Back To The Drawing Board

As hotel owners and operators are faced with the challenges of reopening safely in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, designers and architects are trying to do their part to help them create a safe environment for guests.

To what extent hospitality design will be altered going forward and the staying power of any potential changes is up for debate, but there’s no debating that many of these firms have had to go back to the proverbial drawing board.

David Shove-Brown, partner & principal, Washington, DC-based //3877, cautions the industry against overreacting. “I think the thing that people need to remember is this will pass. As designers and architects we must look to temporarily fix the industry, not redesign it,” he said.

Nevertheless, designers have had to rethink how they approach hotel projects ranging from different fabrics and materials to finishes as well as the product and even the overall layout of the property.

Lesley-Hughes Wyman, partner & principal, Dallas-based MatchLine Design Group, highlighted some expected trends. “Hotel designers will be utilizing fabrics with anti-microbial features even more than we do now. We will also be specifying products that can function with fewer touch points, such as automatic window treatments and lighting scenarios based on the guests’ location within the room,” he said.

Griz Dwight, founder and principal, Washington, DC-based GrizForm Design Architects, detailed his company’s approach. “We’ve been talking with many of our clients about how to incorporate finishes that are cleanable and non-porous. We’re also looking into how to reconfigure a space’s layout so that it creates more of a circular pattern for foot traffic versus straight in and out,” he said.

Wyman of MatchLine further detailed how hotels and designers may have to plan for the new economics. “Given how quickly things are changing and the lower revenues that many facilities are seeing not everyone can order brand new furniture to adapt to the new normal,” she said.

Shove-Brown reinforced the point by detailing some of the temporary solutions that properties are likely to implement. “Business owners are going to want to make their guests feel comfortable. Just seeing plastic dividers, UV lights, and touchless fixtures in restrooms will ease guest discomfort,” he said.

Shove-Brown added, “We’re going to need to redesign the word safe to help guests understand cleanliness. As designers, we need to start thinking about ways to minimize contact. How do we replace an older fixture with a touchless one and in an economical way? What is clean? What is safe? What is healthy? It truly comes down to training staff to be diligent to ensure guests feel safe,” he said.

Wyman, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of hotels letting guests know just what they are doing. “Guests won’t know we’re implementing best practices. To show them the hotels is taking their health and safety seriously we will need to create interesting ways to displays this. Displays can be installed in the lobbies or at other interface points, such as elevators,” she said.

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