‘The changing face of hotel design’ was the theme of a seminar hosted by Architecture Today and SIG Design & Technology at the Building Centre in London

In association with


Seminar Participants

Philippa Goldstein
Hotel analyst, Knight Frank
Navneet Bali
Chairman, Meininger Hotels
Ben Davis
Director, Saxbury
Ross Finnie
Sales director, SIG Design & Technology
Jennifer de Vere-Hopkins
Associate director, Jestico + Whiles
Dexter Moren
Partner, Dexter Moren Associates

Hotels are changing rapidly. Just as other building types, such as offices and residential developments, strive to learn from the hospitality industry, so hotels are blurring the lines and becoming much more than just places to stay. There is far more interaction with the local community than before, with hotels striving to provide independent restaurants and cafes, as well as lobbies that can double as locations for working.


Bedroom at Lamington Group’s room2 Southampton aparthotel (ph: James Newton)

Saving the high street
Perhaps few would go as far as Dexter Moren, founder of the eponymous architecture and interior design practice, who said, “The high street is dying – the hotel is the salvation of the high street.” Moren’s argument was that the hotel, as a place that is open 24 hours a day, can absorb many of the retail and refreshment roles of the high street, and provide animation. Whether you accept this argument in its entirety or not, it does make the hotel an exciting source of ideas and work opportunities.


Dining room at Lamington Group’s room2 Southampton aparthotel (ph: James Newton)

The rise of budget and lifestyle hotels
Philippa Goldstein, hotel analyst with Knight Frank, explained how the fastest growing areas have been in budget hotels and ‘lifestyle’ hotels, which fit in the four-star category. So, while Travelodge and Premier Inn dominate the market, the lifestyle category, which roughly speaking can be seen as a development of the boutique idea, is highly significant – and, for designers, far more interesting, since every hotel is different.

In 2000 there were fewer than 700 rooms in lifestyle hotels in the UK, whereas by 2021 there are expected to be 26,000. Goldstein talked about features such as all-day dining, and said that millennials, who are interested in experience, are a target audience.


Games room at The Ampersand Hotel in London, designed by Dexter Moren Associates (ph: Amy Murrell)

Creating ‘Instagrammable’ moments
Jennifer de Vere-Hopkins, an associate director at Jestico & Whiles, showed how important Instagram was in the success of the hotels that her team designs. Creating ‘Instagrammable’ moments is, she said, an essential part of making a hotel successful.

“Hotels don’t necessarily have to be loved by all”, she said, citing the W Hotel in St James, Edinburgh – a drum in the form of a winding ribbon. “They love that it is a Marmite design.” There is, she continued, a lot of crossover between residential design and hotels. A lobby serves a similar purpose in all kinds of buildings. “We all want to be welcome”, she said.


Music bedroom at The Ampersand Hotel in London, designed by Dexter Moren Associates (ph: Amy Murrell)

Having shown a range of exciting designs, de Vere-Hopkins then issued a warning. “There is a danger that if everything is shouting loudly, if every brand is lifestyle, people may become confused. We have to have a clear message that is easy to understand, and easy to engage with. If you try to be everything to everybody, you may end up being nothing to no-one.”


Drawing room at The Ampersand Hotel in London, designed by Dexter Moren Associates (ph: Amy Murrell)

Democratising the hotel experience
Meininger Hotels, which originated in Germany but are now spreading worldwide, do not run this risk. Chairman Navneet Bali explained the niche that the company fulfils as a cross between a hotel and a hostel, sharing the best elements of both. Booking can be either by room or bed, as in a hostel, and there are communal cooking facilities. But all rooms have en-suite bathrooms and there are high standards of design and safety.

Crucially, the organisation works with local designers. As all booking is online, there is no need for a street presence and the hotels can be housed within larger buildings. But access to transport hubs is essential, as these travellers will not have private cars.

Bali believes that this model is resilient as it is at the lower end of the market, catering to school groups and independent travellers, as well as to couples and business people. In hard times, people will trade downmarket.


A copper roof from SIG Design & Technology articulates the Cedar Suite at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire (ph: Galliford Try)

Adapting to changing requirements
Another area where there is considerable growth is in aparthotels – a hybrid between a hotel and an apartment. Ben Davis, director of Saxbury, a real-estate company that specialises in the field of serviced apartments, says that brands have been quick to respond to changes in the requirements for hospitality. These include a move away from signature restaurants and formal check-ins to multi-functional spaces and frictionless check-in, and to having facilities, such as a kitchen and even an en-suite laundry.

The market for aparthotels has been helped by initiatives, such as Airbnb, which give people the facilities of home. For Davis, the aparthotel brands provide greater security and reliability. They are also, he said, experimenting with design that makes it possible to divide a single space into a number of areas, giving an impression that there is more room than there actually is.


Forecast tables by Knight Frank and STR for serviced apartments by city (2019) and new bedroom supply by grade (2017-2019)

Getting the basics right
There is clearly plenty of scope for imagination in hotel design, but Ross Finnie, sales director of flat-roof specialist SIG Design & Technology, brought the audience down to earth. “There is no point in a wonderfully designed space if the roof leaks”, he said. The field is complex, he explained, and there is no one magical best flat roofing product.

The company, which describes itself as ‘product agnostic’, has produced a checklist that architects can use to determine which material would be most suitable. They ask about everything from the structure (you don’t for instance want mechanical fixings to solid concrete) to the guarantees required, and how visible the roof will be. As Finnie said, the flat roof is unlikely to win architectural prizes, but getting it right plays an important part in designing a successful hotel.

More Information
A live blog of the seminar is available here. To download the flat roof design checklist click here.