International architecture, design and planning firm Gensler has won the annual Sleep Set competition to design a new guest room concept for the future at Sleep 2016 – the annual hotel design event.Designed to fulfil the demands of a new demographic of hotel guest – termed as the Digital Avant-Garde by research association Sinus-Institut, the vision explores how the space will be occupied, anticipating and exceeding the needs of its inhabitants, while shifting the focus away from the space and even its design.
The Digital Avant-Garde are demarcated by a set of shared values that have superseded traditional socio-demographic features and social class. As globalised, non-conformist travellers in constant search of new, enriching encounters, cultural engagement, knowledge and inspiration; the Digital Avant-Gardes are creative expeditionists.
As an experience-driven tribe, Gensler has designed a guest-room and communal areas for a community focused hotel, in a hypothetical south-east London location. Underpinned by the fundamental tenets of socialisation and an authentic immersion into the local culture that encourages creativity and craftsmanship, the concept is divided into five overlapping spaces.
The primary concept centres around a ‘social core’ – an ever-changing, dynamic space that reimagines shared areas such as hotel lobbies, lounges and bars. Inviting the vibrant cultural capital from outside the hotel in, the space reinvigorates the communal areas and signifies a departure from the isolation often perpetuated in hotels, acting as core infrastructure that fosters the socio-cultural exchange of ideas, skills and experiences between guests and locals.
Operating around a high bench, the social core has the capacity to transform into a sturdy, resilient work space for local creatives and artists; a workshop in which to learn new skills and share inspiration, and a communal kitchen through integrated induction heating within the tile top. The communal kitchen encourages guests to cook with local produce from nearby street markets, share a meal and recipes, as well as a flexibility that allows the space to become a lounge or bar depending on need. It is a space for exchange.
Within the guestroom, Gensler has continued the theme of flexibility. The bedroom space is adaptable; in one iteration, two single bed frames can be joined together to create a double bed for sleeping; as a second alternative, the two beds can be separated to create twin beds or one single bed; thirdly, the two frames can be stacked on top of each other to create a sofa for socialising or working. In all arrangements, guests can adjust the space to satisfy their living styles, reflecting a desire amongst guests to participate in their changing environment.
Crucially, Gensler has jettisoned the inclusion of a TV screen in the guest-room, instead installing sockets and charge points to ensure guests can access the personal technology that they carry with them.
Catering to the Digital Avant-Garde’s preference for ethically sourced produce and products, Gensler has incorporated Salvatori Lithoverde tiles in the bathroom – the world’s first recycled stone texture made from 99% of stone offcuts, as well as felt for the walls and ceiling of the bedroom, that is made from sliced BuzziSpace panels, upcycled to make a new material. Independent designers also feature throughout the specification to promote craftsmanship and entrepreneurship in London, evident in the moulded leather stools by Tortie Hoare, organic amplifiers by Camilla Lee, timber crafted side-tables by Dunia Tigris, glass-blown vessels by Pia Wustenberg and Surface Tiles & Condiment Set by Jennifer Gray.
Claire Richmond, senior associate at Gensler, comments: “As the preeminent hotel design competition, Sleep Set is a fantastic accolade for Gensler.
“Designing for the Digital Avant-Garde, or as we term it, the Expeditionist, provided the opportunity to consider how to ‘socialise’ the hotel experience. Our analysis indicated that our tribe is often averse to staying in luxury hotels because, while they have a level of disposable income, they aren’t able to impact their environment and engage with local cultures as successfully within a five-star, service-driven hotel.
“Our concept is a re-imagination of the traditional hotel lobby, lounge and bar. These spaces are transformed into a platform for the community itself; for local illustrators, weavers, potters, joiners, jewellers, makers, leather workers, writers, graphic designers and numerous other creatives. Therefore, it is essential that this is based in a creative part of a city. This is not a static environment. By sharing ideas, experimenting and working together, the hotel will develop with the community.
“Our tribe forages for compelling experiences and rich encounters, so we have created a setting that actively encourages the collision of guests, locals, skills, crafts and ideas. We want the guests, staff and community to feel encouraged and empowered so they can learn from each other, to learn from the cities they visit and live in; to absorb the energy they exude.”