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01 Jun 2016

BY April Hutchinson


Brave new world for hotel design

The use of augmented reality is one of a range of experimental technologies forming a “brave new world” in the design of luxury hospitality and leisure projects, according to designer, artist and architect Cecil Balmond.


Balmond (pictured) told this year’s Ultratravel Forum in partnership with ttgluxury how he had incorporated the tool, which creates a composite view of a real environment with computer-generated graphics, into his plans for Cinnamon Life (pictured below), a “city-within-a-city” project currently under construction in Sri Lanka.


Located in Colombo, it will include an 800-bedroom hotel, with the project due to finish in 2019. Balmond, who was given an OBE for services to architecture in 2015, told Forum delegates the technology would be used to enhance “dining and shopping experiences” for guests.


Futuristic hotel design arrives in Colombo

He also expressed his desire to see it featured more in upcoming designs in the luxury market.


“It has a lot of potential with the way it overlays onto reality,” he said. “I’ve seen it used for a cricket match where you weren’t just watching the game but actually taking part yourself…perhaps in the future you’ll be able to walk down a corridor of a hotel and there will be [an augmented reality] booth you could go into and use to experience different things.”


Speaking as part of a panel on current and future trends in hotel design, Balmond also discussed how the availability of nanotechnology and 3D printing had opened up a series of new options for high-end properties but insisted their use still needed “rigour”.


“It’s a huge brave new world for design now but we still need rigour and rules and to only use these elements if they can add to the experience of the guests,” he said.

The new design reality

Fellow panelists Will Meyer and Gray Davis of New York-based interior design firm Meyer Davis furthered Balmond’s championing of developing technologies, citing their ongoing virtual reality project with social media app Snapchat.


The New York-based duo told the session how they were using the as yet “undisclosed partnership” to tap into the needs of the millennial traveller.


“Working with Snapchat we have been able to get an insight into the way the younger generation uses media and of their tastes, which is important as they are the luxury travellers of the future,” said Meyer.


In another session, Robert Swade, group chief operating officer of Jumeirah, said the group had worked with Google to create Jumeriah Inside, which allows potential guests to have a real-time interactive digital experience of hotels such as its iconic Burj al Arab in Dubai, before they visit.


Daniel Franklin, editor of The Economist’s annual The World in… report, said: “The potential for use of augmented reality is really growing – perhaps even more than virtual reality, but we haven’t yet seen either technology have their ‘iPhone’ moment, when the technology becomes something widely available and transformative.”

Suites that never sleep

Suites that never sleep

Luxury hotels are increasingly offering "suites that never sleep" as well as catering to multi-generational travellers, the panel of leading designers said at the Forum.


Meyer, whose projects with Gray Davis have included work for Four Seasons among others, used the phrase to describe how high-end hotel suites are now seen as multi-functional spaces created with holding events in mind.


Meyer Davis cited the new eco-friendly 1Hotel South Beach in Miami (pictured) as a way businesses can get the most out of investing in having "super luxury" rooms - even without guests staying in them.


“Yes the suites are for travellers who can afford the ultimate experience, but they were also created for events and entertainment, it's not just about bedrooms, we call them ‘suites that never sleep’ as they’re constantly generating income for the hotel company,” Davis said.


The desire of super-wealthy clients to demand a more all-encompassing space was echoed by Balmond, who gave an example of a friend who had converted his hotel to a 50-suite exclusive-use property.


“He decided to use offer it to just one client and his family, he even threw in his yacht," Balmond explained. “Over 20 weeks he realised he could make what he usually makes in a normal year running it as a hotel.”


This rise in multigenerational consumers was also focused upon by Anchalika Kijkanakorn (pictured), managing director of Akaryn Hotel Group, who said spotting the rise in the demographic had made her change her own business model.


“All our hotels used to be adult-only but now they have kids clubs and many have larger spaces and kitchens so families can feel more comfortable,” she said.

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