HANDS OFF
Architect and Interiors India|October 2020
HANDS OFF
WILL HOSPITALITY DESIGN THRIVE IN THE LOW-TOUCH ECONOMY?

The desire to stay hands-free is changing the world as we know it. As guests now rate hotels on their sanitisation skills, will the need for contactless interactions hamper or enhance hotel design?

The 16th edition of online discussion forum Cosentino City Live! brought together four forward thinkers from the design industry to take on this provocative topic. Taking part were Firas Alsahin, co-founder and design director of 4Space Design; Isabel Pintado, senior vice president of Wilson Associates; Lee Worthington, managing director MENA, JPA Design; and Vera Dieckmann, founder of XO Atelier. The event was moderated by ITP Media Group’s Commercial Interior Design editor Jane O’Neill.

The debate centred around the low-touch economy, the way businesses across the globe have been forced to operate in order to succeed as a result of COVID-19.

What has been the initial impact of the low-touch economy on hospitality design? Can you identify what will be short-term fads and long-term trends?

Isabel Pintado: I think what we have all seen from the beginning are the things that have become compulsory for hotel guests; such as, when you are interacting with another individual, there is a screen.

I think that is going to become intrinsic. It’s short-term but, really, there is going to be a long-term need, too. You need to protect your staff, so you need to process the design to be factored in to do that.

We see the short-term solution right now with these sheets set at the base or suspended from the ceiling. It’s done differently in Europe, differently in the States, but at the end of the day, it’s the same solution – a barrier to protect the people on either side of the sheet.

We need to start designing in a way that this becomes integral and incorporated into the designs. We don’t want it to constantly look as if it’s a temporary addition – it needs to be a part of the design.

Then are elements of distance. You know, in the past, we never really had to think of the distance of the person sitting behind you or next to you. I think that the parameters of how we gauge spaces, how we allocate space to each person, will now actually change. I think we’ve gone through this incredible hardship right now of having gone through complete isolation; we’ve had to distance ourselves, not being able to leave the house, etc.

Then there’s that element of fear that we still have. We’ve gone through something major, we’re coming out of it and most people are really positive about going back to work. And yet, we still need to factor in that fear, and as designers one of our main responsibilities is to make people feel safe, to make them feel comfortable within the spaces that we design.

I think, at the end of it all, long-term trends will be guided towards creating a sense of safety and an actual physical safety that people have to be surrounded by. Now keeping that in mind, what makes you feel secure in a space and with that personal rationale, that personal thinking, we apply that to the designs.

Vera Dieckmann: Arriving in a hotel is one thing, but the big impact, a huge one that we’re going to see a change in, is going to be on restaurants. This is one thing that we faced when we were travelling. The hotel directly offered us an in-room breakfast. They preferred for us to have breakfast inside our room since it’s easier to guarantee you the distance and you could just ask for the menu, whatever you want to have and they just bring it to your room when you want it.

So I think a big issue for hotels will be the breakfast scenario. This is because we all know that’s the one meal that the client takes literally in every hotel and that is the one point that everyone is coming together.

Of course, our thinking about making restaurants, not only in hotels but other food and beverage outlets, is going to be about securing distance without looking too clinical or clean or antiseptic. This is because you’re still human beings, you’d want to interact with people and have gatherings together, exchanges, because that’s who we are.

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October 2020