The Heart of a Hotel

More than ever, today's hotel lobby is a multi-function space: social center, check-in point, information provider, refreshment source, business place. More than ever, it's a revenue center, too, with attractively-designed coffee shops, casual eateries, grab ‘n go outlets and in some cases, a nightclub for the trendinista crowd.

Notes Jonathan Douglas, managing principal with architecture and design firm VOA Associates, Inc., “People arrive with all kinds of questions: Where do I check in? What is there for me to do here? Where's my room? It's critically important that you effectively connect with the guest here. Much lobby design is based on creating an array of opportunities that helps the guest understand how they can tailor their visit to their expectations. If they're a business traveler and all they want is to get to their room then check-in needs to be quick and easy. Perhaps that means expedited check-in, a preferred guest program or a kiosk check-in.

“If it's a family checking in, then perhaps they want more personal contact to orient themselves and find out what there is to do there as a family.”

Douglas suggests designers create visual elements that stimulate people emotionally and eliminate service negatives such as long lines at check-in or anything that would impede traffic flow.

No matter what property segment, visual access is key, says Douglas, so guests understand where the opportunities are in the lobby — including retail options, food and bar service, the concierge desk and valet stand.

“Usually the guest doesn't have a say when we're making these design decisions, so it's our job to serve as the guest advocate, to design from the guest's point of view and expectations,” Douglas says.


After focusing on the guestroom last year in a major redesign initiative, Marriott this year is turning its attention to the lobby. It recently announced plans for its “great room” concept — transforming public space in its Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance brand. The new concept is designed for the 24/7 work patterns of today's business travelers, who might mix work, relaxation, socializing and play throughout their day. The great room concept will be introduced at select properties this year.

“Hotels generally invest a significant amount of money in their lobbies, but the traditional use is very limited, like a formal living room that's no longer popular,” asserts Mike Jannini, executive vice president of brand management, Marriott International. “With our great room concept, guests can tailor the use of these spaces to their own needs, just like they do in their own homes.”

Marriott is developing the great room concept with consulting firm IDEO, whose experts followed business travelers and conducted interviews to gather usage information. They found that traditional public space design doesn't address the changing needs of guests. For instance, many guests participate in “social business” — traveling, working and socializing with a group of colleagues. In contrast, others are more likely to engage in “relaxing work” — working on their own time and pace, shuttling between personal business and work.

Marriott's great room concept knocks down architectural barriers, creating zones. The company claims these adaptable spaces will enable guests to more easily meet and work in small groups, take a private time out, or casually dine in more open spaces with easy access to the latest technologies.

  • The welcome zone will be transformed into more than a place to check in at the front desk or kiosk, featuring a new approach to local information, personalized concierge services and retail offerings.

  • The individual zone will be a quiet place to unwind with small, comfortable spaces to read, work, surf the net or listen to personal entertainment, as well as enjoy a snack.

  • The social zone will enable groups of business travelers to relax in a lounge atmosphere, offering tables for two, where guests can converse with a glass of wine or treat, as well as other areas for impromptu meetings or breakout discussions.

  • The business zone will include a multi-functional boardroom complete with audio/visual equipment, a space with state-of-the-art technology for small groups, a revamped business center, and spaces for private conversations.

San Diego Meets South Beach

San Diego is hardly considered a hotbed of hipness. But that may be about to change. Boutique hotels are popping up all over an area known more for laid-back leisure than night-long raves. Hotel Salomar (pictured above), a Kimpton hotel, opened recently between downtown San Diego's historical Gaslamp Quarter and the newly formed Ballpark District in East Village. It joins Tower23, which opened in the Pacific Beach area last summer, and the W Hotel downtown, Other projects, like the Hard Rock Hotel, also located downtown, are in the works.

Hotel Salomar, meaning “sun and sea,” has 235 guestrooms and offers a rooftop swimming pool and bar. Guestrooms feature spacious bathtubs and flat-panel television sets, yoga supplies and ergonomic desk chairs. Architects Delawie Wilkes Rodrigues Barker provided architectural services for the project. Interiors were created by IntraSpec.

Ballroom Beauty

Hilton Buenos Aires has completed a sleek and cool renovation of its Atlantico Ballroom. The $170,000 investment included several modifications to both the lighting and design of the ballroom, providing meeting delegates with a superior illuminated setting. The team at GIAD Architects and Designers, led by architect Gabriela Iglesias, have introduced an array of functional enhancements while maintaining the room's original charm.

GIAD outfitted the room with three automatic projection screens and state-of-the-art lighting. The lighting system, installed in the ceiling, newly modified with a curved design, produces an ethereal floating effect. Horizontal beams with halogen bi-directional lamps embedded in a rear column provide continuous lighting.

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