The Hotel Show: Architecture of the future – how far can it go?

A panel of four architects took to the stage at this year’s Hotel Show, held in Dubai, to debate the future of design in the field of hospitality. Among the topics of the discussion were alternatives to luxury and high-end accommodation, green initiatives, 3D printing and hotels as part of a wider community.

The panel chaired by Nick Ames, editor of Middle East Architect magazine, consisted of Salim Hussain, lead design architect at BSBG, Andre Meyerhans, principal of Fischer & Meyerhans Architects, Chris Browning, director of Norr Group Consultants and Holley Chant, executive director – corporate sustainability at KEO.

The panel started by discussing the actual future of hotel design and whether cheaper accommodation would be necessary in the Middle East as the region hosts global events, such as Dubai Expo 2020 and the Qatar FIFA World Cup.

“We see that a lot is happening in a hotel market. Micro hotels are really emerging. We also got companies like Snooze box with mobile and pop-up hotels. It will be interesting to see if this type of accommodation can take off here and if this region prepares to accept that”, said Browning.

Chris Browning, director of Norr Group Consultants

Since the Dubai Expo 2020 expects to attract 25 million visits, Ames asked panel whether the guests will want to stay in high-end hotels such as Atlantis the Palm or should architects consider temporary solutions.

Hussain added: “When visiting Dubai, people’s level of expectations is much higher than in other cities. There is an obsession with the Expo 2020. No doubt it is a big event and that it is important how we will get there, but also what we will do afterwards.”

Salim Hussain, lead design architect at BSBG

When talking about sustainable design, Holley Chant, Executive director – corporate sustainability at KEO, pointed out that the hotel operators will in the future insist on design, which also enhances health and well-being of its guests.

“We are not a static planet anymore, so we need to consider the impact of design. Notions of water conservation, ten years or five years ago, were unusual, but they are not unusual anymore. Most hotels approaches have sustainability policies and they are thinking green, so there is an opportunity for new sustainability initiatives. Maybe some of them will be culturally-based or socially motivated.

“I am particular interested in health and well-being. If a person goes to hotel and wants to spend two hours or so in a spa or in a gym, it is important to ensure they are not inhaling harmful chemicals, which are affecting hormones or acting as neuro disruptors”.

Holley Chant, executive director – corporate sustainability at KEO

The panel agreed that recent legislation promoting sustainability across the UAE was a good move by the government and would ensure that levels of sustainable design are on a par with Europe and the USA. However, Chant pointed out that accesses to eco-friendly materials in the region by architects specifying design briefs was not always easy.

READ MORE: Experts discuss responsibility within sustainable design 

Ames asked the panel whether 3D printing would “free an architect creativity or would it lead to the design being placed in a straitjacket”?

Nick Ames, editor of Middle East Architect magazine

Meyerhans responded by outlining a vision of a hotel room of the future where everything was purposed design to the guest’s exact specifications – even down to a bathrobe.

“You go to a hotel, pre-pay, and then you design whatever you need using a 3D printer and it is created exactly how you wanted it. I think this is a vision of the future, not for today, but it is something we can dream about.”

Andre Meyerhans, principal of Fischer & Meyerhans Architects

Ames said: “This presents a great challenge for an architect to design a room, which can then be fully customised to a guests’ exact requirements.”

Hussain said: “From an architect’s point of view, it is a challenge in the field of sustainability as well.  If you are constantly making things and throwing them away, that is not good.”

READ MORE: 3D printing: Opportunities and limitations

The panel then went on to debate how design can be personalised and how hotels can be made more of a community facility rather than just a place to sleep and eat.

Chant said: “If the designs are personalised to such a degree that the guest wants to keep them as souvenir then that is good. For example, I have kept things that I was given in hotels for years, such as lotions.”

The role that hotels can play in a community and have landscaping and natural forms can enhance the visitors’ experience were the next items for discussion. Chant said: “There has been lots of research in places like Harvard into how exposure to nature can positively affect human wellbeing.

The hotel design, which incorporates restaurants and cafes will see more members of the local community using them, maybe even going to a gift shop. The hotel will become a part of the community, a go-to centre and if you live locally you can put your relatives there during significant events or holiday period.”

Browning also agreed he said: “In this region, particularly, there is a lot more space to allow for landscaping. Also with the bars and restaurants, they make hotels a destination. Here in Dubai, we all go to hotels. We may not stay in them because we live here, but we all use their facilities.”