Multiple seating areas provide various opportunities for social connection.
BUILDING DIALOGUE: Hospitality Design
Major global hotel brands are successful for a reason. They’ve cracked the code for customer loyalty by providing a sense of predictability, safety and ease of use for guests through a high level of standardization. While these factors, as well as perks such as rewards programs, are valuable, some global hotel brands – like Marriott – are also recognizing what many boutique hotels have known for a long time: Guests want to experience something unique.
Whether traveling for work or leisure, hotel guests want an authentic experience that not only provides a “home away from home” environment, but also the opportunity to discover a new neighborhood, city and culture.
The best way for a global hotel brand to provide this type of experience? Work with local architects and designers.
Since many global hotel brands operate within a franchise model, they already work with local hotel real estate developers and operators. Using local architect and design firms that understand the social, environmental, and construction-related context of a specific area can further morph a branded product into a unique property.
Creating a local experience within the parameters of a corporate-branded hotel brand requires thoughtful consideration of the needs of the client as well as the community. While there are many lessons to be learned in this process, here are four design do’s and don’ts we live by.
• Do Your Research. It is the role of architects and designers to capture the unique vibe of an area while maintaining the standard feel and features of the large hotel brand. In order to do this well, they must immerse themselves in both the neighborhood’s culture as well as the brand’s past, present and future.
For example, we were challenged with the recently opened 170-key Moxy Denver Cherry Creek – a Marriott concept – to give guests a local experience while adapting and introducing a relatively new brand to the U.S. audience. Popular in Europe, Moxy targets millennial travelers and is known for a focus on social connection. This particular hotel is one of the earliest ground-up developments of the Moxy brand in the U.S.
Through a patient, iterative process, we designed for key traits of the brand, such as the ultra-efficient 180-square-foot guest rooms, which necessitated careful approaches to in-room storage and lighting, as well as the experiential focus in common areas, creating memorable opportunities for guests and locals to interact.
• Do Create a Sense of Place. Having a pulse on what the local community values and needs allows the corporate-branded hotel to integrate into the existing flow of the neighborhood. Guests get a more authentic experience of place and culture (with the security of a known brand), while neighbors embrace the hotel as an important part of their community – the kind of place you recommend to friends or family staying in town.
At Moxy Denver Cherry Creek, a key design element was the incorporation of an outdoor beer garden, serving local craft brews, located on the street level and adjacent to the hotel’s entrance. There is no place like it in the area, so the space serves as an attractive local gathering place while also providing an enticing taste of local culture for guests.
The interior design reinforces Colorado’s outdoor-loving culture, and ties to Cherry Creek’s history as a place for prospecting and gold-panning. Patrons can enjoy brews and food over a community table with a concrete top and gold veining. In a nod to the nearby Rocky Mountains, guests are greeted by a chair lift in the ground floor elevator lobby. These “Moxy moments” are uniquely Cherry Creek and Colorado.
• Don’t Force Fit. Creating synergy between a corporate brand and local character requires creating a cohesive physical embodiment of sometimes-contradictory goals.
For example, the Moxy Denver Cherry Creek has a specific brand to uphold – fun, flirtatious and millennial-minded – in Denver’s Cherry Creek North neighborhood, which is traditionally known for its upscale and refined palette. As a result, the hotel has a unique exterior design, with accent “boxes” tying to the vicinity of luxury retailers. A vertical screen accent evokes connections to pebbles in the Cherry Creek. The signature Moxy “swoop” was reinterpreted in a natural wood band, manufactured from laminated timber to express Colorado’s affinity to nature, while still keeping on-brand.
• Don’t Overlook the Details. Tackling these types of design projects requires a high level of strategy, creativity and conflict resolution. While navigating the challenge of blending the corporate brand and local flavor, don’t overlook the details that will make it all come to life.
There are common things that hotel guests have come to expect – a check-in desk, elevators, Wi-Fi, storage and an in-room TV, just to name a few. However, that doesn’t mean those things have to be common. Take advantage of the little things to infuse local character and subtle hotel branding.
At Moxy Denver Cherry Creek, the lobby bar functions as the check-in desk, and guests are greeted with a “Got Moxy” cocktail upon arrival. The hotel’s elevators transform into photo booths. In the guest rooms, closets were traded out for peg walls and under-bed storage to leave room for a 47-inch wall-mounted TV. Each of these design elements meets the needs of the guests while also reinforcing the Moxy brand.
When done well, architecture and design have the power to facilitate the adaptation of a global brand to a site-specific context to convey a unique expression, while maintaining and evolving brand identity.
Published in the March 2018 issue of Building Dialogue.