In other words, it’s important to keep things simple and not overwhelm people with massive screens or too many gadgets. “Technology, we all know, can get cumbersome and it can be over our heads at times,” says Giana DiLeonardo, partner at DiLeonardo International, Providence, R.I. “I think discreet and simple technology that’s integrated well into spaces is critical and is one of the trends of today.”
That being said, guests’ expectations of technology offerings within hotels are definitely high because they know they can (or should be able to) connect virtually anywhere.“It’s kind of a classic situation where everybody wants [WiFi] to be at least as good as in their own home, if not better, and often expects more,” explains Brooke Taylor, director of interiors at Oakland, Calif.-based Arcsine. “If you can’t get a good WiFi signal and have really solid connectivity in a hotel experience then you’re going to be frustrated because you’re kind of like, ‘Well, I get a better one at home’.”
As a result, facility managers of hospitality properties are realizing the benefits of making technology improvements, which can sometimes be a challenge in retrofitting scenarios.
“The hardest part is convincing owners that have spent money on projects to make substantive changes to their spaces,” says Architect and Designer Glen Coben, founder of Glen & Co. Architecture, New York City. “I wouldn’t say it’s a barrier to entry, but they’re beginning to understand that they have to invest in technology. They have to invest in certain upgrades because either the brand forces them to do it or the guests will force them to do it.”
The New Lobby: Being Together, Separately
Making connections with others—or not— is a big part of what’s driving the design of public spaces within hospitality facilities. The lobby is becoming a social and technological epicenter, where WiFi, communal tables, charging stations and a variety of seating options are standard, according to SmartBrief. Guests can choose to work semiprivately or take advantage of networking or socializing opportunities if they so choose.
This hybrid, multi-use space is meant to foster a sense of “separate togetherness” that enables a variety of functions depending on travelers’ needs and desires. “Even though [the lobby has] become a more social space, it still has a lot to do with this idea of being alone together,” Taylor explains.
To make these multifaceted environments successful, proper space planning is essential, according to DiLeonardo. “Space planning and use of space is critical in active lobbies with multiple interactions,” she says. “There are intimate seating pockets and communal areas where you can conduct business. There’s also grab-and-go experiences in these lobbies so you have the
opportunity to grab a bite to eat and sneak away and be on your own. It’s really about how you incorporate different functions within the space.”
Those functions can be broken down into a three-part analogy—the living room, the kitchen and the neighborhood hub, according to Jason Dries-Daffner, senior director of architecture, EDG Interior Architecture and Design, San Francisco. “They actually have a residential correlation and it’s not surprising because these are places where people feel comfortable and that are at a human scale,” he says.