In our June issue, we honored seven innovative and up-and-coming designers in our Wave of the Future series. Reading through their profiles certainly made my job harder, as I was definitely more enthralled with their stories than the editing process.
Luckily for me, our Wave of the Future honorees had the chance to talk more about their career trajectories by defining authenticity and how it inspires their design process during our HD NextGen Forum a few weeks ago. Authenticity is an abstract term but one that is pervasive in the hospitality design world. A hotel may look beautiful but if it doesn’t exude a sense of place, then it comes across as hollow. Each took a quick, Pecha Kucha-style dive into defining how authenticity drives their work.
Julie Frank, global director of design for Le Méridien Hotels, opened the discussion by looking at authenticity in its rawest form. It’s something “real and true,” she said. For designers, that basic definition plays into how they choose and use materials, but ultimately “great hospitality design is anticipating what someone would want before they step into the room,” Joyce Wang, principal of Joyce Wang Studio, said.
Here are some additional key takeaways from our Wave of the Future honorees as their interpretation of authenticity continues to lead them down ambitious, and successful, career paths.
- Frank said her love of materiality drives her authentic approach to design. Looking at the Le Méridien project she worked on in Istanbul, the motif of old meets new was seen throughout, drawing on the energetic Grand Bazaar of the area as well as the blue-hued mosques in the city. Frank said visiting destinations and finding new spots help incorporate local flavor in design.
- “Authenticity brings value to projects,” Anwar Mekhayech, partner of DesignAgency, explained. “It is rare, and something you can believe and trust.” He pointed to the Soho House Toronto as one of those exemplar projects. For him, clients inspire and drive authenticity. But he also wondered: “Do you need more money to be more authentic?”
- Working for Andaz Hotels and Park Hyatt as its global director of product and brand development, Kenneth Villamil learned that design and culture are connected. “It’s not just what’s on the surface but under the surface,” he said. Looking into the nuances of culture, such as seeing how people live their daily lives, are what connect guests to a space on an emotional level. “It’s a catalyst for experience,” he said.
- Designers need to create a “narrative that stimulates and connects with guests,” he added. It should go beyond the aesthetic and instead touch on experience and emotion. “Authenticity to me is about delivering a promise so the person leaves with a meaningful experience that is memorable.”
- Creative director and founder of Concrete, Rob Wagemans’ prolific project list inspires him in a variety of ways. The design for the citizenM properties, for example, was born from frustration with the hotel industry. And much like the Supperclub in Dubai, which can go from restaurant to lounge to nightclub, authentic design should transform a place without changing the space.
- Wang’s design ethos is about “the feeling you give someone that makes it authentic,” she said, adding “authenticity comes from showcasing materials in their raw form.”
- For Adam Winig and Daniel Scovill, principals of Arcsine Architecture, design is a process of humility, collaboration, and transparency. Arcsine “are method designers,” Winig says. For the Oakland-based firm, part of the mission is to revitalize the California city not by changing it but by staying to true to its authentic architecture.