Why guest preferences become lost in the shuffle
In an earlier blog I wrote about the problem of guests’ desires being left out of the design equation. It has made me wonder if some readers might question how that could even happen.
A designer has to serve many masters who rarely sing from the same hymn sheet. It’s the nature of the beast. We are recommended for a scheme by an operator, but we make a contract with the investor by whom we then get paid. In the planning phase, the operator wants the hotel to have woven carpets and gold-plated water taps. But then the investor tells us that new taps have not been taken into account in the budget because they were just completely forgotten. And of course, when the design presentation is made, the investor suddenly brings along his wife who has always dreamt of being an interior architect. Naturally, she has very refined taste and wants it to be reflected in the style of the hotel. Furthermore, she attended a course in feng shui. However, the investor himself prefers classical design, since its ability to add prestige to the guests’ perception of the hotel has been tested over time. Finally, one can’t go wrong with a vintage style. But then this is in conflict with the warm, Mediterranean style that the wife has envisioned.
In essence, the problem is that all the parties involved feel confident that they can convert the interior architect to validate their own ideas.
While the executive housekeeper requires dark, patterned carpets that hide any kind of stain, the sales manager is certain that a hotel with a lighter scheme would feel friendlier and be easier to market. Of course the hotel manager favors this brighter style too, but his wife has just chosen warm terracotta tones for their living room at home.
And in the hotel’s corporate office, the technical advisor hands us a folder with all the brand standards and material specifications with the comment that these documents should not really be taken that seriously since they are out of date. In principle, he stands for proven solutions that have passed every practical test. Normally he keeps out of design affairs … but then he quickly points out that the CEO of the hotel chain does not like the color green, and sometimes even climbs on a nightstand to test the strength of the wall mount. Oh, and one more thing: If the CEO has had a bad day, even if you have presented exactly what the brand said it wanted, the presentation will be rejected.
The architectural colleague from the building construction team feels inclined towards Bauhaus and can imagine no colors in the building at all other than black, white and grey tones. After all, he says, the structures designed by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier were based on simplicity, reduction, simplification, axiality, symmetry and so on, yet they still anticipated everything that constitutes a good building. And architects, of course, want to construct something excellent and must band together against the ignorant taste that surrounds them.
Everyone agrees that they want to build something groundbreaking, something that no one has ever thought about before. Yet as an interior designer, the focus must be comfortable, even cozy — a “home away from home.” The styles that currently exist for design hotels do not fit with this new project – everyone quickly agrees on this point, too, since these designs are all too cool, too impersonal, impractical, sterile, crazy and, above all things, too expensive.
The building services engineer, unnoticed so far, has his customary plans for the sanitary ware, taps and light switches. (In my next life I will become a housing contractor. They can plan whatever they want without being noticed, and if someone asks, they can always say that it is absolutely necessary.) Don’t forget that the ventilation must be predominantly sited within the room plan so that the air speeds and temperature can be properly controlled. And the radiator located just below the window ledge cannot be covered by a curtain because the heat output would be considerably reduced.
Kahema Grand, Bonn, designed by Marcel Wanders
So of course the interior designers would have actually wanted to design an avant-garde hotel — and for the staff from their office, it is quite clear that nothing else would be right. “State-of-the-art” — this is what Philippe Starck and Matteo Thun manage to achieve — but if only one could be given a construction budget such as the Hotel Puerta América in Madrid or at least the Kahema Grand in Bonn, Germany.
And finally, there are the guests. What do they want? Oh, the guests! They cannot be asked yet. But when at last they check in to the hotel they will wonder — what in the world did the interior designers think they were doing?