5 Reasons Why the Radical Innovation Awards Continue to Champion What’s Possible in Hotel Design

Radical Innovation Awards 2018

These five innovative design concepts made the final cut in this year’s Radical Innovation Awards. You’d be hard pressed to distinguish between the professional and student submittals.


Hotel design competitions are like a box of chocolates… you really (really) never know what you’re going to get.  Case in point.  The five designs presented in the image above, while diverse and spirited, all have one objective in common – to purposefully explore the yet unexplored experience of spending the night out.  This year with a twist.  Welcome to the annual global challenge that is the Radical Innovation Awards

Now in its 12th year, the Radical Innovation Awards remain an unstoppable force for unchartered territory in hospitality design.  That’s hard to imagine coming from an industry that’s increasingly defined by its no-holds-barred approach.  Works for us.

Ah, but with the Radical Innovation Awards (RIA,) created by Architect John Hardy of The John Hardy Group (JHG,) we’ve come to expect the unexpected, and this year’s short list does not disappoint.   From a total of about 50 entries from around the world, the RIA jury had their work cut out for them in choosing the three professional entries, one student entry, and one student honorable mention. 

Last week, the professional entrants made their case in a live presentation followed by an audience vote for the winning design, held at New York’s New Museum.

Here’s our toast to all five design submittals in the 2018 Radical Innovation Awards.  Strap in – literally – and enjoy the ride.  There’s something here for everyone.

This Year’s Professional Winner:  AUTONOMOUS TRAVEL SUITE
By Steve Lee, Aprilli Design Studio
Los Angeles, California

With a mobile hotel room like this, a little traffic may not be such a bad thing.


Time is money no matter where one lives, works, or travels.  Further, anyone who has spent time for any reason in Los Angeles – a good 30 years for this editor – a disproportionate amount of time is spent in a single user vehicle.  There’s no getting around it until now, as this year’s Radical Innovation Award Winner Steve Lee of L.A. based Aprilli Design Studio clearly concurs.  Apparently, so did the majority of RIA audience voters. This ex-Angelino included.

Lee’s design concept – essentially a hotel room on wheels – seems like the logical next step in an increasingly mobile, results driven world in which time expended traveling by air, followed by the back seat of a taxi cab or limousine, simply do not offer a good use of one’s time nor an opportunity to refresh while traveling from ‘A’ to ‘B’.   This is not entirely a novel concept.  Medieval monarchs traveled with their bedchambers and often conducted business meetings while en route.  Sounds like a plan.

As the name suggests, the Autonomous Travel Suite (ATS) is indeed a private, space optimizing suite equipped to the guest’s specifications including a bed/lounge, work table, and yes, a bathroom with shower facility.  And seat belts, we presume.  The suite is intended to meet local and interstate transportation laws as well as be an energy efficient method of travel.  Your individual ATS connects to a central docking station and associated hotel.  

So where do we sign?  We love everything about the ATS and can envision this in both high-density urban settings, as well as serving remote, resort/luxury destinations.  Not to play hotel matchmaker, but.. the ATS (as well as the Student Winner entry) might be useful to hoteliers such as the growing Virgin Hotels brand, in cities also served by Virgin Atlantic. The question is, can we accrue loyalty points for our ATS miles?

By Alice and Clotilde Varinot, Varinot & Varinot Architectes
Paris, France

Farm-to-table is only an elevator stop away at the Aquaponic Experience Hotel.


You can never have too many “green buildings” no matter how you get there.  While there are many (many) successful examples of sustainable design that have features similar to or compatible with those of the Aquaponic Experience Hotel, we believe this particular concept, submitted by Alice and Clotilde Varinot of Paris based Varinot & Varinot Architectes, has viable application in the hotel sector.

Aquaponics as we understand it, involves raising select fish species in tank-based indoor environments, combined with hydroponics, growing water-friendly plant species, also in controlled environments.  The benefits, as the Varinots expressed in their presentation, include providing fruits, vegetables and of course fish, to the hotel’s restaurant as well as integrating plants and fish as design elements and visual enhancements in guest rooms as well as amenity spaces.  Not to mention – but we must – that educating the public on sustainable design is a win-win for hotel guests and staff as well as for hoteliers and designers seeking the all-important LEED credits.

