate flexibility, the products can even be loose laid onto gravel, sand or pedestals, making them both accessible and re-usable. 

Advances in technology and production have also led to the introduction of a more diverse product portfolio in terms of styles, colours, patterns and designs. One of our most recent collections, Venice Villa, delivers the beauty of terrazzo captured in porcelain. The terrazzo look originates from using left over marble chippings into cement as a way to use excess product. A reinterpretation of this famous look, the Venice Villa collection is an exquisite contemporary twist on the traditional terrazzo trend, combining the appearance of crushed marble fragments with the excellent properties of fully body porcelain stoneware. Available in eight colourways in a polished, natural or structured finish, from monochrome Silver, Grey, Zinc and White to the more colourful options of Earth, Beige, Graphite and Ivory, the Venice Villa tiles offer an intriguing combination of colours that capture and reflect light, enhancing commercial spaces of all types. Expressing the beauty of the material that inspired the collection, the porcelain surfaces of the tiles combine the traditional look with modern materials making a surface that is easy to maintain and clean.

To find out more about CTD Architectural Tiles, please click here.

Main image credit: CTD Architectural Tiles

In Conversation With: Outstanding Property Award London’s Jesper Thomsen

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Outstanding Property Award London’s Jesper Thomsen

Making its debut on the international design stage, Outstanding Property Award London (OPAL) has begun its global search to identify the most innovative design and architecture projects. As the exclusive media partner of the awards, Hotel Designs speaks to OPAL’s  co-founder to understand what sets the initiative aside from others. Editor Hamish Kilburn writes…

“What makes a building, a project, a person and/or a hotel’s design outstanding,” I ask myself as I weave between some of London’s architectural skyline statements while running embarrassingly late to meet with Jesper Thomsen. It feels like only yesterday we were both sitting down over coffee for the first time discussing the bones of what has now become the Outstanding Property Award London (OPAL).

Fast-forward to today, and I am on the jury –  as well as at the helm of a very special media partnership -imminently about to be asked to identify the ‘outstanding’ from the ‘extraordinary’ and ‘unique’ – all of which are buzzwords that are overused and I struggle at the best of times to define. Considering the vast amount of innovative architectural gems that have appeared in cityscapes around the world in recent years, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the entire weight of the industry’s judgement pressing down on my shoulders. It’s an interesting concept becoming a judge, and ironic that what follows is then the feeling – or apprehension at least – of judgement. But it’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone when casting my opinion, as the awards now has significant number of jury members, all of which have been hand-selected to offer different perspectives from all corners of the industry.

By the time I make it to meet Thomsen, I have decided that, for me, something unconventional will be my winner, which is a word that I feel would best describe Thompson’s ambitions for OPAL, along with ‘bold’, ‘courageous’ and ‘about time.’

Hamish Kilburn: What was the aim when setting up OPAL? 

Jesper Thomsen: The aim was created out of a passion for creativity in the property industry. We aim to highlight and celebrate the most exceptional design projects in the world, raising their awareness and honoring its creators. Buildings last for decades, sometimes centuries, they tell our history and legacy, where we come from and where we are now. They are fundamental to our existence, so it’s essential that they are well designed and serves humanity in the best way possible.

We seek to reveal projects that are not only highly creative but show useful function, provide better living experiences for its users, and meeting the clients’ expectation. Class-leading projects that demonstrate innovation and embracing new technologies, setting new trends, respecting and protecting the environment, and pushing boundaries of human ingenuity.

OPAL was established with my friend and business partner Hossein Farmani, founder of the Farmani Group of companies, who has vast experience in the design awards industry since 1985. Having worked together in the past, the award feels like a natural progression of our combined experiences.

HK: Can you tell more about your experience in the industry? What’s your story? 

JT: I always wanted to become an Architect. Since a young age, I’ve been fascinated by design, and for me, architecture was the ultimate expression of human creativity and design evolution. However, my father was the third-generation owner of a printing and design practice in my native Denmark and got me interested in graphic design. At the time of A-level graduation in Denmark, I wanted to apply for the School of Architecture, but the ministry of education regulating the free admissions had almost no openings for new students due to a slump in that industry.

