“Human” design vs. design for design’s sake

?Human? design vs. design for design?s sake

As you may know, I clearly am not in favor of architecture and design that is formulaic and built for purely functional purposes.

Rather, I strongly believe in ?human? hotel design, which – as is often the case in life ? requires a compromise between functionality and design expression, formality and pragmatism, cosiness and coolness, or tranquillity and liveliness.

Although I am currently at the Russia & CIS Hotel Investment Conference, the following scenario could happen anywhere. Upon entering my hotel room in Moscow and turning on the light switch, two bright spots flashed against the headboard and pillows and a faint glow was emitted from the decorative glass art between the beds. No other lamps came on, and since the room was rather large, the illumination level was similar to twilight. Of course, there were additional lights on the desk as well as two table lamps flanking the sofa ? but they all had individual switches. (And by the way, the sofa stood in front of the window with these two heavy side tables and lamps, so I had to stand on the seat cushions to close the curtains! At least I took off my shoes first!)

So to make the room useable, I switched on the additional lamps, checked my emails at the desk (unfortunately, WiFi is still an expensive charge here) and finally got into bed – but I still wanted to read the newspaper which I?d brought with me from the airplane.

Now as a ?trained? hotel guest, I had intentionally switched-off the table lamps before getting under the covers so that I would not have to get up when I became tired after reading. But lying in this bed felt like being on stage. The spotlight directly overhead was so bright that it dazzled me eyes and made me totally uncomfortable.

This might not seem like a very serious issue; however, it was clear that someone had put real effort into the guestroom?s design by creating a plaster cornice of exactly the same width as the headboard to incorporate these high-performance spotlights ? a task requiring complicated coordination between different trades. Yet they are not bright enough to illuminate the room as well as being far too intense to bear while sitting or lying in bed.

So while perhaps the designers? intention was to create a nice lighting detail, the end result is that the ceiling lights have been incorrectly sited and they definitely do not create a convenient and enjoyable guest experience. One of the most important things we, as ?human? hotel designers, must remember is that our schemes are only successful if they make guests feel comfortable.