- Urban resorts. For decades, SB Architects has honed its skills in the design of destination resorts. Now, they're taking those skills to the city, designing resorts that can be escapes and at the center of it all at the same time. You can go toward the action if you want, or you can escape and have a sense of retreat and privacy. These are immersive experiences – despite the city setting, urban resorts prioritize a connection to nature, indoor/outdoor spaces, natural light and rooftop everything. Health, wellness and sustainability are paramount, and seamless service is a given. Large, luxurious spas, destination entertainment venues, dining venues that draw locals as well as visitors and lobbies that are cultural destinations in themselves are all part of the mix. The difference is that instead of stepping out onto a beach, guests are stepping out into an adventure full of museums, restaurants and urban culture. Possibly one of the most complex vertically integrated mixed-use projects the firm has ever designed, the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel & Residences, Boca Raton exemplifies the trend, bringing together all the key elements of urban resort design.
- Hotels + lifestyle brands. Baccarat. Equinox. Quiksilver. These are very different lifestyle brands, but they are all breaking new ground in hospitality, representing an unmistakable lifestyle experience, and a great sense of design. This is aspirational travel – each brand represents who the guest wants to be, at least for a time. The connection between these lifestyle brands and hospitality makes sense, and there are certainly more examples to come.
- Wine + food. Nothing celebrates an authentic, immersive, yet glamorous lifestyle like a wine country resort. Wine tourism has been increasing around the world for the past decade. What is new is the wish to be fully immersed in the lifestyle – in the making of wine, the growing of wonderful food, and the preparation of meals. In a large and complex world, it is a micro-experience of place at its best. The firm is currently working on a winery resort in Temecula – often called “Southern California's Wine Country” – that creates an immersive destination that places the guest at the center of the wine-making experience.
- Small batch everything. What lies beyond farm-to-table? Anything is possible. Like wineries, breweries and distilleries are expressions of their locations, (Telluride Brewing in Colorado and Park City's High West Distillery are great examples). And why not Shinola, a brand that has become synonymous with Detroit and with American-made? Hospitality experiences that grow from these locally-made brands link multiple trends: the local, authentic, hands-on experience of the maker movement, the immersion of experiential travel and the aspirational aspects of cross-branded hospitality.
- Zen + adrenaline. 2017 is just the tip of the iceberg of resorts for enthusiasts. Mountain biking and surfing are the first things that come to mind, but they are by no means the end of the story. The key is that you can travel with a group of enthusiasts or make new connections, take your choice of adventure to its limits, then come back to spa treatments, meditation and yoga. It's not only about wellness, it's about well-being: health, comfort and happiness.
- Transformative travel. We want to come back from a vacation better off than we were when we left. Schloss Elmau, in the Bavarian Alps, is a perfect example. It combines a spa retreat with cultural offerings that create an enriching experience, with a bookshop, library, concert hall, workshops, sports camps and a host of outdoor activities.
- Traveling together. Whether it's millennials travelling in groups, empty-nester couples traveling together or multi-generational family groups, hospitality needs to plan for group travel. Hostels, hugely popular with millennials, are starting to re-invent themselves, (nine out of 10 now have private rooms), and some brands are developing hostel-like properties to meet the demand. Family-friendly suites at destination resorts have moved from an option to a necessity.
- A new look for meetings. Why travel across the country, or out of the country, for a corporate retreat and then spend most of the time in a ballroom with no windows? Why should spaces for business meetings be dull and boring? Ballrooms may start to go the way of the front desk: the function will be there, but they will look very different. Meeting spaces will be more flexible, connected to the surroundings, and transparent. There will be flexible spaces that can be used for a range of events – from cultural events to business meetings.
- Marijuana resorts. As strange as it may sound to some, this might be the next frontier. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now have laws on the books making marijuana legal in some form, and six of those have approved it recreationally. These resorts will blend agriculture, leisure, maker, experiential, even medical travel. It will be interesting to see if it takes hold.
- And what about Airbnb? In 2016, hoteliers worried about the effect of Airbnb on the hospitality industry. After all, Airbnb offers just the kind of singular, immersive, experience of place that travelers are moving toward. Except for two things that turn out to be extremely important to today's traveler: a sense of community and a sense of design. Staying at an Airbnb property can be immersive, but it might also be lonely. Where is the great room to gather with the old friends you came to visit, meet new friends or just people-watch? Where is great bar with a local musician performing on Friday night? Where is the cultural concierge steeped in local knowledge to craft your day's urban adventure? This is a cue to all hospitality design professionals to continue to bring an A-game to the design of dynamic public spaces that are a central element of the hotel experience and of the community at large.
“As for good design, it's more important in defining the hospitality experience than ever. It is integrated in the very essence of the hotel brand's persona – a persona that comes through loud and clear with today's hyper-connected generation of guests,” said Scott Lee, president & principal, SB Architects. “Social media has exposed a broad audience to outstanding design, and they expect to see if at all ends of the spectrum, from luxury to economy. It is simply a given in today's world.”
To learn more about these projects and other SB Architects developments currently underway around the world, please visit www.sb-architects.com.