Instead, after one year as an apprentice in an architectural firm in Paris, I moved to London and began a Masters degree at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, which related more to graphic design, I also supplemented my studies with photography. Following graduation, I was a creative director, designing websites for major companies during the dot com boom era. Here I gained considerable experience in digital marketing and branding. After a seven-year itch, I became tired of commercial design, and my love for the arts was calling.

I launched a private art gallery in Londons’ Knightsbridge, including spending one year developing and designing the gallery space. In this process, it felt like all creative aspects came together, and after completion, I would subsequently spend another seven years running the gallery exhibiting artworks by artists such as Damian Hirst and Bill Brandt.

I decided to move on from the gallery business, and fate got me involved in developing a few properties in Londons Knightsbridge, I spent nearly 3 years responsible for all operations, learning hands-on all the disciplines from interiors to architecture, planning, research, 3D modeling, materials, procuring and team management. It was a very creative period but also learning the hard way how complex the creation of properties really is. So my past really covers hugely varied types of creative practices. I’ve learned that creativity, in all its forms, is about ‘seeing’, sensing, letting your imagination unfold, and this can be applied to all its disciplines.

HK: Why is London such a significant destination to base these awards? 

JT: London has always been incredibly important for creativity and design in the built environment, spanning from historical landmarks up to today’s groundbreaking contemporary designs. Some of the most famous developers, architectural firms, and interior designers, have a base here and continue to inspire and influence the global property industry. The OPAL Award is open to entries from around the world, and we want to bring outstanding projects to London and celebrate them in our fantastic capital we are so proud of.

“OPAL offers a three-way synergy between our three main entry categories; Property Development, Architecture and Interior Design.” – Jesper Thomsen

HK: What sets OPAL aside from other design awards? 

JT: Many awards are confined to a single industry within the property sector; An Architecture Award, is for Architects, by Architects. An interior design award, is for interior designers, by interior designers and so on. OPAL reaches fully across the property sector. It offers a three-way synergy between our three main entry categories; Property Development, Architecture and Interior Design. These industries continuously collaborate to create exciting projects, each bringing their expertise, and combined, they deliver outstanding designs. We are also very proud of our talented jury panel who will evaluate the global entries, they are our backbone and aspiration to those who enter our award.

HK: What other destinations around the globe would you are design hotspots? 

JT: It’s incredible how major cities in Asia have become design hotspots. Shanghai for example, really pushes boundaries fuelled by a concentration of industrial partners and strong government support. As the countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games draws closer, the Japanese capital is in the middle of a hotel gold rush. Anything from boutique design hotels to glittering skyscrapers, a raft of new establishments are opening or are in the pipeline. Mexico City is also one to watch after being nominated for World Design Capital last year. I love their particular design language, elegantly fusing original colonial architecture with contemporary.

HK: What’s the number one thing you cannot travel without?

JT: This is an obvious one; my laptop. It’s glued to my fingertips at all times. I travel extensively, and this enables me to run operations and be connected at all times. Oh, and an online back-up of it too.

HK: What is your favourite hotel you have ever stayed in and why?

JT: There are so many. I recently visited Extremadura, a remote and less traveled part of Spain. Here, in the historic town of Cáceres, inside its UNSECO walled city and housed in a beautifully restored 16th-century palace is the stunning hotel Atrio. Striking white minimalist architectural features blends lovingly with the old stone walls and shiny black wooden floors. The surrounding streets have no tourist shops, nor huge crowds with selfie sticks you’d typically find in places of such beauty, just quaint, peaceful alleys defined by sandstone and ivy leaf clad palaces. The rooms and amenities are styled in a fashionable 60s Scandinavian design, Miles Davies’ Blue Note years playing softly in the background, a pleasing opposition to the striking view onto the empty medieval square below. Atrio is also home to a fabulous two-starred Michelin restaurant boasting one of the finest wine cellars in the world. I thoroughly recommend a visit here.

HK: What do you look for in an outstanding property?

