Architects discuss the importance of iconic buildings in hospitality

During a panel discussion at the Hotel Show, moderator Nick Ames, editor of Middle East Architect magazine, asked the panelists whether architects are mainly concerned with creating iconic structures or do they consider all the different end users?

Karim Benkirane, head of design and development at Meraas Holding said that creating a stand out design is important but one should never neglect the needs of the end users.

“There is obviously a marketing element to the iconic nature of hotels. With Bvlgari [Hotel developed by Meraas] that was part of the drivers and while they have a very strong brand, they have to differentiate themselves as well from their other competitors, the Burj Al Arab, the hotels in Donwtown. So yes, it is important but I think the guest experience is still critical. We are not working there for our customers to come as a one-off, we need a repeat market,” he said.

Bart Leclercq, head of structures design at WSP, in contrast believes an iconic design is a driving factor for demand.

“Let’s not forget that iconic structures and iconic hotels actually attract a lot of people as well so I think if you’re working on a design and it’s very iconic, I think that’s a very fresh start to get those clients through the doors, so I think it is important for a building to be iconic,” he commented.

Vice president of HOK, Chris Brown, on the other hand, reminded everyone that deciding the importance of creating an iconic structure for a specific building is based on the developer and most of the times, does not depend on the architect.

“It depends on the vision of the developer, the engagement with us as designers because obviously we are delivering their vision. And it’s always very interesting when the operator comes on board- how early or later in the process because they will have a different view on what’s appropriate for their brand,” he said.

“So I think engaging with your client, really understanding what their vision is- it is their building. I mean I know, I am an architect, it’s tempting to wrap your arms around a project and drive it in a certain way but particularly in hotels that’s going to get you in quite a lot of trouble,” Brown added.