Thursday, January 17, 2013

Simon Turner, Starwood Hotels, President of Global Development, on his favorite project

“Throughout my career, I have always been a particular fan of adaptive re-use and using space creatively and sustainably to enhance the guest experience and urban environment. Perhaps my favorite RI project to date is the hotel incorporated into a bridge concept [Koi] by MM Planners.  

"Their concept serves as both a literal and figurative bridge, physically connecting locations while allowing for new public space and the opportunity for public and private sectors to come together in a beneficial way."

"It’s both creative and practical and in servicing both commercial and broader public needs and likely provides for interesting public/private financing options.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

4 Questions with Edward, Leo and Heath

Not an ocean view, not city skyline view, but a suspended-on-a-cliff view. 

I caught up with Edward Abeyta, Leo Ahmes and Heath May from HKS Architects, Inc. this week to find out more about their infamous Cliffhanger hotel that won an honorable mention at Radical Innovation 2009...

Cliffhanger has turned many heads ever since Radical Innovation in 2009. Could you explain what prompted your team to create it?

Upon discovering the Radical Innovation competition, Eddie, Leocadie and I realized that this would be a perfect avenue to explore ideas.  With each of us bringing a different background and different experiences, we found a number of catalysts for the idea.  The thought of total immersion in one’s environment led us to consider a way to provide a completely new way to experience the wonders around us.  We wanted to also think about how we can minimize the human footprint in these beautiful locations, which would prove a challenge in the Grand Canyon location we explored.

Other than the Grand Canyon, which is your other top choice of location for the Cliffhanger and why.

We considered a handful of other locations, including an ice fissure in the Andes and under the Golden Gate Bridge – but the possibility of suspending a self-contained hospitality experience within a redwood forest on the U.S. Pacific coast excites us.

Do you see Cliffhanger becoming a reality? What obstacles do you have to overcome to make it happen?

We see some of the ideas of Cliffhanger becoming a reality, but we also see the realities of structural and mechanical obstacles.  To address these obstacles, we choose to imagine. This would hopefully challenge ourselves, and the building professionals we collaborate with, to promote innovative problem solving.

What does Radical Innovation mean to your team and the future of your creations?

The idea of radical innovation is something that we see as integral to the creative process. We cannot pretend to know all the answers – not knowing the answer, or even willfully ignoring the obstacle, allows us to move through the unknown to successfully challenge the obstacles. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

4 Questions with Kay Lang and Joseph Ferrugio

We often associate vacations with the cutting off of all forms of communication and technology. Imagine a hotel that turns the tables around, using the digital realm as a basis for immersion and escape. Find out more from Kay Lang and Joseph Ferrugio from Kay Lang + Associates, runner-up of Radical Innovation 2011...

I love how you and Joseph have so cleverly intertwined the digital world into the guest experience. Did any personal experience spark the inspiration for the pair of you to create such a world?   

Thank you, it was our goal to unify emerging technologies of the digital world with the guest experience so the guest can create a customized co-producer relationship within the context of a branded hotel.  We have always been fascinated with virtual reality and the experiential aspects of being wherever you want to be at any moment in time.  Our curiosity and passion for this sparked the idea of a “virtual reality” type hotel which we feel is happening now in reality shows, movies and other forms of visual and sound communication.  We decided to bring this to the hospitality world and incorporate it into a guestroom which would allow the guest to totally “immerse themselves” into their own vision, providing a unique experience based on their personal “likes” and preferences. 

Since we’re so intricately connected to social media in everyday life, how does Immersion hotel provide the sense of escapism for the guest using digital technology? 

The hotel is segregated into three zones to accommodate different aspects of modern life -  Communal zone, Semi-private zone, and Private zone. The Communal zone allows the guest to interact in Public spaces using social media and digital technology.  The Semi-private zone, like guestroom corridors, are areas where the art and mood lighting would be enhanced by the users' “likes” and saved preferences merged with the hotel’s brand standards.  When the guest wants to “escape” to their private guestroom, the guest can customize the room with their own preferences.  Some of these preferences are non-technology driven, like aromatherapy to soothe the soul, special bedding requests.  For a “total immersed experience” the guest can choose their virtual experience through their smart device or through the integrated custom furnishings control panel to relax within their chosen environment. 

How will Immersion keep up with the pace or stay ahead of technological advancements to stay relevant?  

Good planning and smart investments in the beginning will keep it relevant.   The infrastructure of the technology is a long-term investment and can be easily modified by software updates.  Visuals and user preferences can be updated seasonally by the hotel brand.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the integration of great photography and current media, coupled with sound effects, can also help maintain consistent relevancy. 

How did Radical Innovation help your ideas take flight? What does your Radical Innovation win mean to your team?  

The competition allowed us to think outside the box and helped us answer the questions: What is our version of the hotel of the future? How do we want to feel, smell, see and experience a guestroom? That was our basic starting point.  Secondly, technology was the vehicle that allowed us to design this prototype Immersion Brand. Winning this competition meant so much to our team, and hopefully we will see a prototype soon in a hotel near you!