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Part 50: How to design for social distancing

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 50:
HOW TO DESIGN FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING

The hospitality sector has been deeply impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. As lockdown eases, hotels are navigating the effects of social distancing and new safety guidelines for their design and guest experience. Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, safely guides us through what to consider when designing for social distancing…

Although such social distancing measures clearly pose challenges for hotels, there are steps they can and should be taking to create a positive, unrestrictive and reassuring stay for guests. From enhancing the intimacy of the guest experience, showcasing a hotel’s assets, investing in the outdoors and leveraging the latest technology, hotels post-pandemic can keep staff and guests safe – all without compromising on experience.

Image credit: Burgh Island Hotel

Enhance intimacy

Covid-19 health and safety precautions have necessitated the introduction of more restrictive measures across the hospitality industry, which undoubtedly risk compromising the sense of luxury and relaxation that hotels seek to deliver. As guests grasp for escapism in the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic, social distancing can feel like a rude reminder of the world waiting beyond the walls of the hotel.

But, if executed properly, there are ways to enforce and promote safety measures that actually enhance the intimacy of a guest’s stay, rather than imposing a sense of restriction. In fact, social distancing can empower hotels to provide a quieter, more private and intimate experience, for example by extending restaurant sittings so that guests can dine later and in smaller groups. Hotels can also look to open up alternative areas, such as lounges or libraries for private use and dining. In many ways this can be a liberating opportunity to celebrate the spaces, design and identity of a hotel without compromising on safety to meet expectations.

Image credit: Burgh Island Hotel

Showcase design assets

If not managed effectively, footfall routing to manage movement flow through the hotel can naturally detract from the ambience and sense of freedom synonymous with a peaceful getaway. However, repositioning these measures can again serve to enhance, rather than undermine, the luxury and quality of an experience.

For boutique and luxury hotels, this is an ideal opportunity to showcase special features, including interiors, décor and public spaces that make the stay unique. For example, by reframing diversions as a tour rather than an imposition, footfall routing can be used to emphasise a hotel’s best features and services, such as art displays, bars or lounge areas.

At Burgh Island, for example, our authentic art-deco design features, which have been carefully preserved for 90 years and complimented by elegant editions throughout the hotel, are a central pillar of its attraction for guests. By ensuring staff are briefed on the design, in addition to the history of the hotel, and showcasing these features to guests as part of safety measures, we can continue to convey all of Burgh Island’s charm and appeal without affecting safety.

Invest in outside spaces

Making outdoor space part of the hotel’s experience and identity is increasingly important in a time of social distancing, as well as offering crucial space for mental health relief and healthy, peaceful relaxation following the UK lockdown.

So, with constraints on capacity and space use remaining in place in some form for the immediate future, outdoor spaces are an ever more important asset. Especially for smaller boutique hotels, where pressures on interior space use may be even greater, investing in increased alfresco seating and dining areas can ensure both that guests feel safe and that their experience of social distancing is not overtly intrusive. Offering teas or lunches outside not only helps to showcase spaces that guests might not otherwise have benefitted from to the same extent, but also helps people to relax more confidently.

Furthermore, introducing a greater variety of outdoor activities can ensure guests can experience the charm of a hotel and its assets safely. For instance, at Burgh Island, tours of the grounds and the naturalistic gardening style with a strong focus on wild plant varieties across our 23-acre island helps to create a sense of freedom and vitality — the perfect setting for relaxation or exploration.

Leverage technology

When hospitality and guest experience are at the centre of a hotels identity, especially for a boutique, independent or luxury outfit, contact with guests plays a pivotal part. Every detail from pre-arrival communication to in-person greetings, check in and concierge services are designed to create a highly personalised experience.

Although digitalisation has already become increasingly important for guests when planning and booking their stay, it is easy to think that the in-person experience must, to its detriment, be all change in a time of Covid-19. In fact, by leveraging technology hotels can continue to provide an attentive, smooth and reassuring operation for guests. From check-in to room access, contactless alternatives to high touch interfaces, such as elevator buttons and door handles, powered by movement sensors, tracking apps and even voice control can help guests to feel confident in their own safety, as well as providing an even more seamless experience.

“Hotels have a unique opportunity in how they adapt and evolve their design for social distancing, leveraging outdoor spaces to enhance guest experience and creating even more intimate experiences.” – Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel

Think to the future

Many are understandably anxious about what social distancing and new Covid-appropriate health and safety measures mean for the guest experience, especially for boutique hotels for which luxury, peacefulness and freedom form part of their identity.

However, hotels have a unique opportunity in how they adapt and evolve their design for social distancing, leveraging outdoor spaces to enhance guest experience and creating even more intimate experiences. By ensuring that safety measures such as social distancing, footfall routing and contactless tech are in place, guests will feel more confident in their stay. And by rediscovering new ways of best showcasing a hotel’s features and design, this could well enhance guest experience for the long term.

