Style versus substance

Style versus substance

It seems to me that there are buildings that are designed from the moment of conception to be iconic, and there are those that become so by virtue of the part they play in the unfolding business and drama that takes place in and around them. Personally, I prefer buildings that begin life with gentle manners, that have a sense of place and are respectful of their environment, but this does not mean I am against the modern, the innovative or the monumental in the appropriate location. 

However, when it comes to what I do ? hotel architecture ? there is one mantra that must be sacrosanct: The building has to work successfully as an operating hotel from the day it opens and well into the future. It must not be merely a piece of stylistic typography. I admit to being wary of architectural statements imposed on clients ? and ultimately on hotel guests and employees ? simply because that is what the architect likes to do. The design may win awards, garner press headlines and provide a temporary marketing edge for the hotel. But in reality, does architectural ego alone increase or decrease the prospects for the hotel? I believe the latter.

Sometimes, of course, it is the client who comes to the architect wanting that trophy hotel building or a hotel in a busy city which, for example, replicates a famous resort hotel or a memorable heritage building because that’s what the hotelier likes. In such circumstances, what should the architect do? Be high-minded and turn the job down? Or take on the project and hope to beat the client into submission? Or ? a third option ? accept the commission with the intention of delivering the client’s stylistic vision for his hotel while, most importantly, ensuring that the building works as a hotel? This would be my preferred response. 

As long as the design is not bound to be some hideous infringement of the environment and the local community but was simply the expression of another person’s taste, who am I to say that my taste is superior?