Over the past two years, the global hotel and restaurant industry has had to redefine what it means to be resilient. As a return to normalcy remains elusive, with rotating lockdowns always a spectral threat, many hospitality brands are adapting by developing entirely new models. From form to function and beyond, leisure environments are incorporating decadent palettes, recharged amenities and mind-expanding programs to entice patrons and give them a life-affirming experience.
With inspiring FORMS, hybrid FUNCTIONALITY and FULL-SPECTRUM programs, hospitality design is embracing shapes and models that deliver leisure of the most elevated kind.
It’s (still!) too soon to tell what the future holds. But as we anticipate a turnaround from the pandemic — and a cultural shift to rival that of the postwar, post–Spanish Flu era — the latest look in hospitality is already way ahead of us. New hotels and restaurants are pulling from the spirit of Art Deco, with a healthy dose of the Baroque, and the results are downright romantic.
Case Study 1: Ca’ di Dio, Venice, by Patricia Urquiola
The mural is making a comeback. And it’s most vivid in hotels like Yabu Pushelberg’s The Londoner (where New York muralists En Viu have created ceiling and wall paintings that depict the journeys of James Cook and the work of 18th-century portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds) and Patricia Urquiola’s Ca’ di Dio in Venice.
The latter is a five-star property situated in a former ecclesiastical compound that dates from 1272. Deeply reverent of the original building and its hard-hewn materials — from the arrangement of the “cells” (which were once reserved for pilgrims and women in need and now house luxury suites) to the Iranian travertine floors — Urquiola has integrated her own decadent style with a restrained flourish. Most compelling: the custom-made textile ceiling, in the main restaurant, refers to local cuisine.
Case Study 2: Bistró Alameda, Mexico City, by NAAG Arquitectura
The promise of a post-COVID roaring twenties seems to be the main course in other restaurants as well. A prevailing trend is one that hints directly back at the original era: art deco with a twist.
At Bistró Alameda in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, NAAG Arquitectura has imagined “an atmosphere reminiscent of [Pedro] Almodóvar’s films or the nostalgic scenes of Edward Hopper’s paintings.” With lurid, hyper-chroma colours like peach, purple and gold, it features mouldings and opal light fixtures outlined in brass, reframing the past into something altogether fresh.
The best examples demonstrate how designing around a convivial atmosphere can finally make people feel at home (and at work) when they check in.
Case Study: Valo Hotel, Helsinki
For the past couple of years, we’ve seen hotels integrate co-working spaces into their layouts with creativity. Moving away from oppressive conference rooms and, worse, drab computer labs, they are including well-styled and fluid communal areas that merge with the lobby and the life of the rest of the hotel. As people increasingly work remotely and embrace new settings as their temporary office, hotels that invest in this area have more to boast than the typical amenities.
At Valo, in Helsinki, the provision of a vast variety of work environments — from the fully kitted-out rooms and wellness area to the generous atrium with partially screened meeting enclosures, capacious circular desks and stadium-style stepped seating — was the starting point. “Blending an attractive and desirable co-working space and a top-class hotel was central to our concept development process,” says Minna Hurme, the hotel’s head of design.
The brand has even launched a membership program called Valo Work, which she describes as “a vibrant and value-creating business environment among and between companies.” The Helsinki property is the first Valo Hotel & Work in what Hurme says will be an international chain. “We have developed and adopted an accelerated growth strategy which will see new Valo ventures appear in suitable cities in the near future.”
But this is no Nine Perfect Strangers scenario, where hallucinogens are slipped into your morning smoothie. We’re talking informed consent, intense mental health therapy and idyllic surroundings.
Case Study: Dimensions, by DesignAgency
One company pioneering in the area of psychedelic-assisted therapy by way of modern design is Dimensions, which is kicking off its adventure with a 16-hectare setting in the township of Algonquin Highlands, Ontario. There, the company is installing 17 private cabin suites, a dining lodge and spa facilities (a main lodge with an additional 13 rooms is in development). When Dimensions opens later this summer, an ideal stay will last seven days (bookended by extensive off-site therapy) and include a health-focused nutritional menu, relaxing sound baths and activities like yoga and tai chi. The experience culminates with a Plant Ceremony using psychedelics — psilocybin for guests who have obtained an exemption through Health Canada’s Special Access Program, cannabis for others —paired with psychotherapy sessions.
The concept, according to Donald Currie, a registered psychotherapist who serves as clinical director at Algonquin Highlands, is “set and setting,” with “set” referring to mindset and “setting” referring to place. “Everything in the design is intentional,” he says. “It’s modern and forward-thinking but rooted in context.” Within the peaked-roof cabins, which feature expansive windows, the DesignAgency-conceived aesthetic is characterized by a minimal, wood-focused palette, with generous green walls and nods to wabi-sabi — which, Currie explains, is “symbolic of the work we do, which is to take trauma and reframe it.”
And the philosophy extends to the outdoors, where landscape architect Joel Loblaw has designed forest paths that weave around installations of contemporary art. Future sites are planned across North and South America, with applicable laws determining the regimen (“We will only be offering plant medicines that have been approved for legal use in each country and region in which we host retreats,” Currie says). Regardless, this resort model promotes restorative powers. As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” With the use of psychedelics, a new breed of nature-immersed and therapy-focused retreats might let you expand your sense of self too.
From new interior design directions to work-friendly spaces and healing-centred programming, the hospitality sector is soaring to new heights.