Looking Forward

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of IIDA, Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst shares her thoughts on design today and where it is headed in the future.

by Cheryl S. Durst

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.

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