IIDA is in the midst of celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s a landmark year, and one that I suppose could prompt a lot of looking back at where we’ve been, a review of some of our victories along the way, and at least a bit of self-congratulatory pomp to go with the champagne.
While we’re certainly not saying no to the champagne, at IIDA, we have chosen to celebrate this milestone with more of an eye to the future. It’s an appropriate choice, I think, for an organization that habitually looks forward instead of backward. And if I had to choose a phrase that foreshadows where the future of design is taking us, I would say it is simply this: “Place matters.” We’re reminded of this everywhere we go, and in particular when we come into contact with the flourishing hospitality industry.
It’s the influence of this industry, and the fast-growing hospitality design field that’s at the heart of What Clients Want, Volume 2: Essential Conversations About Hotel Design, which IIDA will debut at NeoCon 2014. It’s a brilliant reflection on some of the best projects hospitality design has offered lately that boldly illustrates this specialty field’s innovation.
According to statistics recently cited by hospitality industry research and market data group STR, at the time What Clients Want, Vol. 2—and this column—are published, there will be approximately 187,000 hotels worldwide, offering no less than 17.5 million guestrooms to travelers. That’s a lot of accommodations—and a lot of growing expectations, as modern travelers continue to redefine how exactly place matters to them. Those expectations have translated into a number of trends that are shaping design spaces in every corner of the profession, from workplace to healthcare design.
Affordable luxury, for example, is one trend that has become synonymous with adaptive survival in the hospitality industry since the economic collapse in 2008. Sometimes it is indeed the little things that make a difference in people’s lives and in their environments: convenient charging stations for gadgets; or a bedroom that’s easily convertible to a boardroom (adaptable space for greater flexibility of use). In hospitality, these considerations can make for a memorable experience that inspires brand loyalty. Brought into the workplace, they become comforts that instill many of the same feelings, underscoring a sense of value, purpose, and thoughtfulness of function that become part of the daily routine. A sense of contentment, essentially, that can help to reduce turnover, and result in a more cohesive and agile staff.
Flexibility, as I’ve mentioned above, and business-minded design are of pivotal importance in hospitality today. The speed with which business and communication take place today demands new design thinking in everything from supplying simple but essential amenities (dependable and price-integrated Wi-Fi come to mind ) to providing private business centers that can meet the needs of the modern business traveler. With 40 percent of hotel guests traveling on business, hospitality providers’ survival depends on design decisions like these.
But what if we apply that same thinking to a healthcare environment? These details take on another dynamic altogether. Apart from being current amenities, in-house Wi-Fi can, for instance, enhance and support the function of such a facility. By providing the means to communicate with loved ones in a crisis, research, and receive vital personal information or even maintain contact with business in a time when it’s not exactly convenient to do so can reduce anxiety, and provide comfort and ease that ultimately are beneficial to the recovery environment.
The same can be said for the lobbies of healthcare facilities. Just as the re-envisioning of lobbies as personal spaces in the hospitality industry has transformed the role of those spaces from simple reception areas to multifunctional gathering spaces, lobbies in healthcare environments must be segmented and flexible enough to provide ample room for a good-sized family welcoming its latest bundle of joy, as well as cater to the privacy many others will need at a difficult time in their lives. See? Place matters.
And not just place, but geographic location matters, too. Of the current trends in hospitality, an emphasis on regionalism stands out a bit as surprising for not having been a greater constant in the industry all along. Restaurants that source their ingredients nearby literally put local flavor in the mouths of their patrons. Commissioning local artists to create works that convey local tone or color affords the hospitality provider’s brand to more fully integrate with the culture that surrounds it. The same is obviously true for businesses, civil, or cultural institutions looking to connect with the communities they serve. Incorporating regional sculpture or other artwork in design spaces like a school or library, for example, not only stimulates the minds of those experiencing the work and allows the art to function as it should, but it also creates a distinct association of place that lingers in the memory even after you’ve left the building.
Technological integration, for hospitality providers, is more than a must, it’s a certainty. For most people in 2014, the initial point of contact with any hotel or other service provider is a website that speaks to the brand and the mission of the business, but that also goes beyond to create an inviting experience.
The built environment of today and tomorrow further integrates the technologies that surround us in our everyday lives, offering greater interactivity and a seamless experience between the real world and the virtual. Designers will continue to meet the challenges of integrating technology into museums, libraries, corporate offices, entertainment spaces, and other environments of every shape and purpose through vigorous innovation and persistently dynamic design thinking.
You can expect to find this progressive philosophy in the pages of What Clients Want, Vol. 2, and it’s what we at IIDA so look forward to seeing and earnestly supporting in the decades to come, as we have for the past 20 years.