JT: What really excites me about a great project is when the original vision of a completed building shines like a star, its purpose is evident to the eyes and the senses. Those projects are likely to be those who have seen mostly green lights during the creation process.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?

JT: My sights are on Mongolia, away from civilisation and buildings. When I take time off, I grab my camera bag and go shooting landscapes, happy to be off-grid. No place is better for me to clear my mind than to connect with solitary, vast open expanses or wild roaring oceans.

HK: What is your favourite restaurant/bar in London at the moment?

JT: I like Aquavit in St. James. Maybe I’m a bit impartial due to my Scandinavian roots, here you can eat classic dishes such as gravid lax in a beautiful, sumptuous setting. I also like the buzz of The Ned, the physical scale of it is bars, and restaurants area is incredible. I just had a sneak peek of the yet to be launched upstairs bar and restaurant of the Standard Hotel, a funky design offering fantastic views over Londons’ city to one side and the clock tower of St. Pancras to the other, so close it feels glued onto their windows.

HK: What trend do you hope never returns?

JT: Brutalist 60s’ architecture. Its primitive obsession with concrete made an austere generation of buildings where function superseded design, creating discouraging living conditions for its users. I don’t think architects and developers of that time really understood or considered the human factor as part of a design concept, that a building serves to improve peoples lives and its environment, not just a structure to keep you dry from the rain. They are genuine eyesores and should be demolished, and only the best examples should be preserved for the record. I doubt this trend will return anytime soon due to a much better understanding of peoples needs along with technological advancements in the building industry, 3D printing, new materials and simulation methods give designers today far more freedom, flexibility, and individuality to create exciting designs.

Main image credit: OPAL

In Conversation With: British designer Bim Burton

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: British designer Bim Burton

Following the unveil of his latest collaboration with bathroom manufacturer Kaldewei, Bim Burton sits down with Hotel Designs to discuss sustainability in design and the inspiration behind ‘those bath chairs’… 

Bim Burton is an innovative modern furniture maker and designer, creating timeless design with space saving ideas. Taking this year’s themes of (Re)act at designjunction, Bim and Kaldewei worked together to create, exclusively, for designjunction, a series of recyclable, sustainable unique bath chairs in three different styles.

These were showcased within the Installations area, located in Lewis Cubitt Park, Kings Cross, London, throughout designjunction, which was very well attended and hosted cutting-edge designers, breakthrough brands, an unrivalled talks programme and unique design experiences.

Kaldewei steel enamel baths are 100 per cent recyclable, made from Kaldewei’s ownsuperior steel enamel and have been ingeniously crafted to Bim’s unique design -creating beautiful, designer chairs for designjunction’s visitors to relax in.

Hotel Designs: Why did you want to be part of designjunction?

Big Burton: I was really flattered to be asked to take part in designjunction this year. I was recommended by British Designer Steuart Padwick, the creator of the breathtaking sculpture “Head Above Water’ also on show in London. Designjunction is one of the best destinations during the London Design Festival (LDF), so obviously, I just couldn’t say no.

Image credit:: Bim Burton/Kaldewei

HD: Where did the idea to create bath chairs come from?

BB: The theme this year is (Re)act and renew so when designjunction asked me what I would design, I immediately thought of the bath chair as it’s an object which is notonly functional but has the chance of a second life. The Kaldewei bath makes a great exterior for seating and I thought this was relevant today with the theme re- use as well as being great for an outside seating area.

HD: Why is sustainability so important to you?

Sustainability should be important to everyone. Kaldewei’s baths are 100 per cent recyclable so perfect for this product. During my time as a designer, I have recycled many objects into practical and interesting pieces of furniture.

“I’ve found Kaldewei to be very enthusiastic when working with their baths.” – Bim Burton

HD: Why Kaldewei?

BB: Again, this was a recommendation, this time from designjunction. I’ve found Kaldewei to be very enthusiastic when working with their baths. I couldn’t believehow well made and strong they are, I would definitely recommend them as a bath for their design and durability alone. Kaldewei were very generous in providing me with the chance to realise my design idea of turning baths into chairs – to reuse baths as seating. Kaldewei provided their steel enamel baths for me to cut and workout different ways to use the parts as chairs. I turned them up, sideways, and discovered how many variations I could make. I am very grateful for them trusting me and my imagination.

