This September, editor Hamish Kilburn has seen a rise in biophilic and eco design at London Design Festival as he prepares to go on stage at next month’s Independent Hotel Show (October 15) to put the topic firmly under the magnifying glass…
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not a naturally born eco warrior – and I don’t believe anyone who was born pre-Millennium is either. That’s not to be confused by someone who doesn’t care about the environment. It just means that I, like others, have had to learn – and learn quickly – about the many strands attached to this very real issue before being comfortable speaking about it publicly.
“Reading the latest statistics on global warming sends physical shivers down my spine, like a glacier is melting down by back vertebrae by vertebrae.”
Last year I was privileged to be among the first to interview Martin Pease as the Managing Director of architecture and design firm WATG London. While the interview was memorable, it was his response to one particular question that stayed with me. When asked what the number-one tool for success is, he said: “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Since then, I have made it an editor’s prerogative to listen to many, not just one or a few, before finally being prepared to make sense of chaotic and stigmatised issues. And here I am preparing to dissect what is the most chaotic and complex matters our industry has perhaps ever faced: climate change and finding sustainable, ecological and realistic solutions to create harmony between design and nature.
Reading the latest statistics on global warming sends physical shivers down my spine, like a glacier melting down my back vertebrae by vertebrae. According to NASA, most of the warming has occurred in the last 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. Meanwhile, The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass, having lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016.
Designers, architects and suppliers have traditionally been good listeners when it comes to reacting to meeting the needs – and in this case requirements – of consumers. This month has been no exception. London Design Festival 2019 once again attracted the attention of the design world. Firstly, it awarded Dame Vivienne Westwood with the Lifetime Achievement Medal.
Despite my initial concerns, it was not Brexit that was dominating the theme of every conversation in and between the many social events. Instead, it was the boundless possibilities of biophilic design; discussing, at length, who was using nature innovatively for good to create warm and thoughtful interiors. I have my favourites, as do we all, but it feels like it’s creating a free-flowing movement of ideas.
I would argue that we are not quite yet surfing on the crest of the sustainability wave. Although we have the resources to hand when we catch it, we are reliant on each other – developers, owners, operators and investors – in order for it to finally, one day, become common practice to receive a brief to design a fully eco hotel.
Cue next month’s Independent Hotel Show, where I will have the heavy responsibility to lead the discussion on how our global industry can work together to build more conscious and considered hotels. While I can’t promise miracles, I can guarantee that my expert panel and I have turned over every stone to ensure that we offer realistic visions of a sustainable future on the international hotel design scene.
It’s already started, with hotels such as The Pig pledging publically that almost all food that can’t be supplied by the gardens is then impressively sourced within a 25-mile radius. And Monkey Island Estate in Bray-on-Thames, which features its own smoke house among many other intriguing elements in the garden, with still plenty of space for further expansion.
My conclusion (for the purpose of this Editor’s Letter if nothing else) is that it is not rocket science. It’s simply about the industry collectively using creative thinking to offer new and functional solutions. Call it, if you like, the true art of modern hospitality.
Main image credit: Act Studios