Beyond satisfying the demands of the design victims, design hotels must be linked to innovation and the proposal of new social values. In this article, Giulio Ceppi of the Total Tool study provides some key to this pending definition, and explains its positioning in four hotel projects. The “new architect” will be a strategic figure that transcends the traditional scales of urbanism, architecture and design.
Design hotels after Starck
I think it’s never easy for a designer, given his egocentric nature, to recognize someone’s real merits. But, if we want to talk about the relationship between design and hotel, I do not think you can deny Philippe Starck (and his mentor Ian Schreger) The fundamental role of having reopened and clearly redefined, from the early 1990s, that relationship. As is obvious, the model of design hotel proposed by the powerful pairing Starck-Schraeger, ie, that of a hotel strongly oriented towards the design and all it signed by designers, as a kind of total scenography and Totalizer, is not the only formula Possible, even with all the combinations given by the infinite locations and the infinite designers available.
To understand how to move in that world –a question that I raised 10 years ago, precisely when I was commissioned by a design hotel in Milan–, I think we have to go to a wider horizon, provided by the combination of at least two factors Basic:
1. The role that is intended to be attributed to the design, that is to say, which and how many expressive and linguistic values we want to offer to the user.
2. The business model generated by the obvious presence of the design as a factor capable of causing new dynamics and new services for the client, as well as, obviously, profitability and different models for its managers. The harmonious interaction of these porting axes (aesthetic experience and innovation in the service) very often determines the degree of originality and success of each case. Let’s try, then, to imagine that we move in a field defined by four macro-factors:
– Expression and style.
– Service and quality.
Thematic vs Authentic
The first two factors define, de facto, the architectural language and the capacity of aesthetic implication of the client, that is to say, of environmental fascination. In a way, forcing things a little, it would be the chosen “theme” and its temporal and cultural validity.
We have thus authentic monothematic hotels, which we could define as hotels of the imagination (now inspired in the Pirates of the Caribbean, now in the Egypt of the Pharaohs), of strong connotation and figuratively redundant, as are the American models to the Disney style or Las Vegas, which no longer ceases to amaze and amuse us with its iconographic and geographical paradoxes (serve, as a sample button, the recent hotels Venice and Bellagio).
Or, on a culturally perhaps higher level, but which should be judged on a case-by-event basis, the so-called art Hotels, whose more or less direct and authentic references to the world of art, and works by artists of fame and capacity of the most heterogeneous, create anyway with Notations that try to involve the client in the old avant-garde utopia of the Gesamtkunstwerk (the work of total art).
Long Lasting vs Ephemeral
Factors of great importance are the geographical connotation and the temporal space of the hotel. What were the classic big hotels, today, significantly, of great topicality and monuments to the memory of the hotel tradition, but icons of the style of the city and of the relational and aesthetic culture that was intended almost to sublimate in the interior of the property itself?
An urban hotel that expresses the Milanese creativity. Giulio Ceppi explains that the project of this hotel, located in Milan, arises from a paradox: Can you build a design hotel in a design capital and avoid that, for that very reason, it will become immediately obsolete? After making the decision to conserve the industrial morphology of the building, it was conceived as a container of various functions with parallel structures (bar, restaurant, Congress Centre), which were defined in various diagrams (in the image). The Enterprise is a city hotel, an open structure to the city. Its relationship with design and fashion is shown in the common spaces and in the objects of courtesy of the rooms. Carried out in collaboration with Paolo Bodega, the project included the choice of name, graphic design, division of spaces and interior.
This historical and social dimension, of almost urban and temporal reach, is absent in the contemporary performances signed by the different architects, in which the choral power is replaced by the eccentric and subjective vision of the individual, for the exercise Self-referential the style of the architect, or – as an even more recent phenomenon – of a well-known brand (see the Bulgari Hotel in Milan or the performance of Fornarina in Rimini). In these cases the hotel is, more than ever, stage, space of pure representation, media place before real, conceived as pure experience that justifies itself and auto-feed, with temporal duration that we do not know and that will depend on the fashions or the business profitability.
Container vs Content
On the other axis, however, are the values linked to service and quality, that is to say, to the authenticity of the contents. Apparently, it is a sum of values and traditional practices, value for money, but this sum, today, can generate in turn aesthetic and expressive models of great power and impact, crossing two worlds.
Consider the emblematic case, if only for its already smelling abundance, of the beauty farms and the spa (Suaper aquam) with Hotel Anexo, to which we go, obviously, to receive regenerative and exclusive treatments and care, but in which the framework Scenographic and sensory becomes equally important, if not even predominantly.