HD: How did you find working with steel enamel?

BB: Cutting the steel wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, cutting the steel with the right tools is very forgiving!

HD: What was the biggest challenge?

In a word – “time”. There just isn’t enough of it. Time is so precious, I usually havevery little of it to bring a project together.

HD: What was the most enjoyable part of the project?

BB: I’ve enjoyed working with the challenge of the bath shape and its material, as well as having the freedom to use my creativity bringing to life my design – transforming the baths into bath chairs!

HD: What’s happened to the bath chairs now that the event has passed?

BB: Good question! They will probably go for sale. I already have a list of people who would like one… so let’s see.

From Inside to Out is in collaboration with – Kaldewei, AJ Wells, Agua Fabrics & AHEC.

Main image credit: Bim Burton/Kaldewei

Empty room with various styles of seating

In Conversation With: Matthew Balon at Ruby Leni’s first showing

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Matthew Balon at Ruby Leni’s first showing

Ruby Hotels has re-entered the stage to take a second bow in Dusseldorf, Germany. The 170-key Ruby Leni, which takes shelter in a former 1950s theatre, is the hotel group’s seventh hotel to harness ‘lean luxury’. Editor Hamish Kilburn travels just south of the city’s fashion district to meet the group’s lead designer, Matthew Balon, the morning after the night before’s launch party to discuss design details, the significance of paper puppets and the brand’s highly anticipated 2020 arrival in London…

Empty room with various styles of seating

They say that to make any act truly memorable, the performer must enter the stage armed with a spectacular encore up his or her sleeve. In the case of Ruby Hotels in Dusseldorf, the main performance took place last year with the arrival Ruby Coco. The dynamic property is a contemporary urban hub that is nestled within the city’s main shopping district, just off Königsallee – AKA a fashionista’s heaven. The interiors inside are sharp, considered and give more than an apt nod to the fashion quarters that surround it.

[CURTAIN UP]

If Coco was used in the opening scene, engaging its captivated audience with the allure of couture costumes, then the encore is Ruby Leni, which is situated a mere 10 minutes down the road. Although the neighbourhood may feel quieter, its entrance certainly isn’t: a large marquee sign with the words ‘make it your own stay’ frames an appropriate first impression.

Exterior shot of the hotel, showing a colourful courtyard

Image credit: Ruby Leni

[PUBLIC AREAS ENTER FROM STAGE RIGHT]

With large, expansive public spaces that filter into plush private break-out areas, the hotel is designed for both locals and guests checking in. The character and soul has been channelled into the lobby/lounge, where the real story of the iconic 1900s building, which sheltered the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus theatre, comes to life. “We looked at the materials, shapes and forms that you would associate to a theatre of that era,” says Lead Designer Matthew Balon. “We then separated that into front-of-house and back-of-house. We wanted to challenge that idea by merging those areas. For example, we have included stage cases in the lobby to really create an authentic feeling of being part of the production, behind the scenes.”

[GUESTROOMS ENTER FROM STAGE LEFT]

Upstairs, the sharp and stylish guestrooms have been designed around the original peculiar structure of the building, creating an interesting layout in each. The design and general make-up of the room, though, is a reflection of the others in the entire hotel group’s portfolio: crisp white beds, refillable toiletries and eco-friendly rain showers to match. The brand calls it ‘lean luxury’, which is posh for ‘uncomplicated, laid-back comfort’ – and it works, especially for bleisure travellers.

White, bright and contemporary guestroom

Image credit: Ruby Leni

Although you would recognise the rooms as ‘Ruby Rooms’ guests with eagle eyes will notice subtle differences, like the wood panelling for example.  “It’s been designed to also reference the story of the hotel,” explains Balon. “I looked into how sets were built and was inspired by the fact that guests in the theatre only ever see the pretty side. I wanted to show the back of the sets, the flats. I was interested to know how these things stood up and how they were constructed. That provided the inspiration for the wall panelling and the reinforced corner detailing.

