The discipline of Hotel Design is rooted in traditions of hospitality to travellers dating back to the first movements of early man. From the formalised travels of the court entourage and their expectations of the highest levels of hospitality to the humble journeying of ordinary trades’ people the development of specialist buildings to meet their need has been seen in many cultures. Examples range from the European Inn to guest palaces across Asia, from monasteries offering refuge to spare bedrooms let in ordinary houses. Often the development of such refuges was driven by their location – on river crossings, at major trading posts or in locations lending themselves to defence or domination of the local population, such as forts or castles.
Hotel Design today is a sophisticated discipline involving specialist architects, environmental and structural engineers, interior designers and skilled contractors and suppliers. The interior of an hotel may be the refurbishment of an existing building already used for the purpose, the conversion of a building previously used for another purpose or the construction of specialist buildings as an hotel but all need careful design to function effectively, as well as a good location.
Hotel design is essentially a marriage between the client brief and the designer vision. Hotel buildings have a clear specialist range of functions from restaurants to bedrooms, the operations of which must not interfere with each other through factors such as noise or the movement of people. Hotels are usually designed from the inside out to ensure the practical working and relationship of the parts in the most economical manner.
Hotel designers bring to their work their own cultural mores and need to understand the culture in which the hotel will operate if working outside their native environment. With the internationalisation of travellers the links with local traditions in many hotel designs have been weakened and ‘International’ has become a style in its own right, often denoting the bland and inoffensive. This in turn has caused a reaction in many operators and guests who have sought out hotels with a vernacular local traditional style or created hotels where the design has been more linked to modernist stylistic tendencies of elites, the latter characterised by the boutique hotel. Stylistic influences of modern design are wide and shared through television and the web leading to a wide range of diverse stylistic exercises in hotel interiors from ‘grunge’ to ‘classical’.
Yet the design of such buildings has become more focussed so the ‘rules’ governing their functionality have become more defined leading to the development of specialist knowledge in an expert cadre of hotel designers. Such knowledge ranges from the mundane, such as the appropriate height for bed head light switches to the more specialist, such as the right layout for a kitchen or the sightlines from reception to enable control and protection of entry to rooms. The pace of change has, as in most areas of modern life, speeded up with the development of innovative technology, which also affects such design yet whether ‘International’, ‘grunge’, ‘boutique’ or ‘urban’ such design rules need to be applied in all hotels.
The parameters for success appear immutable. The Hotel still has to provide a welcome and an environment that supports the comfort of the guest, the provision or respite, rest and relaxation from the demands of a noisy and increasingly crowded world.