As the U.S. economy continues to strengthen, the architecture and design industry is gaining momentum. Gordon Beckman, principal and design director at John Portman & Associates, an architectural and engineering firm with more than 60 years of expertise in designing hotels and other buildings, discusses opportunities and trends in hotel design.
All About Authenticity
Hotels across the country are focused on providing locally relevant and authentic experiences. As a result, lobbies have evolved into active social hubs with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafés, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. “The more interactive things you have, the better—whatever you can do to connect people and make it less of a hotel and more of a place,” Beckman says. By incorporating flexible design elements, hotels can more quickly adapt to consumers’ changing tastes and preferences. “There’s a certain flexibility that gets built in to allow for change, because more and more people see hotels as an evolution of place rather than a static brand.”
The popularity of spacious, living-room style lobbies has given way to smaller, more efficient guestroom floor plans. “I think the attitude across the board is that big isn’t better,” Beckman says. With alternative work environments in the public spaces, rooms don’t require oversized desks anymore. Other contributing factors to shrinking rooms include flat-screen TVs, which take up less space than their bulky predecessors, and the decline of the hotel bathtub. One way architects are creating the illusion of more space is by using glazed surfaces for the building’s exterior enclosure. “It also reinforces that idea of a connection to the urban environment,” he says.
Old Meets New
If a hotel is located in a historic neighborhood, that doesn’t mean architects have to use old-fashioned methods. Beckman says his firm is working on a mixed-use building across from Denver’s historic Union Station, which recently underwent a major renovation. Although the station is more than 130 years old, Beckman says the district welcomes modern and contemporary architecture as part of the area’s redevelopment project. Rather than using brick and stone, John Portman & Associates looks to concrete, steel, and glass. “It’s a natural evolution of the construction industry and construction technology,” Beckman says. “In my mind, that’s more authentic than putting up a brick façade because it will stylistically match the Union Station façade.”
Cleaner and Greener
Developers with sustainability goals can use the LEED credit list and become certified, but Beckman says those things aren’t always sensible. He sees a bigger payoff in selecting sites that are polluted and need fixing. “Now, you’re taking care of a site that has had some industry on it and has left some residue behind that needs to be cleaned up,” he says. “So you’re doing something positive for the urban environment, for the city, and for yourself.”
In the Neighborhood
Site selection is critical for hotels that want to become an integral component of urban environments. “By soliciting the help of architects in the early stages of a project, development groups can determine what sites will be the most viable,” Beckman says. An active social scene with restaurants, bars, and shops may seal the deal when choosing a location. In the case of slightly derelict sites, consider their future growth potential. “In some cases, hotels add to the neighborhood,” Beckman says. “In others, they create the neighborhood.”
Photo credit: John Portman & Associates