We see the Aquaponic Experience Hotel as a natural extension of sustainable design systems that are already proven in the built environment.  This reminds us of a previous Radical Innovation Award Winner, The Green Air Hotel, addressing air quality in China, whereas the indoor environment is dominated by carefully engineered plant systems that make it healthier to be indoors than outdoors.   We can envision a merging of these concepts into a singularly healthy, hospitality destination.

Professional Finalist: LE COLLINE INCANTE
By Stefan Rier and Barbara Runggatscher
Network of Architecture (NOA*)
Bolzano, Italy

A soulful, realistic short term solution to today’s long term, complex relationships


Le Colline Incante, designed by Stefan Rier and Barbara Runggatscher of Network of Architecture (NOA*), is not your average retreat in the hillsides of Northern Italy.  Nor may it be commonplace as of yet anywhere else on the planet.  Put another way, Le Colline Incante has found itself a home at the Radical Innovation Awards.  We agree.

The objective of this organic-inspired design is to offer a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment for families in transition.  Whether due to a sudden tragic event, an anticipated separation of parental figures, to the steadily rising experience of single parenthood. NOA* in cooperation with professional  psychologists have developed a targeted hotel destination that could be implemented in other locations and may be an idea whose time has come.

The architectural design is intentional, depicting as shown in the images above, a curvalinear, organic appearance in the walls and roof lines, surrounded by the healing aspects of water, plants and other gifts of nature.  The interior spaces directly connect with the outdoors, with an abundance of daylight and natural ventilation.  The guest rooms, public spaces, and amenities as presented by NOA* are flexible, to allow for varying family sizes and ages of children.

The concept of Le Colline Incante goes the extra mile in offering special individual or group sessions and activities developed and/or conducted by licensed professional therapists. While this may be unchartered territory for most hospitality industry players, NOA* is known for breaking boundaries in their designs, and we can expect to hear more about this unusual hotel in the future.

By Daniel Czyszczon and Michal Witalis
Cracow University of Technology
Cracow, Poland

Kick back, relax, or get down to business as the other half of your hotel room awaits your arrival.


Look familiar?  Yes, another entry in this year’s Radical Innovation Awards that takes hospitality on a road trip.  This one, Room Extension Solution (RES) is from prescient and Student Winners Daniel Czyszczon and Michal Witalis, representing the Cracow University of Technology.  Climb aboard.

What we love about the Autonomous Travel Suite equally applies to Room Extension Solution – a hotel room with (almost) all the fittings, and no driver to feel obligated to entertain in conversation.  In the RES imagine getting off a long flight, into the throws of baggage claim (and customs/immigration for us worldly road warriors) to the words you long to hear.. “your room is ready” .. and it’s right outside the airline terminal exit.  Yes.

Go ahead, unpack, settle in.  The mobile section of your room will connect to the central hotel docking station and to the fixed section of your room.  Sounds like a dream but it’s definitely one we hope to wake up to.. literally.

Student Honorable Mention: FLOATING HOTEL
By Tam Dinh
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

A refreshing take on eco-travel where you can be at one, or two, with nature and your next meal.


This year’s Student Honorable Mention goes to Tam Dinh, attending Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture.  The Floating Hotel, as imagined in the renderings above, is far more than a hotel on water.  Been there, done that.  This hotel concept celebrates the local culture in a unique and enlightened way by offering true hands-on farming as an integral part of the guest experience.  

Guest rooms are arranged in clusters of small buildings, connected via wooden docks.  Sorry, there’s no valet parking, access is only via small boat.  Resembling a small riverside village, guests are equipped with fishing boats, open grid platforms, netting, and other tools of the trade.  The locals participate and share their fishing wisdom with guests. No experience necessary.  

For those of us that long to embrace and experience eco-tourism, the Floating Hotel is as authentic as any out there.  It’s not glamping -  pack light on clothes and heavy on enthusiasm. 

Until Next Year..

Having felt consistently honored to be present at several annual presentations of the Radical Innovation Awards, as a design professional I am left with the same question each and every year – where was this competition when I was studying architecture in college?

Images courtesy of Radical Innovation

Analee R. Cole RA, LEED AP
Editor, all things hospitality design