Architype Dialogue presents
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
The essence of Mosaic was created while developing our entry for the 2010 Radical Innovation in Hospitality design competition, which WATG has entered every year since its inception in 2007. The competition allows us as designers to stretch beyond the typical hotel model and look into what hospitality is at its core and how we can influence what it will be in the future.
One of the most difficult issues was defining a problem in the hospitality sector that we could then solve through design. Since this was the fourth time we had entered the Radical Innovation in Hospitality competition (with multiple entries in the two previous years), it was important that this year’s entry stand out from the crowd as new, inspiring, and relevant. Many current economic, environmental, social and technological trends played a part in the conceptualization of the project:
a) We discussed the fact that hotels often go through a period each year where various properties are below ideal capacity for business and how we might solve for the fluctuation in demand.
b) With the recent natural disasters making news, it was important for us to think about those affected and how the hospitality industry might start to aid those in need.
c) There is a growing trend in eco- and volunteer-based tourism, which we felt would continue to grow and become even more relevant and prevalent in the future.
d) Technological advances in social media and open source design were considered as pieces of the overall concept, as well. As we researched each of these issues as possible foundations for our concept, we decided to try to address all of them in our concept package. The final design would have to be modular, flexible, environmentally sustainable, and highly customizable… while still reflecting the refined quality that goes into every WATG-designed property. Designing a single prototype that would fit all of these molds was definitely the most difficult part of the assignment; creating something that would adapt easily to all uses — from a guestroom to a medical treatment center — only added to the complexity. Under a time constraint of less than four weeks, we pushed ourselves to create a new type of hospitality project that would stretch across a spectrum of uses: hospitality for anyone, anytime, and anywhere.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as a architect designer in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect designer is changing on current projects?
A designer should always expect his or her role to expand and evolve from project to project. There’s a common misconception that an architect or a designer is simply a conceiver of a specific product, building, space, or landscape. At WATG, the role of the designer is much broader and encompasses a multitude of cross-disciplinary interactions. We research the area and the culture in which a design will live, heeding the principles of cultural authenticity and environmental sensitivity, which are at the foundation of all that we do.
Hospitality design is so much about the guest experience that it is important we remember who our clients’ clients really are: the individual traveling for business who needs a place in the room for a 6 AM video conference; the multi-generation family on vacation to create a lifetime of memories together; the recently married couple who wants peace and serenity and to feel like they are the only two people in the world. Every project we approach is unique in its challenges and solutions.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
The concept for Mosaic was developed out of the need to solve for three different issues we saw as relevant to the future of hospitality. Most of the trends that we identified as a group would not have been relevant even three years ago; the current status of the world as a whole played a large role in the development of our design concept.
The impact of natural disasters around the globe over the past five years has left many people without adequate shelter and in need of some type on interim housing. The global economy has taken its toll on hoteliers and has had a significant negative impact on occupancy rates .
In addition to these current issues, there are always times when hotels need to expand and contract to accommodate demand, and there is no easy way of doing that. When the Olympics are awarded to a country, they often spend the next several years creating the infrastructure needed to house athletes and guests, and when the games are over those properties are usually not needed any longer. Mosaic offers a solution for all of these issues by allowing owners and operators the ease of adding rooms when needed and then repositioning them when necessary.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
All WATG offices globally try to keep up with the next generation of architects and how they will be designing. We keep ourselves up to date on the trends in social media and new design tools, as they will likely be a part of how we work in the coming years. The Mosaic project, in particular, was developed by a group of young designers who dove straight into using some of the newest design tools, researching the latest developments in building materials and functionality for the structure, and employing the latest motion-graphics technologies to communicate and present the design.
The phenomenon of open-source design influenced our approach, as well. Our hope is that creating a collaborative environment around the development of this prototype will encourage others to add their ideas, particularly when it comes to options for outfitting the interiors.
As we move forward in the development of Mosaic, we also are looking into ways of engaging local industrial design schools to help us develop and build Mosaic for optimal flexibility, modularity, and constructability.
We work closely with a number of universities, partnering with them on curricula that will help mold the future of hospitality design. WATG is a company with very deep roots and a strong sense of not only design value, but also cultural, social and environmental value, and it is important that we push that into the academic world of design. Through the process of participating in these types of competitions, we are able to improve on our collaboration and brainstorming skills and engage all employees, including the non-design staff.