Technology and biophilia is the future for Middle East-based hotels says Diane Thorsen of Perkins+Will

Technology and biophilia is the future for Middle East-based hotels says Diane Thorsen of Perkins+Will

Design trends, Diane Thorsen, Dubai, Hospitality industry, Hotel design, Perkins+Will

The only constant in the hospitality space is that hotels are constantly changing. At Perkins+Will we especially like this quote from Winston Churchill:  ‘We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.’  The quote mirrors our ethos, as we always look at the end user and design for him or her. To this end we carefully assess trends in not only design creativity, but in human behaviour.

It’s important when we are designing a hotel we look at creating transformative guest experiences. As architects we are responsible for each guest touch point, from when they pull up to the building, to how they experience the space.

The overall theme to focus on in order to truly stand out in future years, is personalized experiences. Personalization is causing a seismic shift across the landscape of consumer-facing brands. Brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers are seeing revenue increase by six to ten per cent, according to research by Boston Consulting Group in May last year.

That said we want to capture the guest both physically and emotionally to truly create a difference. A study published in January 2018 by Taylor & Francis investigated the psycho-physiological effects of direct and indirect nature experiences on human emotions. The results of this study showed exposure to real and virtual natural environment is beneficial to participants’ moods and feelings. With exposure to the real natural environments being more beneficial. With these new and pre-existing behaviours understood, we therefore propose to match technology with biophilia to create the most impactful design experience.

With technology becoming an increasingly utilised platform on which to communicate, we want to look at integrating technology to facilitate an unparalleled personalised experience, namely through the ability to customize the guest experience to each individual.

Some ‘smart’ hotels already provide voice-activated technology to control lighting, temperature, mood, even fragrance. You can program a tablet to control everything in your hotel rooms, from the television to the temperature. Guests love being able to customize their rooms with the touch of a button. Artificial intelligence allows hoteliers to respond in real-time and provide a heightened personalization of the guests’ stay through knowledge of past and stated preferences.

We live in an age where we struggle to keep up with technology and hospitality is no different. The hospitality sector specializes in managing human interaction while trying to maintain the perfect balance of personalization and technological accommodation for their guests. Face recognition allows hoteliers to greet guests by name on arrival and the provision of technology to manipulate your own environment enables more physical comfort than has previously been possible.

The second element is biophilia, The word ‘biophilia’ literally means a love of life or living things. It stems from Greek and is the opposite of phobia. We have an intuitive and deeply ingrained attraction to nature and a biological need for contact with the natural world. This is where we can design for an emotional and sensory experience.

If I asked you to imagine a place where you feel calm and relaxed, chances are you would imagine a place in nature. Researchers have found more than 90 per cent of us imagine a natural setting to calm and ease stress.

This trend is more than hotels simply integrating some plants into their design. Hotels should look to the many benefits of biophilic design to enhance their brand and their guests overall experience by tapping into the wellness and wellbeing properties associated with this design trend.

The natural and biophilic design concept is characterized by:

  • Exposure to natural lighting
  • Views of nature/ room with a view
  • Natural architectural patterns
  • Use of sustainably sourced materials
  • Living green walls/ vertical gardens
  • Direct and indirect exposure to nature

The immediate effects of the natural and biophilic trends occur as guests enter the hotel, and are increasingly important for hotels in urban landscapes due to the lack of nature in cityscapes. Guests will sense this connection emotionally.

We look at creating seamless connections. Connecting with one another, connecting buildings with nature, connecting humans with nature. We look at integrating sensory experiences into those key public spaces, such as the lobby.

By merging these two fundamental trends, you are left with not just a building, but an experience.

Diane Thorsen is principal design director at Perkins+Will’s Dubai studio. 

Recently, Perkins+Will acquired Danish design firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL), with an aim to encourage its work in civic and cultural architecture and commitment to sustainability.

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