Main image credit: Burgh Island Hotel

Part 47: The quest for originality in art consultancy

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 47:
THE QUEST FOR ORIGINALITY IN ART CONSULTANCY

As an international art consultancy, Artelier specialises in curating art for luxury hospitality, residential, yacht and aviation projects. At a time when there is an inexhaustible supply of art online, Artelier explain why organic and thorough research is essential for offering originality in a hotel art collection.

Drawing on their experience in sourcing contemporary art by leading global artists, Artelier’s art consultants reveal what it takes to avoid the pitfalls of the typical luxury aesthetic found online.

Rarely has there been a time when art has been accessible to so many. Whilst at one time art would mainly have been encountered at galleries or fairs, there are now endless online resources that make art readily available for a wide audience within moments. Online search engines and social media have also given emerging artists platforms for sharing their own work, providing them with the opportunity to gain international attention regardless of where they are based. While the democratisation of access to art is a welcome development, it has also brought an influx of lower-quality art online, making it ever more important to be able to discern which artworks are worth the investment.

Image credit: Artelier

Turning solely to online resources when curating art collections for hotels has many potential pitfalls. The online art market has become inundated with artists who are relatively less credible in professional circles; rather than being early-career artists who are growing their recognition, these more amateur artists often lack the experience or training to create truly original work.

While the notion of ‘originality’ is naturally slippery with regards to art – and indeed, most professional artists acknowledge that they find inspiration by building on existing ideas – here the line is much more distinct. Many amateur artists working at this calibre seem to replicate others’ ideas or follow art ‘trends’, yet they create works that are altogether poorer examples, as they lack the finesse of professional artists. This leads to an overcrowded market of exceedingly similar artworks, that do not offer exciting and challenging ideas. Search engine websites therefore often present an ever more diluted mix of the same imagery, reworked to varying degrees of success.

The pitfalls of art sales websites

Without a professional eye, sourcing art from art sales websites such as Artfinder or Saatchi Art may lead designers to overspend on uninspiring art. It is not clear how artists have been vetted on such websites, and which artworks are put up for sale is likewise not thoroughly regulated. The question arises as to whether these websites are truly capable of offering a refined selection of artworks, which have been edited for quality. Instead, art sales websites are geared towards offering as much quantity as possible to the consumer, regardless of artistic merit.

In cases like these, too much choice may well be an issue. While the breadth and diversity of artworks online reflects the spectrum of work being produced today, if truly special artworks are few and far between, unearthing them can be an arduous process. To put this into perspective, only 3-5% of the artists found on art sales websites would stand up to Artelier’s scrutiny when they research new artists to add to their database – and for this reason, Artelier largely use other research methods for discovering new artists to connect with.

Although there are many reputable artists who present interesting and skilful works online, there are nonetheless plenty of examples of artworks that are less expertly executed. Even if the pieces look generally passable on screens, in person they can lack depth and craftsmanship. It is difficult to determine the quality of the execution online without the practice that an art specialist has at examining works. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe disappoint for the buyer once they receive what is clearly the correct work, but in much poorer quality than they were expecting. As a result, rather than making use of art’s potential to bring together a design scheme and add a layer of sophistication, generic artworks can undermine the quality of the design.

Another concerning aspect is that the price of artworks on art sales websites are often self-evaluated, and so determined by artists themselves; this often leads to ludicrously overpriced pieces flooding the websites. This can be shockingly observed when choosing to filter the search engines from high-to-low price, where too often many of the most expensive artworks are generic in style and by undistinguished artists. These prices are outside of the usual art market forces – in more traditional sales contexts, artworks would be evaluated by way of complex factors, such as their provenance, the artist’s background, and the artistic merit of the piece. The practice of being able to set prices at many thousands of pounds for a work by an unknown artist may leave these websites susceptible to opportunists. Some people may take advantage, seeking to sell a piece to an unsuspecting consumer who believes the price tag would reflect the skill and reputation of the artist. Without the market knowledge and trained eye of art specialists, it is easy to be led to believe an artwork is worth its price.

Pinterest and the dilution of original ideas

The explosion of available visual media through platforms like Pinterest and Instagram has made creative ideas disperse rapidly. Yet, the over-reliance of many art consultants on these platforms for inspiration has also led to a staleness of aesthetic, and a tendency to stick to art ‘trends’. Artists themselves often look to online media to develop their ideas, causing many to simply create versions of generic styles, and for the presence of true originality to become ever more diluted.

Image credit: Artelier

These search engines are often the primary resources for less experienced consultants, who may lack the capability of finding artists from more organic sources – such as being rooted in arts communities and growing networks over time – and the experience to spot potential at new shows and fairs. The overall effect of this approach is a trapped repertoire of art being sourced for luxury commercial design. As a result, the general predictability in the art does not fit with the intentions of cutting-edge interior designers, who are seeking to break new ground.