Another quirky touch that sensitively helps set the theatrical scene is the art above the beds. Bolan initially wanted to do something with shadow puppets, which evolved into creating an immersive and playful paper puppet stage. “I really love introducing interior design elements that are fun and interactive,” says Balon. “We like to have fun with it and make an interesting element to guests’ stay.”

[APPLAUSE]

Image caption: Editor Hamish Kilburn (left) dragged the Lead Designer for Ruby Hotels, Michael Bolan (right), out on ‘stage’ the morning after the launch party before…

Quick-fire round:

Hamish Kilburn: What can you not travel without?
Matthew Bolan: My Darth Vader suitcase. I just love it!

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
MB: Japan.

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear when checking in to a hotel?
MB: Queuing!

HK: What is the number-one tool for success?
MB: You have to create an emotional connection.

HK: What is the last thing that showed up on your credit card transactions?
MB: A round of drinks I bought last night. It’s your round at the next launch, I’m told…

Most hotel designers are working with many several brands and brand standards, and so it is interesting how Bolan, within his creative realms, can piece together many different stories with the same Ruby strand running through each. “It is all-encompassing,” he says. “What the brand stands for in regards to design is something I can really get behind. When I think about Ruby, I think of all the people who bring the brand to life.”

[CURTAIN CALL]

The brand’s design is spilling out of the seams and leaving a permanent stain on new destinations. The next hotel design hotspot to welcome the arrival of Ruby Hotels is London – to the Southbank to be more specific. “We have done a lot of research into the location, which is a really interesting corner of London,” Balon explains. “I can tell you that Ruby Lucy is going to be fun, colourful, unexpected and I am really looking forward to the opening party!”

Ruby Hotels first unveiled its unique concept with Vienna hotel Ruby Sofie in 2014, before opening two further hotels in Vienna, Ruby Marie and Ruby Lissi, as well as Ruby Lilly in Munich, Ruby Coco in Dusseldorf and most recently Ruby Lotti in Hamburg. In response to the success of these properties, the brand plans further openings including Ruby Lucy in London’s bustling Southbank in early 2020, as well as hotels in Zurich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Shanghai before the end of 2020.

[CURTAIN CLOSED]

In Conversation With: Unidrain’s Kenneth Waaben on modern bathrooms

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Unidrain’s Kenneth Waaben on modern bathrooms

Hotel Designs exclusively sits down with innovative head designer at Unidrain, Kenneth Waaben, to understand more about the process behind the brand’s design of the modern bathroom… 

With the aim to “create aesthetic and functional designs that enhanced the company’s existing portfolio,” Kenneth Waaben started working for Unidrain in 2014. Since then, his clear methodical way of thinking when it comes to balancing practicality and good design has led to the launch of many of Unidrain’s hero products, including the dynamic Reframe Collection. 

For Waaben, who graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, design is an iterative process that is based on a specific problem, as we find out in our exclusive Q&A.

Hamish Kilburn: What made you want to take on the challenge of designing for Unidrain?

Kenneth Waaben: In my view, good design has to be durable, a design that makes a difference, both aesthetically and functionally. Unidrain wished for products that stood out and solvedproblems in amore elegant and intelligent ways than other products in the market. I was able to design these products, so it was a fine match.

As a designer it is my mission to improve what already exists. Unfortunately, these days many new products are created with no real focus and are not designed to improving anything.

In these days of eco awareness and sustainability this is neither an interesting nor effective approach to product development. As a designer I feel we have to do everything we can to make a positive difference.

“One should dare to be critical of general practice, see possibilities and be open and brave enough to try new things.” – Kenneth Waaben, Unidrain

HK: What is your motto?

KW: Improve the existing – the devil is in the detail!  One should dare to be critical of general practice, see possibilities and be open and brave enough to try new things.

HK: What is the process behind your designs?

KW: I like to look at the things we use and find out where there is room for improvement, and then generate ideas around this.  It can be a challenge to connect the aesthetic with the functional. The process requires repeated tests and adjustments, it’s important to be aware of even the smallest details, since it is often these that make all the difference.

