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Community connections
Current
list Article list

Community connections

Posted 30.08.2019
By Katy Ghahremani

The lead architect on our new mixed use development at Hornsey Town Hall discusses how the hospitality sector is evolving to connect guests with the local community.

Great hospitality over the centuries has been about showing care and attention to visitors and strangers, people who are from outside the immediate community. Moving to the present day, more and more hoteliers are trying to connect their guests with the local community. Examples of this range from resorts where guests can learn crafts from local artisans to urban hotels that encourage locals to use their lobbies as workspace.

Our project for Far East Consortium at North London’s Hornsey Town Hall is doing just this, facilitating the interaction of hotel guests with the separate but overlapping local communities of Crouch End, including parents, retirees and freelance workers. A new hotel is only a part of our refurbishment of this listed art deco building; the scheme also includes new co-working and community spaces across the building, plus an arts centre. The lobby is designed to be a shared space where users of these various facilities can mingle, chat, work or wait. The blurring of lines between private and public is something we’re seeing more and more of across all sectors, but nowhere more so than in hotel lobbies.

Make recently hosted events in London and Hong Kong to develop these ideas, inviting major hotel brands like Dorsett, Swire Hotels, Rosewood, Shangri-La, Marriott and more. The theme for the discussion was ‘urban resorts’, and one of the main topics that emerged at both events was the role of the urban hotel to connect its guests with the city and the community – to enable a real sense of communion with the area. There are of course many ‘cities’ within one physical city, so the challenge for the hotelier is to know which ‘city’ their guest wants to experience. One of the more controversial ideas discussed was whether there’s a physical need for a hotel building or whether the ‘hotel’ is actually a series of experiences across a geographical place.

As more and more hoteliers deliver this integration with community, will we see a rise in places for guests to retreat, both in urban hotels and more traditional resorts?

Wellbeing is a word thrown around in all sectors, but surely in hospitality it should be at the heart of the experience. In designing hotels, we need to consider the potential of not only public areas (lobbies, lounges etc) but also semi-public spaces – places that are reserved for guests and designed to enhance their wellbeing, both physical and mental. These could be gardens that provide a retreat into nature, quiet rooms for working or reading, spaces with enhanced air quality.

These semi-public areas could also be learning spaces – for talks and discussions, yoga or meditation classes, mentoring or networking sessions. This would enable guests to create their own community within the hotel. Private members’ clubs such as Soho House are already facilitating the sorts of events where members learn from and listen to each other. Building on this, creating the right blend of guests may become part of the hotelier’s remit. The Nobu Ryokan in Malibu already does this; bookings at this exclusive hotel can only be made by contacting the general manager, who vets potential guests not by their fame or wealth but by whether they will aid the hotel’s ethos of creating a retreat of pure tranquillity.

Looking to the future, hospitality will be about more than just looking after guests and offering a sense of place and integration with the local community; it will also be about creating a guest community within the hotel. Over the last few decades, hotels have transformed from safe ‘islands’ within a city to places that are completely integrated into the urban landscape. The challenge for us as architects and designers will be ensuring that the hotel design is both open and closed at the same time. We’ll need to provide a variety of spaces, from completely public areas open to the local community to semi-public areas reserved for the guest community and fully private guestrooms. It will be interesting to see how this shift continues over the coming decades, with hotels increasingly both part of and apart from the city.

Article extracted from Make Annual 15.