It goes without saying that art which is characteristically similar to its counterparts will fall not even close to the aesthetic criteria of a sophisticated and discerning hotel guest. Curating art for hotels therefore demands responding to the client’s brief in a surprising way, which requires thorough, in-depth research that is amassed over time.

Interpreting a theme in a visually interesting way takes a breadth of knowledge and creative thinking, in order to form subtle connections that go beyond design trends. While Pinterest presents many excellent examples of both under-the-radar talent and established artists, it cannot be the principal research method, as it simply takes more to fulfil the expectations of a luxury client.

Organically evolving a quality database

Discovering artists from the ground up gathers a more diverse range of artworks, and represents the true spectrum of ideas and innovative uses of materials in global contemporary art. Artelier’s research methods are guided by this attitude, and so they seek to become embedded in international artist communities and establish direct connections with artists and galleries. As well as undergoing in-depth research, they are regularly approached by artists themselves, and similarly galleries reach out if they feel an artist they represent especially suits Artelier.

These connections have been established through 20 years’ worth of experience in the industry, allowing Artelier continue to grow a strong repertoire of associated artists. Artelier’s database currently includes 10,000 artists who have been individually researched by Artelier’s team, maintaining the highest of standards through an acute instinct for quality and a wealth of art market expertise.

Image credit: Artelier

Through this organic research method, Artelier prioritise artists who demonstrate an ingenuity of thought, and are true masters of their mediums. Rather than being driven by popular trends, an art specialist’s trained eye is capable of recognising genuine talent. This allows Artelier to be ahead of the curve in terms of proposing stimulating and impressive artworks, rather than being limited to following the online trend of the moment.

When clients approach Artelier with a particular brief or theme in mind, they therefore respond to the hotel client’s concepts with artworks that are truly original, even if the client’s concept is itself inspired by a trend. By offering high-quality artists who are capable of creating artworks that are tailored to the hotel’s context, Artelier ensures the longevity of the stylistic choices and make artworks a worthwhile investment. Such artworks are not typically encountered on online art search engines, and for this reason Artelier chooses not to rely on them as a major resource for research.

A complex thematic approach

Through experience, Artelier understands that truly innovative ideas need to be developed from internal, rather than external, influences. At the beginning of a project, their approach is therefore to think like an artist – looking for subtleties within artistic themes, and seeking to unearth complex connections. The process of developing a thematic response to a project brief becomes centred around invention, rather than re-creating versions of what already exists. Since Artelier’s approach involves internally generating ideas for newly commissioned artworks, the outcome is something completely fresh – this brings the critical element of the unexpected to hotel design.

When exploring potential themes for a hotel art collection, it is necessary to root the artworks in their context: artworks must speak to the unique culture of the area, reflect the ethos of the hotel brand, and create an air of luxury which exceeds the expectations of high-end travellers. These key considerations speak to the core of many hotel project briefs. In a recently completed luxury hotel development in Bahrain, for example, Artelier was asked to curate a portfolio of art that related to local history, and referenced the sense of a meeting point between cultures and communities.

After extensive research into the exceptional aspects of Bahrain’s history and geography, Artelier identified a narrative between several interrelated themes. These centred around concepts of navigation, archaeology of the area, local ancient crafts, and the natural wonders of the nearby sea. Together, these themes formed a coherent basis for the proposed art collection; Artelier could then begin to refer to their database, and contemplate how the themes can be reflected in specific artworks.

Image credit: Artelier

‘Ready-made’ art vs. nurturing creativity

The appeal of shopping for and finding an artwork that is readily available, much like a product, has led to the popularity of sourcing ‘ready-made’ artworks for hotel design projects. The trap of sourcing artworks in this way, however, is that these pieces will always be limited to what has already been done – once these works are out there, regardless of how novel the idea may have been originally, they will be copied and popularised.

For the initial stages of a project, there are advantages in looking at ready-made artworks – often designers benefit from a visual hook they can use to assemble a mood board, and the wealth of imagery online is a perfect, quick tool for this. While the artworks at this stage would be interesting enough, inevitably there will be a sense of the familiar about them. Without an insight into the art market, it is difficult to spot an artist who is doing something truly innovative and leading trends.

For Artelier, the process behind sourcing artworks is inherently creative, as they continuously build upon initial concepts, and foster creative thought through collaboration with artists. Once artists have been selected for a project, Artelier closely works with them to develop existing concepts; the artists’ creative input and intimate knowledge of their materials expand initial ideas into something that has not been done before. This collaborative process encourages the risk-taking and experimental attitude that feeds creative work. As newly commissioned artworks are created specifically for a given hotel project, Artelier are able to develop something utterly unique, in its truest sense: tailor-made, freshly created, and one-of-a-kind.