Or think of similar success in Italian rural houses, where the contents should prevail over the container, and where the quality and tractability of food and raw materials should be the criteria of choice. However, the experience is inevitably complemented by the bucolic value of the landscape and other figurative elements, less sensory in themselves, that connote and highlight the authenticity of the ensemble for an already culturally urbanized client.
Real experience vs. media representation
It is easy to ironic on the already great and ever increasing importance of design in hotel structures, since the design victims abound and also the media have played an important role in the overcrowding of a sales model and Renovation of the tourist experience, which passes by the prestige of the hotel. What was perhaps only a discreet “mouth-to-mouth” at the time of the Grand Tour, today is inevitably a media bombardment by force of articles that do not recommend both different cultures and exotic destinations, but exclusive hotels and resorts where you pass the ends of Week.
We do not intend here to stigmatize this phenomenon, let alone ridicule it, especially when the numbers of both supply and demand are so impressive. The architects themselves, moreover, are both their victims and promoters, because it is a stimulating and interdisciplinary work area, in which you can mix the architecture with interior design, the graphic communication with the layout of the services, the product Design with the experience design.
However, it is necessary to understand where the design is located between so much proliferation of forms, styles and themes, if we want to give this word a sense linked to innovation and the proposal of new social values, and not only to understand it as a catalogue Permanently updated service sector; Something not reprehensible in itself, but perhaps limiting.
Unique Models vs. New Standards
To the previous question, no doubt question and rhetoric, I am inclined to give a single answer, based on my professional experience as an architect: the validity of a hotel project is, first, to create something authentic and original, where the aesthetic component and Architectural complements actively with innovative management and business models, in order to provide the final customer with new services and a very specific experience. Among the great global standards imposed by American pragmatism, on the one hand (the points cards of the big chains) and the Solipsistic and hyper-anesthetizes exercises of the divots of architecture, on the other, we must look for intermediate paths , new qualitative standards, new models of experience and relationship that pass through the hotel as a place, format or environment capable of generating, at the same time, services and identities.
Simplification vs. Exaggeration
A new and interesting typology, for example, are the new urban apartments (like the town House of Milan, which already has 2 facilities in that city), where the services are reduced to the minimum and where the hotel acquires an aesthetic dimension and Very domestic and “neighbourhood” socio-relational; Or the low cost hotels, like the EasyHotel of the group of the same name that has already revolutionized the world of the airlines. It is about opening up to new targets of customers, creative and youthful, attracted, yes, for adjusted prices, but also for freedom at the time of consuming and choosing, a bit like the fashion outlets.
Aesthetics vs. Experience
The world of hotels shows us clearly how the culture of the architects, excessively self-referential and enclosed in itself, is destined to positively pollute and to hybridize with other dimensions of creation and management. The latter, in particular, has been relegated too long to a second level, as a logical corollary of the project, but always as something technical and specialized, oblivious to the formal and aesthetic language of which the architect felt maximum and unique interpreter Responsible.
In recent years, however, the role of the architect and the interior designer has changed dramatically, and will change even more in the next decade.
The quality of the architecture cannot be placed today only in a bet of linguistic and expressive type, in the formulation of a style or of a formal model: that architecture is compositive and abstract; It is retinal, that is, limited to a two-dimensional and merely figurative perception of space, without a will to conceive the life of this and its transformations in time, nor dynamic, active and complex, that make it something really livable.
The architect and the designer thus limited their role to the specialists of the form and the ornament, without wanting to understand its contents and its implications in different fields, from the social to the behavior, the environment and the energy, to the questions Linked to services and management over time.
Do vs. Organize
Beside the traditional professional figures, today it is necessary that of a new architect able to catalyze and coordinate the different professions and the different social actors involved in the project.
Its main function is to respond to the growing demand for well-being by reducing the environmental impact of human activities and regenerating and extolling the social quality of the cities. In other words, a professional who before the project is already able to visualize and materialize the relational attributes implicit in the structure.
Specific disciplines vs. Science of Change
As we have explained, with this new perspective, architecture becomes an instrument of organization of complexity.
The space that we must design is not born of a unitary project, but rather in a way of understanding reality, of dismantling it and reassembling it, and of the awareness of the definitive fall of the figurative (and narrative) systems of architecture as such» (Andrea Branzi).
It is necessary for architecture to know how to take advantage of and interpret change and to do so with new instruments and means of representation and visualization. The architects must begin to reason in terms of processes and possibilities, giving up the idea of total control, of the formal and linguistic rigidity that everything freezes and systematizes it.