Wednesday, November 21, 2012

4 questions with Alexander and Lev

Russian creators of The Ark, Alexander Remizov and Lev Britvin, chatted briefly with us on what brought this multi-use environmentally friendly building together. 

Was there any specific natural disaster which was personal to your team that motivated you to create The Ark Hotel?

We have watched a lot of disasters on the Earth - both natural and technogenic, and they motivated us to create Ark hotel.

Your design is very admirable. With the uprising of natural disasters in recent years, people are open to solutions that attend to victims quicker. How would you circumvent the problem of the rich paying to stay in The Ark Hotel (to maintain high revenue) vs. disaster victims who really need housing?

The prefabricated elements are the base of construction, that let to assemble building in a very short time in a case of disaster. The high price depends on using luxury equipment. In the case of disaster the Ark hotel can be assembled cheap and in short time without using any luxury equipment.

What are the challenges your team needs to overcome to make The Ark Hotel a reality? 

Simply, we need to find an investor to build it.

What does the Grand Prize win at Radical Innovation mean to you and your team? How did it help your ideas take flight? 

The Grand Prize win at Radical Innovation helps us to promote the ideas of green building in Russia, because this award is obtained  in the U.S. - a country where the Green building are developed and implemented as anywhere in the World.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

4 questions with WATG

Krystal Solorzano, designer at WATG,  spoke on behalf of the whole team involved in Mosaic at the firm. She shined light on the collaborative nature of the group, and how they had entered the competition multiple times in previous years to showcase their bold designs. 

Mosaic took home the grand prize at Radical Innovation 2010. 

1)  What provoked the concepts of Mosaic?

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.

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. We needed to design a single prototype that would fit all of these, something that would adapt easily to all uses -- from a guestroom to a medical treatment center – which only added to the complexity.

2) How feasible is Mosaic? Which city do you think is most suitable for the implementation of this project?

$15k-25k to build, $25k-35k retail (per module).  The beauty of Mosaic is that it has been designed to be adaptable to any environment or location, so there’s no wrong place to implement the concept. One of the major areas we saw the concept being used for within the hospitality market was for seasonal demand. Owners and operators could add and subtract rooms as needed and also relocate rooms to other properties as seasonality demands shift in different locations.

3) Of the different functions that the Mosaic has to offer  - hospitality, vacation, housing, emergency shelter and support – which do you think is going to be the highest in demand? Why?

For the most part we’ve been focused on the hospitality market and as mentioned above can see the concept lending itself well to seasonal demands of properties. Owners and operators can expand and contract as needed, cutting back on operational costs and keeping their occupancy as close to 100% as possible year round. While we believe Mosaic could be a fantastic solution for emergency shelter, over the course of about a year we discovered that it’s quite difficult to implement something like this as personal living shelters where they may be considered better than local housing and now believe it may be better suited for the more communal needs such as administrative offices, food distribution halls, medical clinics, etc.

4) What does the Grand Prize win at Radical Innovation mean to you? How did it help your ideas take flight?

We took the $10,000 grand prize and continued to develop Mosaic. We started with a rough prototype model out of wood to study the space, we created interactive virtual environments to walk through to get a better understanding of the interior design and then we built a full scale visual prototype which we introduced at the 2011 Hospitality Design Expo where visitors had the opportunity to walk through and interact with it.

Mosaic was and still is a project that not only brought the firm recognition in design innovation but is also a project that many people had a hand in creating.  It truly serves as a great example of the power of collaboration.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

4 questions with Gianluca Santosuosso

We talked to Gianluca, runner-up of Radical Innovation 2012, about the ideological seeds of MORPHotel and what Radical Innovation means to him...

What first inspired you to create this unique project? Walk us through your thought processes.

The MORPHotel project was born during my Masters in Advanced Architecture at Institute of Advanced Architecture (IAAC) at Catalonia in 2010 with Professor Willy Mulle. The task was to imagine a new luxury hotel concept and the first question was: “What is luxury to you?”
To me, luxury means time. It means being free to get lost in places you didn’t even know existed. So the first key word was “time” and the second was “getting lost”.

I got the inspiration to start my concept from a famous movie sentence by captain Hector Barbossa in Pirates of Caribbean: “Aye...we're good and lost now. For sure, you have to be lost to find a place that can't be found, otherwise everyone would know where it was.”
From that principal, the concept of MORPHotel was founded: a huge, self-sufficient, artificial organism traveling slowly in the ocean, giving guests the possibility of enjoying what I call “space-in-between.”

I'm a big fan of the “tourizen” concept. MORPHotel is the perfect solution to tourists like me who love to cruise yet spend more time on shore fully embracing the destination cities. How are you going to convince the millennial generation who value speed and fast transportation more?

The first idea of the “tourizen” came from my teachers at IAAC. They asked us to imagine who would be the tourist of the future and, at the same time, how the definition of the tourist can be mixed with the category of people living in the city – the citizen.

In my opinion, to be really radical and even challenge the definition of radical, we need to imagine a new generation of mankind where man is radically changing his habits and ways of looking at vacations, tourism and the planet. Of course, you can start to imagine something like this when you think about an extra-luxury hotel where customers pay for an experience that is new, innovative and radical. But this example is just the beginning.

I am Italian. Even though my country is in a bad economic situation now, there are new companies growing on the premise of “fast doesn’t always mean better”. And they are growing much faster than traditional companies. My favorite example is Slow Food, an organization that supports the 0-km-food philosophy and promotes a chain of supermarket-restaurants called Eataly where all the products are organic and of high quality. It started in Italy and successfully branched out to the rest of the world. So, I believe that people’s mindsets are changing. More people feel the need to reduce the speed of life to understand what is happening around them better. This is about food, about life and also about traveling.

MORPHotel is not a system of transportation as a cruise ship is but more like an artificial island, or a simple hotel, where you can choose to stay for however long you wish to. The hotel has two purposes: firstly, to be an independent and self-sufficient structure floating around the world and secondly, to be an extension of a city where it stops at to allow the tourists to mix and mingle with the citizens.

Do you think this project can be realized in the near future? What barriers would you need to break through to make it happen?

Of course the concept needs a lot of more studying and research, but I am sure that (maybe in another shape or form) it can be realized in the near future.

I always think you have to see a complex problem as a combination of smaller problems that are easier to solve. I believe that if you decompose MORPHotel into small parts, you will understand that each of these parts already exists and MORPHotel’s primary role is to piece all these parts together.

How did Radical Innovation help you develop your ideas? What does Radical Innovation mean to you?

First of all, presenting in front of the jury and audience at the Radical innovation conference in Las Vegas last May was very important to me because I received important suggestions and critics from experts in the hospitality industry. Then being one of the best projects selected for the 2012 award gave me further confirmation that the MORPHotel project is possible and that maybe some developers would be interested in investing in my concept in the future. And finally, of course, the visibility on different kinds of media (magazines, web, etc.) is an important component of this award.

To me, the only reason why you might think that a radical innovation is impossible is because you are seeing it for the first time. Since the idea is radically new, your doubt of its feasibility is a natural reaction. But the beauty of radical innovations is the attempt to solve a problem for the first time, providing an answer to something that has never been addressed before.