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HI Connect® Designer Spotlight - Bill Weeks

Today we speak with Bill Weeks of WJ Weeks Architecture as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros participating in HI Connect® Design 2014.

Sunday, February 16, 2014
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We’re getting ready for our BIG event HI Connect® Design coming this April 2-4, 2014 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. Act Now and register to be a part of this amazing event.

We’ve got dozens of built out fully constructed out vignettes created by the vision of leading hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros. And those in attendance will get to step into their master creations, get a tour and see products in the content in which they belong; in a real hotel environment!
HI Connect® Design offers attendees an incredible opportunity to view, first hand, original concepts designed by industry designers and purchasing companies in collaboration with suppliers shown in context within a real environment of a guest room, bathroom, and public spaces such as Bar/Lounge, Spa/Fitness to name a few. This is a truly the most collaborative effort ever at any hospitality event.

As part of our countdown to HI Connect® 2014 we’re interviewing the people that are bringing their creative vision to life. Read the story below, or for a more fully in-depth interview listen to their story below.

Act now to be a part of this game changing event. For more information relating to this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect® Design, this April 2-4, 2014 visit HI Connect® Design to learn more and register for this unique event that sets the new standard in hospitality tradeshows.

For today’s interview, Editor-In-Chief Glenn Haussman speaks with Bill Weeks of WJ Weeks Architecture who is creating the concierge lounge during the three days of HI Connect® Design.

Haussman: You know, we’re sitting here, we’re talking and you are an award winner, People’s Choice Award winner at HI Connect® Design. Last year you won for the best bathroom, which happened to be a luxury bathroom. Congratulations on that.

Weeks: I thank you, and honestly it’s a team effort. And we had numerous awards with different products. And I just orchestrated the design and the products and we all came out winners and it was fantastic.

Haussman: And it was. And you really did a great job. And it got me thinking a little bit. We all like the hotel bathroom. We spend a lot of our waking time in that room, and some cases, maybe even more so than in the main room when we’re out on the road doing these big conferences and stuff like that. So it’s very important. For you, what made up the quintessential luxury bathroom experience that inspired you to create that vignette?

Weeks: I would say that it’s the adventure of the destination. And that was the whole aspect of that design, was about engaging in Jamaica. And, honestly, this year we’re gonna get you out of the bathroom and we’re gonna put you in the concierge lounge and experience something even better.

Haussman: What I want to know is how do you create? What are your overarching themes when you’re going ahead and creating that luxury bathroom experience?

Weeks: Well, I take things from the region, the geography, the culture of the region that the resort is supposed to be in. And that’s where you come up with what are the stones supposed to be like, what’s the lighting supposed to be like, what are all the materials in this and to educate the guest on where they’re at. And so in that vignette you saw a lot of products that, although weren’t totally realistic, but they simulated certain aspects of the country of Jamaica.

Haussman: And I think that’s what made it a winning design was your ability to continue the story of Jamaica in a cohesive kind of way throughout that bathroom - now let me do the cool segue into the concierge lounge- which is something I think you want to achieve with the concierge lounge. We were talking about that off-mic that it is all about story. But the stakes are rising now in the concierge lounge, right? So you’re coming into this thinking, “What can I do to wow people?” So tell me a little bit about that thought process.

Weeks: Well, without giving away a lot of things that are happening in the concierge lounges here, I do want to say that the belief is the concierge lounge is there to educate the guest on where they’re at. It’s there to tell them where they can dine, where they can engage in the culture of the region, where they can go and do entertainment for the region. And so the concierge lounge is there to help them in a more interactive way of where they’re staying and how to get there.

Haussman: Now, I think that Bill just dropped a big hint by saying “interactive” and I think that’s gonna be an interesting reason to come to HI Connect® April 2 through 4th in Nashville, Tennessee, check out www.hiconnectdesign.com to learn more. And, but, you know, you’re right, Bill, because I find that we started off just having a guy that could point you down the road for somewhere to eat. Then it went to that desk in the lobby. And now we’ve moved up to, not just having facility to assist people, but to give people a respite from their day as well. Yes?

Weeks: That’s absolutely true. The other aspect of it, the day of going to the concierge lounge or the concierge and getting a brochure of having them make a phone call, I think is gone and the technology that we have in today’s world will allow the concierge to actually show the person interactively the different locations they go to. If they want to go to a club or they want to go to fine dining they can actually show the person that venue real-life.

