What will the hotel of the future look like? That is the question students of the Parsons School of Constructed Environments were faced with this semester. In Interior Design Studio 3, instructor Douglas Grieco of Commune Hotels and Resorts led Investigation: The Hotel Program for the Coming Decades as Defined by New Trends in Culture. As his syllabus reveals, the aim of the studio was to “look at new types of experiences that will exist in hotels in the future. The studio will hope to go past the boutique/lifestyle hotel sector and start to define a new typology. Will the next hotel brand be about business, relaxing, geographic-based, dispersed, centralized, virtual? Will it be about meetings, smaller spaces, moveable rooms?”
Earlier this week, I was honored to partake in a review of his students’ work and see eight disparate, compelling visions up close, along with such design luminaries as Anurag Nema of nemaworkshop; Lionel Ohayon of ICRAVE; and Audra Tuskes, Commune’s director of design. Each of them offered practical, brilliant advice to the students on how they could both expand and edit their dream projects to truly resonate in the hospitality sphere.
To generate the typology and brand, students first collaborated to create an abstract matrix of ideas exploring the collision of hotel and culture (see below). Then, storyboard vignettes uncovered their distinctive programs. Hotels sprouted on rooftops, enlivened mysterious underground space, doubled as burgeoning art meccas in abandoned buildings, and were replaced by bespoke hexagonal bungalows.
Mired in current-day hospitality trends, to me it was especially interesting to see how students took ideas we are already seeing so much of in hotels—the importance of artwork, adaptive reuse of buildings, unconventional locations, customization—and projected them into the future.
There was one student in particular who I felt best encapsulated the idea of hospitality, and not because of his daring design, but rather, his emphasis on how once a guest entered this property, they decided who they wanted to become; throughout, there were elements that consistently served as identity changers. Whether it’s a hotel, a restaurant, a bar, or a spa, ultimately it’s the escapism it provides, this permission to become whoever we can’t—and maybe who we wish we could be— in our regular lives, for however short or long the duration, that is ultimately at the crux of hospitality. No matter the look, no matter the brand’s core values, a hotel of the future, just like a hotel of today, must have the power to transform in order to thrive.