THE EVOLVING POST-PANDEMIC HOTEL LOBBY
Hotel brands are collaborating with architects, interior designers and product manufacturers to help shift hotel guest behaviour, and the way these guests experience hospitality.
The hotel lobby experience itself is undergoing much change; once defined by socializing, lounging, and generous amenities, hotel brands across the world are strategizing how to safely maintain the guest connection to hospitable services, without compromising on services.
Lobby Design by Wilson Associates
By nature, hotel lobbies are gathering spaces, defined by their ability to shape a first impression of the hotel.
From specifying antimicrobial materials, shifting lobby layout and wayfinding, and incorporating visual communication in the form of branded graphic signage, these are a few ways hotels are navigating their operations strategies.
Lobby Materiality: More Healthcare than Hospitality
The design of public spaces will require an important shift in the selection of materials, both in response to new health and safety expectations and as a result of changing attitudes toward the definition of luxury.
Lobby Space by Wilson Associates
“Sharing the same global threat reminds us how vulnerable we are all and how our behaviour must change and this leads me to make some assumptions about cultural shifts that will affect the way we design and create experiences in the future,” explains Monika Moser, Regional Managing Director for Wilson Associates’ New York, Paris, and London studios.
Moser envisions hotel brands employing pore-free surface materials and antimicrobial textiles often found in healthcare settings, predicting that one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic will be a closer attention to cleanliness.
This process starts as early as construction, where more sophisticated air filtration systems will be integral to the overall health of the building, but can be carried through to even the smallest of details.
“Decluttering,” Moser stresses, “will enhance the sentiment of purity.”
Interior by Wilson Associates
This stripped-down approach to lobby design is indicative of the overarching sentiment toward luxury, which Moser feels is no longer synonymous with things, but rather feelings.
“Luxury will become a state of mind rather than the notion of owning and living in opulence, a symbol of power and elitism.
“The new definition of luxury is already emerging and the COVID-19 will accelerate the movement,” she explains.
In order to achieve this ethos in hotel lobby spaces, Moser highlights Italian supplier Flukso‘s new sanitizing product Sanirise, which allows operators and maintenance staff to both coat and disinfect fabrics, carpets, and draperies in high-traffic settings without depleting the quality or coloration of the textiles.
Suite design by Wilson Associates
Tile manufacturer Agrob Buchtal has also developed an innovative tile treatment, which reacts with light to continually sanitize the surface without the use of harsh chemicals.
This elevated offering, Moser suggests, is just the beginning of the product evolution that the hospitality sector will witness over the next few months and years.
Lobby Layouts: Flexibility via Furniture Groupings and Flooring
Mirroring Moser’s sentiment that luxury will be defined by feelings, versus things, Dallas-based MatchLine Design Group has been reimagining a post-pandemic lobby layout that facilitates social distancing without stifling social interaction and hospitality—reiterating the importance of hotels remaining hospitable, and the value that this provides guests during their stay.
“The hospitality industry is about the experience economy; post-pandemic, the human inclination to gather and create community through shared experiences will not change,” notes Lesley Hughes-Wyman, Principal and Co-Founder of MatchLine Design Group.
“In the age of social distancing, seating arrangements have been extended to account for the guests still looking to enjoy the hotel lobby lounge and bar area.
JBRJO Front Desk by MatchLine Design Group
“As we’ve seen within the food and beverage sector, exclusive ‘pod’ type seating arrangements, versus communal seating areas, will be more prevalent.
“For an economically-minded solution, the large, stationary community tables often found in a hotel lobby or lounge spaces can be achieved by using multiple, smaller table sizes—placing them together in a figuration determined by the family and group size,” Hughes-Wyman explains.
JBRJO Lobby Seating by MatchLine Design Group
“It’s all about flexible solutions.”
Properties are also starting to use flooring materials that double as visual cues for spatial distancing: “It’s easy to incorporate these materials within the design itself, getting creative with tile patterns that subtly offer the necessary signals without distracting or looking like an afterthought.
“These flooring patterns are subtle enough that their immediate purpose–shifting wayfinding to encourage social distancing—is not immediately, if at all, obvious; post-pandemic, these patterns will continue to function as mere design details, rather than a blatant pandemic-driven design initiative,” Lesley adds.
JBRJO Lobby by MatchLine Design Group
Seeing Is believing: The Importance of Prominent, Graphically-Upbeat Wayfinding
Similar to their hard-working flooring and furniture counterparts, signage and graphics are going above and beyond their original purpose, serving as ways to guide guests through the lobby area to promote social distancing, and to reassure guests that their health and safety are being taken care of.
“Visual communication is important because it sets the tone for what kind of experience hotel guests—and employees—should expect,” explains Ari Grazi, President of Indiesigns —an online shop providing artist-designed COVID-19 signage.
“It provides an emotional context and individual personality for the space that informs how to act (for example, to social distance) and what the patrons’ connection to their environment should be — a positive one defined by hospitality,”
Helpful signage can include that of welcome signs, wayfinding floor decals towards the check-in desk, sanitizing stations, and other CDC-approved safety measures, like mask wearing.
Sign by Indiesigns
“As signage becomes more important, hotels are focusing on a more human approach to the signage design, with an aesthetic that is appropriately playful—created not to downplay the pandemic guidelines, but to bring a little lightheartedness,” explains Grazi.
Stay Away From Me, by Susana Paz
“In times of collective strife (such as a pandemic), visually positive visual communication is paramount — we all need to do our part bringing more joy to the world.”
The hotel lobby — a place where first impressions are paramount — is an important part of a hotel’s post-pandemic opening strategy.
Sign by Indiesigns
Through working together on flexible, but effective solutions, designers and hoteliers can maintain a positive guest experience that begins at the front door.
We are most grateful to Monika Moser, Lesley Hughes-Wyman and Ari Grazi for their valuable contributions to this article.