Haussman: Well, you know, I think that’s great, except of course I’m mourning the loss of being able to continue to build my senseless brochure collection which I would really, really like. But, yeah, it’s all digital. It’s all there. And I bet people have the technology now to, not just provide you with that, but to get it to your phone and provide the maps on your phone and all of that. But I want to know a little bit about how your approach is creating the cohesive space in something like a concierge lounge because it has to serve multiple purposes now. It’s a place to get information. A lot of concierge lounges have raised the stakes by offering breakfast, evening hors d’ouevres, cocktail hours. And also it’s a place for business folks to hold meetings with during the day.

You need to balance all of those needs, plus I guess a place to have some recreation and kickback.

Weeks: Well, that’s true. And the aspect of taking a space and diversifying it so that it could be a cocktail lounge at one time or it could be a board room at another time. And you may have video wall that is used for doing business meetings or doing long distance webinars, or it could be an entertainment aspect to show a movie or play music videos. Or it could be there to actually find your destination where you want to go within that region or that city.

Also your lounges serve cocktails. They serve beverages during the cocktail hour. Or it could be turned into an entertainment room, a video wall. You have retail. A lot of times when you’re in a concierge lounge you have to go down to the gift shop or whatever when you have things. Well, what would be great if you had a retail portion within the concierge lounge itself to actually service that client-, the client’s needs a little bit more. There’s more continuity to it. It’s more immediate. It’s more-, you give the client the attention.

Haussman: That’s what I really like about it. You’re able to create those spaces that give people that opportunity to be productive and to give people an opportunity at different day parts to relax, or in the morning get their day energized. Right?

Weeks: You can also sit there-, in today’s world, let’s face it we’re all iPad, iPhone, Samsung, all these different companies with all the different technology. The one thing that you always need is power.

Let’s face it, we’re always plugging in someplace. You know, the batteries only last as long as we do. But that whole aspect of being able to plug in there anywhere, or-, and sit there and do your work.

Haussman: That’s very simple and very straightforward but something that is so overlooked. And that really frustrates me, after all of these years that you’re still not seeing enough of it. But smart guys like you doing architecture and design that are delivering, finally, something that we need.

Now, we’re sitting here in the contemporary hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort, a room, that I might add, has plenty of outlets. I want to thank them very much for doing that. There are a bunch in the wall. I’ve got more than I need, which is nice. I don’t have to run into the bathroom to talk on my phone, which is always a positive. I like that.

But, you know, I think here was the first original mixed use resort. Now, Bill, you live in the Orlando area. You have a lot of experience seeing all of these types of projects. And hospitality has really, I think, learned a lot from the Walt Disney World Resort, the Universal Resort and what Sea World has tried to do to build a resort over there. How does that they’re presenting here in Orlando help you to create great ideas that are used in hospitality around the globe?

Weeks: Well, first of all, the experience from actually learning about new materials and how you design, whether it be interiors or exteriors, there’s a lot of materials out there now that will simulate historical elements. So you have that product that came out of the entertainment industry. But also the idea that a hotel is not just a place to go and sleep and dine, or use the restroom, which was so fabulous, but it’s also there to engage in entertainment. So the idea that you’re entertained and educated within a resort development has come out of the so-called entertainment industry like the companies you’ve mentioned: Disney, Universal, Sea World. And a lot of the movie industry has gotten into that aspect.

Haussman: That’s really funny because it was actually the first theme park, Disneyland, when that opened in 1955, that was based specifically on lessons learned in the movie industry. And now the movie industry is learning from the theme park business. Boy, how far it’s come.

Weeks: Right. And it’s exciting. And we will see what the next 10 years give us because between the movie industry, the entertainment industry, the technology, the building materials industry and how they’re all changing, it’s all giving us the ability to create a destination that tells you a story, that engages you and allows you to relax and do the things that you want to do.

Haussman: And the technology has gotten so far when it comes to materials and construction that they are really transporting you to another universe. I think what Universal Studios did with the original Harry Potter expansion and from what I’ve from the new one, has really pushed the boundaries in thematic design and creating a story and sense of place no matter what direction you looked in.

Weeks: Yes, absolutely. It’s fantastic. And it’s actually been very exciting to have come up through that industry and learned from those Imagineers or the technical designers. And it comes from the graphics people. To be honest with you, it comes from the graphics designers involved in the movie industry.

If you want to be a part of, or for more information relating to this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect® Design, this April 2-4, 2014 visit HI Connect® Design to learn more and register for this unique event that sets the new standard in hospitality tradeshows.


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