The road towards the goal, the actual design process, is to a great extent an iterative process where inspiration, the idea, the form and function is developed in a constant interactionbetween mind and hands.

It is all collaboration between drafts in 2D and 3D on paper and drafts shaped in cardboard and foam,as well as 3D printing and CAD. Through the entire process it is extremely important to use your experience and intuition.

HK: What was your most recent project?

KW: The Reframe Collection has been taking up my thoughts most recently.  One of the designs that have been under the design microscope is the Reframe corner shelf. I wanted to give new life to an everyday product, improve on the design.

Two other products in the Reframe Collection,the toilet brush and shower wiper, were also being re-framed and re-designed.    We looked at each item; the new toilet brush has been designed with a splash collar that eliminates the accumulationof bacteria between the inner and outer containers.

There is a small, integrated handle, so that you can easily empty the container without coming into contact with any bacteria.  The actual brush head has also been designed to collect as little water and paper as possible, to reduce unwanted dripping.

The shower wiper is a difficult product to keep tidy in the shower space so we designeda way of integrating the shower wiper with the soap shelf.  It is held in place by hidden magnets, which avoids having the wiper standing on the floor or hanging on the mixer tap.

HK: Do you design your products to be long lasting?

KW: Products have to be durable, this is important, plus time has proven that well-designed, long lasting products are also often the most popular.

As a designer, it’s important not to focus on what’s popular right now, as you risk designing a product that quickly becomes irrelevant.  It’s far more interesting to take a long-term approach. Many of the design products that are now celebrated around the world were often created many years ago and not on the basis of contemporary fads and trends.

Unidrain is one of our recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email  Katy Phillips by clicking here.

In Conversation With: Fashion designer Jack Irving

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Fashion designer Jack Irving

Having previously designed statement outfits for many international music and fashion icons, Jack Irving’s alternative style has recently spilled out onto the hotel design scene. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the fashion designer, in between photoshoots, to understand how two worlds have recently collided…

The brand ‘Jack Irving Studio’ and the creative man behind the logo are two very different things. One is bold, disobedient and you would expect – almost encourage – to cause an outrageous impression in almost any social scenario.

The other orders a lemonade on a hazy Thursday afternoon at a media interview as he catches his breath between work engagements. Opposites do attract, after all.

Made famous by creating outlandish outfits for the likes of Lady Gaga and The Spice Girls for their come-back tour, the talented story-telling designer, Jack Irving, made his mark on the fashion industry by producing items that infused glamour and engineered technology.

His innovative work recently emerged on my radar when he unveiled the result of a collaboration with W London Leicester Square, which has been the designer’s first interior design project to date. “The idea of working with W Hotels was mentioned to us at Pride London last year,” says Irving. “But it wasn’t until November, following my first show at the V&A, when we met the team to really discuss what we could do together.”

Fashion shoot of models on bed with cushion

Image credit: Charlotte Rutherford

Presented by a loose brief to bring a flavour of ‘Jack Irving’ into the hotel, it became clear that that the W brand was willing to give the designer the creative reins in order to produce a statement piece for their newly designed guestrooms and suites. “They wanted a replacement for the current cushions and bed throw that met brand standards,” he explains. “The bed, for us, became the canvas.”

One month after the brief was given, Irving pitched what he explained at the time to the client as a ‘crazy tech idea’ for the concept of new cushions. He wanted the items to be inspired his signature sea urchin style, which became famous by his work with Lady Gaga. Irving then wanted to make the interiors more instagrammable. The spiked pillows’ fabric would appear muted to the naked eye until they are brought to life through the click of a camera flash. Through the lens, the smart fabric would transform into an iridescent masterpiece. “To be honest, we were hesitant as to whether or not the client would see our vision,” explains the designer. “What we pitched was as far away from convention as we could have gone.”

