In recent decades, hotel design has increasingly incorporated local and cultural identity, as hoteliers strive to give travelers a unique and authentic experience.
When planning hotel designs, architects and designers consider physical design elements – such as traditional architectural styles, building techniques, and locally-sourced materials – as well as the cultural context – customs, traditions, and the community’s social dynamics. Local and cultural elements help create a sense of place and authenticity and make the experience more memorable. It is important to note that incorporating cultural and local identity in hotel design can be controversial, particularly if it is not done in an authentic way. Hotels must be careful not to appropriate or exploit local culture, and to work closely with local communities to ensure that their designs are appropriate and sensitive to local customs and traditions. While certain business models prioritize consistent guest experience from Tulsa to Toulouse, hotels looking to craft a uniquely local experience in big and small ways find opportunities in key areas, including shared spaces, flexible spaces, micro-living, co-working, and outdoor spaces.
Shared spaces – lobbies, lounges, dining areas, fitness centers, and outdoor spaces – are typically designed to be comfortable and inviting. They allow guests the opportunity to interact, which can help to create a sense of community and connection. A hotel in a coastal town or mountain region might incorporate nautical décor or elements of alpine design such as warm textiles and cozy fireplaces; a hotel in a city with a rich artistic heritage might feature artwork and sculptures by local artists in its shared spaces, as well as murals or other installations that reference the city’s cultural landmarks.
Flexible spaces are areas that can be adapted or reconfigured to serve multiple purposes or accommodate different types of activities. They include multi-purpose rooms that can be used for events or meetings, as well as lounge areas that can be used for reading, working, or socializing. They help hotels create a more dynamic and engaging environment for guests. Because of their adaptability, flexible spaces provide even greater opportunities to incorporate local culture in unique, creative, authentic ways, appropriate to the intended purpose of the space. For example, a hotel in Japan might use traditional shoji screens or tatami mats in its meeting rooms, while a hotel in Morocco might feature intricate tile work or textiles.
Micro-living focuses on compact living spaces that are functional and efficient, while still providing the necessary amenities for daily life. Micro-living spaces can be quite small – as small as 100 square feet – requiring design to make the most of every inch. Micro-living principles are often incorporated into the design of guest rooms or suites, including space-saving features like built-in storage, fold-down tables, and multi-functional furniture. Compact efficiency can still incorporate and even accentuate local identity and cultural elements. For instance, a hotel in Japan, where space is at a premium, might leverage cultural elements of minimalism and simplicity – low furniture, neutral colors, and built-in storage. In a region with a strong outdoor culture, such as Colorado, hotels prioritize design features like efficient bike storage or easy access to outdoor spaces. In a city with a rich artistic or architectural history, spaces might use design elements that reference local landmarks or iconic buildings.
Co-working spaces provide collaborative, flexible work environments for individuals who work remotely, or independently. Hotels use co-working space as a guest amenity, and to attract remote workers or entrepreneurs who may be interested in using the space. Co-working spaces in hotels can be designed to accommodate a variety of work styles and needs, while also reflecting the local culture and identity. For example, a hotel in a tech hub like Silicon Valley might design its co-working spaces with sleek, modern furnishings and technology-focused amenities. A hotel in a major metropolitan area might prioritize flexible meeting spaces, to accommodate individuals or local businesses that opt to host occasional large meetings outside of their office space. A hotel in a culturally rich city might incorporate local artwork and music, and offer events or networking opportunities that connect guests with the city’s creative community. A hotel in a rural area might prioritize views of the surrounding countryside.
Outdoor spaces in hotels can be designed to take advantage of the local climate and natural surroundings, while also reflecting the local culture and identity. A hotel in a tropical region might feature lush gardens, water features, and outdoor dining areas that take advantage of the warm climate and natural beauty of the area, while a hotel in a desert region might feature shade structures or water features to keep guests cool and comfortable. Coastal hotels typically leverage ocean views and sea breezes with beachfront cabanas, outdoor bars or dining areas, and activities such as paddleboarding or kayaking. Hotels in areas with strong agricultural traditions might emphasize elements of food culture, such as outdoor gardens, farm-to-table dining experiences, or activities such as cooking classes or wine tastings.
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