For these new art commissions, Artelier often collaborates with emerging artists who they discover through a variety of sources. Artelier specialises in talent-spotting artists who have the potential to work on high-profile commissions, but need the support of someone who has experience with delivering art to luxury clients in a variety of contexts. In this way, genuine, professional artists have their work nurtured, and their creativity given space to grow – Artelier understand the difference that a substantial commission can make to a deserving, but relatively under-the-radar, artist. If this talent is utilised, however, this gives the best opportunity for boundary-pushing ideas.

The longevity of innovative art

Every innovative idea will, inevitably, make it to online art search-engines and social media platforms; industry professionals will begin to take note, and use these novel concepts for their inspiration. However, by continuing to approach artistic research with a commitment to talent-spotting and fostering the growth of new ideas, Artelier maintains a pioneering vision that enables them to always stay ahead of the curve.

Artelier 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: Artelier

Part 41: Designing meaningful co-working spaces

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 41:
DESIGNING MEANINGFUL CO-WORKING SPACES

Art and FF&E logistics company Momentous explains why we must react to consumer demands for a flexible hotel public areas. The company’s Mike Brazier has explains what designers should consider when creating flexible working spaces… 

I’ve just finished a consultation regarding a workplace project in central London where we are hoping to support, and now I’m on my way to join a work colleague for a meeting to discuss logistics support with an interior design and hotels projects contact of ours.

The destination is the beautiful five-star St Martins Lane Hotel. It’s centrally based and extremely convenient when you’re buzzing around the city looking for a relaxed space to meet clients.

I arrive following an eventful tube journey (not an uncommon situation in the capital) but the large and open hotel lobby instantly creates a strong sense of calm.

As well as bar, a lobby and a restaurant, there is also a snug (AKA- The Den); a peaceful retreat from the metropolis outside, ideal for checking emails as well as providing a good base for meetings in the city. As I set myself down and open my laptop, I take a look around and notice that I’m not alone. In fact, I realise there are quite a few other business people nestled around the room, all checking their emails, holding meetings and working pretty effectively. My colleague arrives shortly after me and it gives us some time to catch up, it all feels very constructive.

Masculine furniture inside a den-like snug

Image caption: The Den inside St Martin Lane Hotel, London

A fortunate appeal to the agile worker

When our contact arrives, the discussion instantly turns to the unique attributes of ‘bleisure’ hotels and the benefits they offer to agile workers. With hotel groups such as Hoxton Hotels and Citizen M leading a movement to create design-led, practical public areas, could the possibility of exchanging our offices for hotels as co-working locations be a reality?

Image credit: Hoxton Hotels

Of course, what we are talking about is nothing new. Business men and women have been holding meetings in coffee shops and hotels since commerce began. And co-working has been shaping the workplace market for years with companies such as WeWork, its many contemporaries and HubbleHQ creating flexible and funky workspace options for the next generation of businesses. Yet, hotel co-working offers something deeper.

In fact, when you look at hotels as another new option for co-working spaces, it starts to make a lot of sense. Many of them have the basic demands that consumers require. They are often located exactly where you need them to be with amazing travel links. They have Wi-Fi, power sockets, chairs, tables, informal meeting areas, boardroom-style rooms, refreshments and they are not dull spaces.

It is hardly any surprise to see that many of the large hotel chains such as AccorHotels X WOJO, Marriott International and their Sheraton brand are redesigning their lobbies are following quirky hotel brands to create co-working spaces and rethinking the type of services and resources that would convert the casual agile working visitor into adopting them as a patron willing to pay more for their services.

What hotel designs can be implemented do to capitalise on this opportunity for coworking?

Based on the collective experience of interior design, hotels and workplace in the room you can imagine that we had plenty of ideas flashing around. One of the key challenges would be that workplaces can get quite noisy with phone calls and the general level of communication, so hotels would need to work on a way around this.

Data security, networks and call handling, are all factors that need to be taken into consideration. In reality, these are all challenges that a designer and workplace specialist would have no problem overcoming. There are also some ready and off the shelf options that can be easily incorporated. Work pods can solve many of the challenges listed above and we have access to those today. The trick would be, how do hotels get this to flow into their existing core hotel proposition.

For hotels that are restricted with space, usually urban hotels, the hotel lobby has to work harder. For it to be able to transformed into different atmospheres throughout the day, the lobby has to be flexible in its design. Using a neutral coloured surface, with art pieces injecting personality, the lobby will become a blank canvas of ideas. Modular furniture will adapt with your guests’ needs and can allow the space to transform quickly without fuss.

There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution for designing co-working spaces in hotels. One thing is for certain, the hotels that are at the curve of this movement are using innovation, new technology and clever design to to create meaningful functional spaces that are appealing to work and hold meetings in.

Main image credit: St Martins Lane Hotel