By Nunzio DeSantis, executive vice president of HKS and director of HKS Hospitality Group
Lifestyle. It’s an overused and watered-down label applied to just about every hotel concept these days. The term is slapped on like a one-size-fits-all moniker by marketers because it sounds cool and interesting, and I agree, they’re on to something. When you really dig in and think about it, the ideas and meaning behind lifestyle are multifaceted and complex—anything but a simple, one-size-fits all expression that means the same thing to everyone.
Lifestyle is dynamic, flexible, sometimes messy, and certainly not static. Lifestyle is about change, especially as we evolve and move through different stages of our lives. Lifestyle is also about choices because we find comfort in ritual. We are our choices. Let’s say you put a decal on your car or get a tattoo—it’ll probably reflect your lifestyle in some way. Will that decal slogan or tattoo design hold up over time? Maybe. But maybe not. Your lifestyle choices reflect a confidence and attitude across a spectrum of people, places, time, and events.
As designers, we must constantly ask whom we’re designing for. Who are the people that relate to and gravitate toward a particular place and decide to make it part of their lifestyle? Great architecture and design is the result of knowing people, who they are, and how they live. I tell our designers to get out and watch people. What are people doing, wearing, listening to, drinking, eating, buying, and watching? This is how lifestyle and the public realm influence design.
Life is colorful, layered, textural, and complex. Texture and color are the two most overlooked influences in architecture today. These elements contain an infinite ability to move us deeply and the spaces we design. Imagine the warm glow and rich hues of library shelves brimming with books and velvety chairs with cozy lap blankets inviting you to sink in and read. Or daydreaming about the visual feast and irresistible scent of a neighborhood bakery, corner butcher shop, or coffee house. These genuine places are all about texture, color, and engaging the senses.
Layering allows architects and designers to create spaces that appeal to a broad range of people and lifestyles. We owe it to our clients, ourselves, and the public to infuse the ingredients that move people into the spaces that allow life to unfold. The ability to leverage layering and the found spaces between buildings (the gaps are equally important) help us connect to people on many levels. I’m most drawn to the dead spaces between buildings that are often teeming with life. These seemingly insignificant, almost accidental elements hold within them a profound ability to delight and surprise us. Entire lifestyles are born in such places—this is how design influences lifestyle. How great is that?
Our buildings and the spaces around them need to speak to us, relate to us, breathe, come alive or sit still, have a soul, and sing our songs. I challenge us all to create this vibrant mosaic, design with humanity and senses engaged, then go make it real. It’s quite transparent when a building is contrived for show—when people live in them, but don’t participate with them. Authentic lifestyles are not just for show. They’re true to the self, rich, layered, and meaningful. That essence must live at the core of the buildings we create.