The Ongoing Transformation of the Hotel Meeting Room – Part I
Hotels want your meeting and event business – so what else is new? For starters, the meeting and event spaces themselves are new, and we think they’re looking good. With tighter client budgets, shorter durations, and increasing competition from other venue sources, hoteliers are stepping up to the plate, literally, offering vibrant new facilities, state-of-the-art technology and connectivity – aka Millennial friendly – and creative food and beverage programs. Oh, and a room for the night. That’s another makeover story we’ll be telling soon.
In the first of our series focusing on the hotel as meeting venue, here’s eight examples of how hoteliers and their designers are thinking outside of the box, especially when the space itself, is often and quite simply, a box.
W Hotels approaches each new destination with eyes wide open and unabashed yearning when designing a hotel for a specific city. We can now add Amsterdam to the list of universally desirable localities with the upcoming W Amsterdam, opening this Fall.
In the design of W Amsterdam, as with all W Hotels, the development team seriously does their homework. They reinvigorate and celebrate the culture of the region in a new and exciting way that is appealing to both guests and locals. Nothing is random in the design of a W Hotel. At every turn there is symbolism, purpose, and artistic aliveness.
Case in point, the meeting space shown in the opening image. It’s refreshing to see a ceiling that is actually not flat. In this case, we are guessing that this is a subtle nod – well, not to us – to Dutch graphic artist Escher. Don’t be surprised to see other off the wall, so to speak, references to this geometry-inspired artist in other parts of the hotel.
We start off by acknowledging we are fans of interior designer Marcel Wanders and we admit to having two, Wanders-designed hotels in this series. When Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht debuted two years ago, we were immediately intrigued to see so many contemporary expressions of long time Dutch favorites, as seen in the gigantic tulip lights in the lobby to the walls of Delft tile with its irresistible and timeless, blue and white palette in the observatory.
In the windowless small meeting room, shown above, Wanders filled the walls with Dutch Old World style wall covering. The mix and match of old and new all comes together brilliantly with modern, tufted black seating and sparkly, traditional chandeliers.
Maybe you can’t look out the window, but you will still know you are in Amsterdam. And that’s a good thing.
Milan is nothing if not both glamorous and sophisticated. It is a city totally devoted to design – from fashion to furniture, to architecture and interiors. And what’s not to love? When it comes to design, and everything else now that we think about it, the Italians follow their visually-oriented hearts and answer to no one but themselves. And their hotel clients of course.
The Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel, recently opened – reopened rather, its historic Belle Epoque doors last month, following a total makeover hosted by local architectural firm Studio Marco Piva. The objective, which we suggest has been achieved, was to recreate the majestic legacy of the Excelsior for the 21st century.
The Excelsior opened in 1932, during a highly decorative period in architectural history and a time when luxury hotels and international rail travel went hand in hand. These hotels represent some of the most richly detailed, historic buildings anywhere in the world.
The rendering above is one of the hotel’s featured multi-functional spaces, La Cupola. La Cupola is a screening room with built-in seats that recess into the floor, for other uses such as receptions, private dining, you name it. The abstract domed ceiling really comes to life with energy-efficient, super bright LED lighting.
Sometimes it is just black and white – at least until you bring your own colorful personality into the meeting room at AC Hotel Bella Sky Copenhagen. The 812-room Hotel Bella Sky certainly qualifies for the title “design hotel” both from the outside and the inside.
There is a wonderful simplicity to Scandinavian contemporary design. While the convention-capacity Bella Sky has a variety of meeting spaces to choose from, we especially like this minimally appointed, modern board room, with its unusually high ceilings, wall panels as note pads, and double the lighting effect via the use of mirrors.
While you’re at Bella Sky be sure to check out the Sky Bar and a most unusual looking piano.
St Regis Hotels, one of the earlier brands to join the Starwood Hotels family, debuted in Turkey in March of this year with The St. Regis Istanbul. In a city with a remarkable architectural legacy, The St Regis goes for a modernist contemporary vibe, yet inspired by its multi-generational historic surroundings.
The hotel’s architecture and interiors were designed by EAA-Emre Arolat Architects, garnering the firm multiple nominations in this year’s upcoming European Hotel Design Awards. This includes the meeting room shown above, aptly named the John Jacob Astor Boardroom. This space has a timeless modern quality to it, enhanced with art and accessories and something you don’t find in most boardrooms – natural daylight.
Modern design in Italy is not exclusive to the major international destinations such as Rome, Milan, or Florence. Southern Italy gets with the program and we are particularly interested in the reimagining of older buildings such as the one now offered up as the intimate but soulful, Zash Country Boutique Hotel, a member of Design Hotels.
This meeting room at Zash, shown above, is clearly dominated by the rustic warmth of the lava stone that enclosed the original winery-turned manor house. Although the hotel also has a larger meeting room for up to fifty seated, we are sold on this smaller space, with its vaulted ceiling and complimentary simple seating. We can easily imagine this same room reconfigured to a high-powered boardroom. Minus the boredom.
We have to include another event space from the masterminds of W Hotels, this one , W Verbier, in the heart of Swiss ski resort Les Vallees. It’s ok if you don’t ski as there are many other activities to partake in, once your meeting adjourns or better yet, before it even starts.
The meeting room shown above will no doubt make you want for the outdoors, and we say the designers knew full well what they were doing when creating this space. It’s a large, snow white, light-filled space, featuring an upper gallery to check out all the other skiers, abstract graphics of the slopes on the walls, and “stay alert” sleek, red chairs.
Top it off with full height windows that will put attendees right on top of the mountain with everyone else, and your keynote speaker should have some serious competition for your attention.
Yes, here’s another new build hotel we really like, conceived by Marcel Wanders as interior designer in perfect design harmony with Sebastian Knorr of tecArchitecture. Kameha Grand Zurich, an Autograph Collection Hotel, opened last March with all the aesthetic bells and whistles of this dynamic design duo, who also delivered the Kameha Grand Bonn. For this Swiss locale, the bells and whistles are gold and chocolate, visually immortalized in the guest room “chocolate bar” walls, and the self-explanatory Puregold Bar.
Right out of the gate, Wanders is a finalist for an European Hotel Design Award, including his design of the ballroom, shown above. To us it has a modern Gothic atmosphere with its overpowering red drapes and glittery yet contemporary chandeliers. The hotel ballroom will never be the same.
We agree that this space as designed, works best with modern black chairs in a meeting configuration. We can also imagine a totally different atmosphere as in a wedding reception, or even as a setting for a modern day dance-a-thon. It is after all, a ballroom.
Photos and renderings from the hotels referenced