Irving and his partner (in life as well as well as in business), Rhys Beynon, received a call from the client while they were on a yoga retreat in Goa over Christmas 2018. “They wanted to see prototypes the first week of January,” Irving explains. “At this point, the pressure for us was on to meet the deadline.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What would a Jack Irving guestroom look like if you were to design it?
Jack Irving: It would be ridiculous – think sea urchin chairs and UFO beds. I also have the idea to design a Chesterfield sofa in the rainbow smart material.

HK: What’s been the most challenging part going from fashion to interiors?
JI: It hasn’t actually been that challenging because W Hotels were so on board with our idea.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
JI: New Zealand and LA!

HK: How do you switch off from work?
JI: Both Rhys and I are really into techno. Oddly, it’s become our sanctuary.

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear when checking in to a conventional hotel?
JI: When hotels don’t stay in their lane.

HK: What materials are really inspiring you at the moment?
JI: For me, smart fabrics and metallic fabrics are really fun to play around with. I want to experiment more with the manufacturing of the material we have been using. That being said, you can’t rely on the fabric. The shape and structure is just as important.

Models on bed with cushion

Image credit: Charlotte Rutherford

With time depleting by the day, and with fabric supplies on order to be delivered when they returned home from India, the next challenge was to secure a manufacturer. “The word ‘impossible’ landed in our inbox a few times,” explains Irving. “We did receive a lot of kickback at this stage from manufacturers, mainly because of the demand and the order size.” Undeterred, Irving and Beynon’s ‘when there’s a will there’s a way’ approach led them both to source the materials themselves to prove that it could be done. “I remember sitting on the beach with Rhys making a cardboard model of the cushion,” says Irving. “It’s one thing drawing the design, but it becomes very real when designing a 3D model.”

As well as the shape of the accessory being unconventional, so too was the material that designer decided to work with. “We call it rainbow smart fabric,” he explains. “We were worried that it would look to synthentic when not lit up, but in reality it was the perfect material to use for creating that contrast.”

As with all creative projects at pitch stage, there is an air of uncertainty, especially when it comes to unveiling to clients a prototype as futuristic as this one. “I was terrified when it came to pitching because you just don’t know how it’s going to go,” admits Irving. “We hadn’t seen the new rooms that our statement accessories would sit in, so it could have gone either way, as these things often do. But they loved it, and the second prototype we made on the beach in Goa over Christmas became the product that’s in the W London today.”

Irving’s interior design work for W Hotels may be just a dip in the ocean for now, but the designer’s ability to disrupt convention through the use of innovative materials and shapes unquestionably makes him a true innovator on the international hotel design scene.

Main image credit: Jack Irving Studio

In Conversation With: Michele Salvi, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Michele Salvi, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects

Following the opening of the 770-key Morpheus Hotel in Macau, Zaha Hadid Architects’ Michele Salvi sits down with editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss pushing boundaries, ever-changing public areas and how the pioneering practice is continuing the legacy of a design legend…

When Morpheus first opened to the public in June of last year as the “world’s first free-form high-rise exoskeleton” hotel, to the surprise of nobody, it quickly became one of the most talked-about new-builds of the decade.

Six years in planning, the ambitious brief that the team at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) received by Melco Resorts Entertainment was to design and build the fifth and final tower to complete City of Dreams Resort in Macau.

“Morpheus is a step into the unknown.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

To understand more about the challenges that were attached to such an enormous project – and to get a glimpse into the inner workings of one of the leaders behind many of the decisions – I join project architect and Associate Michele Salvi for one of his typical lunch hours in London’s bustling Clerkenwell district. “I love it here,” he says tucking into a fresh salad. “London’s vibrant culture scene makes Britain such a significant design hub.”

Establishing shot of site against other buildings

Image credit: Ivan Dupont

The architect, who operates from the ZHA’s London HQ and has recently been confirmed among other visionaries to be a jury member for the Outstanding Property Award London, is currently working on projects such as Mandarin Oriental Melbourne as well as several high-end competitions in Europe, Asia and Australia. And while these buildings that are on the boards are full-on commitments, there was nothing that could have prepared Salvi and the ZHA team for the opening of Morpheus. “Throughout the year there were many launch events with the hotel’s grand opening being the most important and expectations were high,” he admits. “The large atrium had been unwrapped from its scaffolding only a few days before and we had been working full speed with the interior contractors to deliver a project of premium quality right up until the last day. To be honest, it was a huge team effort.”

