With Sleep 2014 edging ever nearer, we continue to take a look at some of the biggest issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the hotel design industry today. This week, we’re shining the spotlight on landscape design, and the increasing importance well-designed outdoor spaces are playing to hotel guests. This year, in a first for Sleep, we will have an entire feature space dedicated to outdoor design. Aptly named Above & Beyond, the feature will draw much needed attention to the often untapped potential of roof spaces and landscapes within hotel design, and will be curated by Scape Design. Phil Jaffa of Scape joins us Between Our Sheets for an insight into the world of landscape design…
Explain the importance of landscape design within the hotel environment
Discerning guests look for two things when they travel: authenticity and a range of unique, exciting experiences. For this reason, the hospitality industry is moving away from the corporate look and feel, drawing instead upon local inspirations to provide guests with unusual and meaningful environments. The “guest experience” is a critical factor in the success of any hospitality operation – and a well-designed landscape plays an essential role in achieving such memorable results. From a logistical point-of-view, the landscape must be harmoniously integrated with the buildings’ structural facilities, and from an aesthetic perspective, must have a beauty that synergises with the architecture, surrounding environment and local culture.
The coordinated efforts of a hotel’s or resort’s three principal designers – the architect, the landscape architect and the interior designer – enables the creation of seamless spaces that maximise the project’s potential. These three disciplines need to share a vision and be able to “blur the boundaries”: Where does the inside become the outside? How does the restaurant spill onto the terrace? How does the ambient lighting flow from the interiors to the building’s façade and then onto the landscaped space? These are just some of the questions to be tackled. When these core designers work well together, the authenticity of the final design and the strength of the built product will achieve truly memorable experiences for guests to enjoy.
How did you come to design landscapes for hotels and resorts?
I got into the hospitality industry by chance. While working as a landscape architect on urban projects primarily in the UK, my employer was offered an opportunity to design our first international resort and I jumped at the opportunity to be in the project team. As my hunger to be part of that world grew, I noticed that most project consultants that we worked with on hotels, such as architects and interior designers, were specialists within the industry, whereas must landscape architects turned their hand to all sectors. That niche presented an opportunity. Now, 14 years into Scape, we are still the only landscape architectural studio in Europe which specialises in luxury international hospitality. I also noticed that some designers are quite fearful of making the leap into working globally – but I actually find it easier. Being successful on an international scale is all about managing risk and not getting ahead of yourself.
Tell me briefly about three of your key projects at the moment
The newly opened Mandarin Oriental Resort in Bodrum, Turkey, is one of the most luxurious destinations on the continent – and the brand’s first resort in Europe. Much of the outdoor construction has been sunk into the existing olive tree covered hillside, with the hotel at its summit and additional guest facilities dotting the slope towards the coastline and its beautiful beaches. The layout of the landscape design provides guests with a “journey” through a series of outdoor rooms.
We are also currently designing the landscape for a very large urban 900 key business hotel in White City, Azerbaijan – an entirely new city being created on Baku’s historic oil port. The hotel is quite significant as it is one of the first buildings to be constructed within the new masterplanned community. Our concept for the ground-level landscape is multifaceted, as it provides alfresco dining terraces for 3 different restaurant experiences and gardens for guests to relax within, each housing outdoor sculptures that can be viewed from various areas of the site.
In addition, Scape has this summer completed a renovation of The Caramel Resort, a boutique upscale property in Crete, which is owned by one of our longstanding clients, Grecotel. Our concept for the landscape has a fresh, contemporary spirit that celebrates outdoor living. Using the local aesthetic of cool white render, a new pool deck balances organic curves with classic, clean-lined proportions to create distinct and social spaces that accommodate daybeds, cabanas, wide, submerged pool ledges for lounging in the water and a spa pool screened with beautiful laser-cut decorative panels. Our design retained as much existing vegetation as possible, incorporating nearly all the existing trees so that from day one the site created a lush impact for guests.
What do you think makes a successful hotel/resort landscape?
Blurring the boundaries between the outdoors and the inside creates a seamless connection and flow enabling guests to experience the resort as a holistic experience. Some of the techniques for doing this are the orientation of views to frame the most picturesque aspects of the terrain, using a continuous flow of materials from indoors to exterior terraces, and the use outside of plush, residentially styled seating, fabrics, tables and lighting.
The atmosphere needs to engage guests’ curiosity, touching their senses to inspire lingering memories. We provide the framework for this to happen by using landscape features that give them a clear mental map for instinctively navigating a hotel’s or resort’s layout. This ease instils confidence so that intentional “surprises” in the masterplan, for example a secluded courtyard, can intensify the emotions of memory-making discoveries and create powerful images in a guest’s mind.
Of course sustainability is an essential factor when designing a hotel or resort’s landscape. We look for opportunities to ensure a project can be as environmentally responsible as possible. The specification of indigenous plants is often key since the depletion of water resources is one of the world’s biggest problems. Shading and solar consideration is very important, as well as the use of local materials.
Do you think that guests are demanding more of the outside spaces around their hotels? What are the trends?
The push to entice guests to a hotel has become more and more competitive, with each operator looking to offer a greater array of guest experiences. Hence, increasingly, exterior spaces are becoming as high-spec as those indoors. The range on offer can be overwhelming depending on the size of outdoor space available, from city hotel roof top bars and restaurant terraces with spectacular views to resort pool decks and lush gardens, each providing guests with a wealth of outdoor opportunities. It is certainly clear that in the shoulder and warmer months, guests more often than not would prefer to sit outside whilst dinning or drinking and hence operators are now providing a high quality of furnishings, finishes and accessories used outside. And it is clear guests don’t want to stay at a place with spectacular interiors and then be let down by outdoor areas that come across as an afterthought rather than a priority.
What is your vision for Above & Beyond at Sleep this year?
The Above and Beyond installation will offer an opportunity to show how a suitably sized “outdoor” area can be used for an array of entertainment possibilities. By having an area dedicated to landscape design we hope to stimulate debate and inspire more developers and designers to become excited about the issues and opportunities on offer. If we can encourage architects and designers to champion the benefits of collaboration with landscape architects during the early phases of the design process, we can improve the quality of hotels and resorts, by providing exciting outdoor spaces which will become part of the marketing opportunities for each development.
What do developers, operators, building architects, and other members of the project team most need to understand about landscape design?
At the end of the day, a successful landscape design needs to provide a commercially positive facet to the hotel offering. In most cases, by thinking outside of the box, a well-designed outdoor space can provide a genuine revenue generating experience for the operator. In order to best achieve this, the landscape designer should be appointed early in the design process so real outdoor opportunities can be designed into the site planning of the development. Equally, it’s vital to conserve enough of the project’s budget to the end so that the key outdoor spaces can achieve a mature finished appearance. Of course collaboration is the key to this. Having a productive exchange between a building’s architect and the landscape architect is so valuable – both sides end-up with a more fully integrated design and a better result for the client. This also applies to working with the Interior designer, particularly around F+B offerings where seamless design approaches are vital to the success of the overall aesthetic.
Take a look at the Above & Beyond page for more info…
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