food / travel

Rethinking The Hotel: Open And Fluid Replaces Exclusivity

Hotels are changing their design to reflect the style of modern travelers. A key component now is the entrance and lobby, which are morphing from the secluded and palatial into a multipurpose space that welcomes both guests and the public.

Esplendor Palermo Soho hotel interior design
Esplendor Palermo Soho hotel interior design
Diego Coll Benegas

BUENOS AIRES — Among architectural typologies, the hotel is perhaps the most faithful reflection of the time in which it is built. Interior design and decoration contribute to the final product, creating a mood and an environment that are the hotel's seal. Crucially when creating a hotel business, architects, investors and operators must first agree on a common vision and strategy.

Yet the success of an architectural work does not automatically ensure the success of the business it will house. I have had to work both as businessman and operator with professionals who love their work but prove unable to adapt the creation itself to the daily operation of a hotel business. This clearly hampers the desired objective, which is a prospering enterprise.

New generations and new ways of traveling are pushing modern hotel projects to update the way they look like — something that is often dealt with at the initial planning stage. Taking into account the desire of new travelers to have real experiences and to mix with other guests and locals alike, hotel projects are adopting co-working and co-living concepts, especially in the boutique niche, but also in big chains or hostels.

These new shared spaces do not necessarily foster deeper relations between people.

There is a move away from grandiose entrances and imposing doorways toward more creative options. A good example is the multi-use space like the neighborhood bar, café or restaurant that is also the hotel's lobby. It is a space anyone can enter without having to go through a reception.

Now, the inside-outside interaction is more important than the exclusive spaces that characterized five-star hotels. It used to be customary to first enter the hotel before going to its bar or restaurant. This is being modified, even in many five-star hotels, that now allow people to freely move through various spaces even without being a guest.

There are hotel projects that have created their own open spaces, while other hotels prefer to let famous café or bar brands operate in their premises. The "cool" thing today is to create globalized environments for both tourists and locals, where everyone feels a world citizen in a relaxed atmosphere, free of architectural barriers.

New public areas or shared zones are thus the new challenge where architecture plays an even more special role. It is the soul of the new hotels. Rooms must meet high standards but are no longer the center of attention. Leisure, work and dining areas must be interconnected, and co-exist naturally. The traditional architectural concept of the lobby on the ground floor, restaurant and breakfast rooms on the first floor, pool on the fifth and spa and gym on the sixth is now outdated.

This is not just to abide by a real need to care for the planet.

These new shared spaces do not necessarily foster deeper relations between people. Today's hotel guests often identify with the tribe concept without the need to interact, simply by sharing a physical space with someone else.

Architects designing new hotels must also pay more attention to the environment, energy efficiency and green spaces, either in traditional terms or in new forms like vertical gardens. This is not just to abide by a real need to care for the planet but also to attract new travelers who select destinations with these characteristics. A hotel project that ignores these elements is definitely falling short of the modern, global traveler's expectations — a trend that will be surely more marked in the future.

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