Instead of referencing architectural styles from around the globe, like the majority of other buildings in and around Macau, Morpheus ascended from its own unique environment juxtaposing its neighbouring buildings. “As our client says, Morpheus is a step into the unknown,” adds Salvi, “an unprecedented mix of challenges. More so than previous projects as parametric design tools methodologies have been used extensively in all design stages until construction.”

“It takes more than a comfortable room and premium facilities to make a hotel experience truly special.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

Rewind six years, and it was the late Zaha Hadid herself who had originally signed off the plans for the project. “We started with the envelope and exoskeleton,” explains Salvi. “The massing was given by the brief, the limited footprint leftovers from the existing City of Dreams development and 160m height restrictions because of being in close proximity to the airport.”

To create a fitting first impression that allowed all guests to experience the full scale of the project, the design team decided to keep the public areas as open and exposed as possible. “It takes more than a comfortable room and premium facilities to make a hotel experience truly special,” Salvi explains. “We wanted people to physically experience the building, be amazed and discover something unexpected.” Examples of this can be found no further than the 12 panoramic lifts, which through the full-height atrium provides what can only be described as a breathtaking 45-second experience of defying gravity.

What gives the 40-storey Morpheus its iconic free-form exterior shape are a number of delicately created pockets within the architectural structure. “We carved out three voids from this solid block to increase the amount of unique corner rooms,” explains Salvi. “By bending and curving the façade towards the centre, we enhanced visual connectivity and created unexpected crossing views between different areas of the building, such as two panoramic bridges that host restaurants.”

Exterior shot of the hotel, with irregular details

Image credit: Ivan Dupont

The guestrooms and suites within the hotel are somewhat hidden in the non-uniformed design in collaboration with interior design studio Remedios Studio. “Most rooms are within the flat façade and corners, with unique suites in the transition between flat façade and the voids,” Salvi continues. “All of them are behind the exoskeleton, and the variation of its pattern provides shelter from direct sunlight and generates dynamic filter towards the city.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: How do you escape from the daily grind?
Michele Salvi: Sailing, when I can, and I love travelling

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
MS: Hong Kong and Jordan are on my list. I would love to visit Patagonia and La Tierra del Fuego

HK: Renders or sketches?
MS: Both of them in every stage of design

HK: If I were to give you unlimited budget to design a hotel, where would it be in the world?
MS: I would love to design a floating hotel, always in motion rather than anchored to a specific context

HK: In your career, so far, what has been the largest change that has affected the way in which you design hotels?
MS: For me, this was when I started to use parametric tools, which could manage more information and has a much higher level of complexity

HK: Who inspired you when you were training to be an architect?
MS: Primarily Zaha Hadid. But also Frank Gehry and later on, from other creative fields, Ernst Haeckel and D’Arcy W. Thompson.

“Zaha’s loss was devastating.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

Despite Morpheus being no-doubt an impressive piece of architecture, it is perhaps the fact that it was one of the last projects that the late Zaha Hadid herself worked on that makes it an important building – and a poignant moment – in the firm’s journey. “Zaha’s loss was devastating,” says Salvi. “However, there is a strong sense of community within the company and we all share the responsibility to continue her legacy.” Salvi joined the studio just more than 15 years ago, first starting in the firm’s Italian studio before moving to London to work within – and later lead – a larger team. “I do feel as if I have contributed to making the company successful,” he says. After more than three years, we are doing incredibly well and continue to deliver unique projects.”

Just like the project itself did over many sketches and renders, Salvi has also evolved since early stages through to the completion. “Due to the extraordinary scale of the project, I feel I’ve learnt a lot,” he says. “From façade technology and interior design to form structure and workflow management, which is now a precious resource on every new project.”

With the architect’s lunch hour over running, and a design competition deadline looming, it’s time for Salvi to head back to the London studio to contribute further in changing the skylines of our