Hotel Design in a ‘Glocal’ Context

Architecture evolves from the specific circumstances of a project: the location, program, climate, topography, and social and cultural influences, as well as the input of key people involved—from the owner, architect, and engineers to the authorities, contractors, and public. Exploring the places of the world extends thought into how we live and how future cities will be generated as we try to perceive what current social, economic, and technical developments will evolve to become.

Today’s cities provide exceptional settings for observation. It is here that people, opportunities, and ideas converge to encourage innovation in design, technology, and thought.

Working on a global scale offers glimpses into ideas of differing cultures and their approach to urbanism and spaces at all scales. Observing, studying, and dissecting this knowledge increases our vocabulary of city form, building shapes, details, and technical advances to increase comfort and efficiency while reducing environmental impact, informing our work at a local scale.


Hotel Design at the Urban Level
Basic urban spatial typologies—the street, the square, the park, and the intersection—continue to connect us on an urban scale. The reinterpretation of these archetypal ideas, the way we compose them and how we advance, adopt, modify, and adjust these spaces for our time and situation, reinvigorates the places, architecture, and urbanism of today. To be connected to the time and place, new designs must contribute to the larger urban experience. Spaces become the great connectors, linking people socially and visually creating places where life happens. The hotel experience begins with its connection to the city and the neighborhood, not only in the physical sense but also in the sense of identity, celebrating the ethos of place.

Hotel Design at the Building Level
Hotel design is efficiency driven, with the double-loaded corridor model providing the greatest efficiency. The ability to use that efficiency to weave a strong sense of place through the composition massing and intertwining of public and private spaces provides a potent method to enhance guest experience. Reimagining this approach based on site, location, and climate can create a strong sense of place, a dynamic urban connection, and a powerful identity, resulting in a memorable, locally anchored brand. Hotel spaces such as the atrium, courtyard, and tower each present unique opportunities to define a place. Place-making can be static or dynamic, regular or irregular, hard or soft, open or closed, and on and on. How these spatial ideas are considered and then integrated into their specific locations—and how they evolve the idea of hospitality—result in distinct properties with real local character.

Hotel Design at the Detail Scale
Technology advancements continue to influence hotel design. The prefabrication of bathrooms or even entire guestroom modules enhances construction efficiencies and ensures consistency and quality throughout the design. The ability to wirelessly control shade, lighting, temperature, and view, while reducing mechanical loads is all very doable with today’s technology. Building enclosure technology and advances in material manufacturing allow for more transparent enclosure systems, maximizing view and the hotel guest’s connection to place on a visual level. These and other evolving technologies greatly impact hotel design and have the potential to create a new aesthetic.

Observe, Analyze, Study, Evaluate, Scheme, and Continue the Dialogue
Working globally presents opportunities to find the common factors that have the ability to elevate hotel design and result in special local places. By celebrating what makes each location unique, memorable hotel experiences are created where the guest can actually feel and participate in the local place.

About the Author
Gordon Beckman, AIA, is principal and design director at John Portman & Associates.

Photo caption: Water court of the recently completed JW Marriott Shenzhen Bao’an mixed-use complex in Shenzhen, China. Courtesy of Shenzhen OCT Hotel Real Estate Co., Ltd.