The Role of Architecture in Hospitality

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Principal, BSA Design
The basic definition of architecture is “the practice of building
design and its resulting products.”1 Architecture is the combining
of art and science to create buildings and space for people. More
than this, architecture has a profound effect on society as a whole.
The majority of people spend most of their lives in the built environment
we call architecture. The physiological effect of good or
bad architecture can be significant and long lasting. “Architecture
is a social art”2 on permanent display to the public. Architecture,
unlike two- or three-dimensional art, is experienced by
the participant, not simply observed. Because architecture resides
in the public realm, architects bear a burden of responsibility
when designing buildings not only for their client but also for
the common good of society. This principle is very evident in the
hotel industry.
Architecture in its simplest and primary role provides for our
security, provides structure around us, and protects us from the
elements (rain, snow, heat, vermin, etc.). Beyond these basic requirements,
architecture can define who we are and what we
stand for. Armed with a proper design solution, a building can
project virtually any image. This can be a powerful tool for the
hotel owners who want to define who they are and display these
facts to the public. The selection of the proper architect for a hotel
project can make the difference in a successful building project.
For more information, visit the American Institute of Architects
at <>.
The location of a hotel relative to the traveler and his/her
place in their journey has been reviewed in this text. Therefore,
it has been established that location is a critical issue. Given that
a particular location may have several competitors, what will differentiate
one hotel from the next? Architecture plays a major
role in differentiating one hotel from the next. Name recognition
and branding play a major role, but architecture itself is a part of
the branding process. Combining the hotel’s physical structure
with the landscaping surrounding it comprises a hotel’s architectural
Hotels will always be remembered for their architectural
style. Everything a guest does from the minute they arrive on the
hotel grounds and step into the building is affected by the architecture.
This architecture is intended to provide for a guest’s needs
and comfort. In addition, the design and layout of a hotel creates
perceptions early in a guest’s stay. This is true at the most basic
level. For example, if the rest rooms are placed directly in front of
a hotel’s main entry, then the rest rooms become the guest’s first
impression of the hotel’s interior. The lobby requires rest rooms
to provide for the guest’s needs, but the layout and design of
these rest rooms could be poor. There is no amount of extra service
a hotel could provide to undo this negative first impression.
Architecture defines everything in the built hotel environment
from the basic creature comforts of a guest room to the
ambience of the grand lobby (see Figure 18). The physical form
can subtly direct guests through the main entry and on to the
front desk. The architecture should be able to do this without the
use of signage and without being so forward as to be intrusive.
The basic requirements of the hotel must be properly designed
and the hotel’s values adequately reflected for the architecture to
be successful.
The architectural style. can be so defining as to help attract
business itself. Examples of this would be the Swan and Dolphin
hotels on the Disney property in Orlando. Obviously, the entire
Disney facility is designed to attract crowds, but arguably the
Swan and Dolphin are even more popular than the other hotels
competing with them on the Disney campus. The bold architecture
and exaggerated features, such as the swan and dolphin
structures mounted on top of the buildings and the bold triangular
shape of the Dolphin hotel, create an attraction within the
Disney attraction itself.
Disney accomplished this by hiring architect Michael Graves.
Mr. Graves is a world famous architect responsible for designing
many famous works. Through his use of reinterpreted architectural
icons such as “columns, pediments, and arches,”3 Mr.
Graves is credited with developing the style. known as postmodern.
“His buildings often combine whimsy and sophistication.
Michael Graves was, perhaps, at his most playful when he
designed the Dolphin and Swan hotels for Walt Disney Resort
in Florida.”4 For more information on these works, visit <http://>.
Throughout history, hotel developers have recognized the
value of architecture by enlisting the services of top-notch architects
to design their buildings. For instance, American architect
Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design the Imperial
Hotel in Tokyo in 1923. He also collaborated on the design of the
Arizona Biltmore, which was opened in 1929 and was known as
“the jewel of the desert.”5 The Arizona Biltmore survives today as
a premier destination resort
Today, the use of high-end architectural design is still common.
An example of this is the recent development of the Jumeirah
Beach Resort in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai.6
The Jumeirah Beach Resort was designed as a destination
resort and features the Burj al Arab (Tower of Arabs) hotel and
the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The resort was designed by W. S.
Atkins Consultants of Surrey, United Kingdom for the Chicago
Beach Resort LLC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The resort features
two signature hotels and a water park. The Burj al Arab is
a 1,053-foot-tall tower designed in the shape of a sail with a
stunning 600-foot atrium and constructed 1,300 feet offshore on
a man-made island. This makes it the tallest hotel in the world
and can be seen from miles around. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel
has a serpentine plan with a sleek profile designed to resemble a
breaking wave. The weather in this region of the world can be
inhospitable with occasional sandstorms and temperatures that
can reach 130°F. Clearly the attraction here isn’t the location, but
the bold and striking architecture. For more information and pictures,
visit <>.
In contrast to these very high priced hotels, entrepreneurs
have developed a competitive solution. Development of smaller
hotels, or renovation and restoration of existing structures, has
paved the way for a new design style. They are referred to as
“boutique hotels” and are created for the “design hungry travelers
who can’t afford top of the line.”7 The Avalon Hotel in Beverly
Hills, the Hotel Burnham in Chicago, and the Hotel Le Germain in
Montreal are examples of these new boutique hotels. Their recipe
for success is the combination of an older building redesigned
into a unique, one of a kind, trendy hotel.8 Boutique hotel designs
are not limited to renovations. Chains like Hyatt have developed
brands that are built as boutiques from the ground up. Several of
the Park Hyatt hotels exemplify this design.
An example of renovating an older design into a boutique
hotel can be seen with the Avalon Hotel. The Avalon was a circa-
1950s hotel in need of repair. This hotel had a colorful history as
the sometime home of Marilyn Monroe and the occasional location
of the I Love Lucy show. In its redesign, the architects kept the
basic boomerang building concept but updated the image to
target today’s fashion and entertainment industries. They turned
this run-down building into an up-to-the-minute retro-chic
hangout. Terrazzo floors and 1950s-style. furniture was added
to the overall retro feel of the architecture. The guest room
strategy was to create rooms that feel like apartments. They were
also equipped with all the modern technology needed by
today’s wired professionals.9 Again, in this example, the architectural
design becomes the differentiation between this hotel
and its competition. For more information, visit <http://www.>.
In conclusion, architects have a responsibility in all of their
design solutions to society as a whole. These designs are on public
display for the life of the building. Their building solutions
can be a reflection of the culture itself. Architecture can be used
to create successful hotels in all markets. Hotel design plays a
significant role in the hotel business. Properly used, the power of
architecture can be used to create a statement that will be a draw
to customers.


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