As part of the leading hospitality design event Sleep, in London, 5 design practices were invited to answer a design brief and create a concept hotel bedroom from a “Wonderland” brief. Laufen were invited by Areen to participate with incredible results. Hotel Designs editor, Daniel Fountain, caught up with Laufen and Areen to discuss the project.
With regard to the Sleep Set ‘Wonderland’ theme - how was the working relationship between designer and manufacturer on such an abstract project?
AL: Excellent; we had detailed discussions and created technical specifications in close cooperation with the Laufen team. We couldn’t have done it without them!
IH: The SLEEP Event provides Laufen with an amazing opportunity to collaborate with a respected partner in a very intense way; as the timelines tend to be much shorter than working on an actual project, the speed, coordination, assignment of job tasks are so much more accelerated. The Areen Team had such a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve and together with bringing in expert support where needed, our respective teams came through conceptual and technical challenges to produce a truly wonderful result. A great example of teamwork.
Did you use this project as a purely creative exercise – showing off some flair and freedom? Or was there an element of real-world application and a thinking of ‘we could do this for real in hotels’?
AL: Absolutely the latter. Our concept of Duality began with our approach that we
didn’t want a literal ‘fairy-tale’ room like stage set. The Sleep Event is attended by designers, architects, hotel operators and develops who are all looking for ideas for real projects, not just fun, themed interiors. Our room, with some minor adjustments, was definitely buildable. Indeed, we received several invitations to explore new relationships with potential clients who were impressed by the practicality of our proposal.
IH: To complement our standard ranges, Laufen is also able to offer our project partners some creative flexibility with our bespoke customisation program. With a combination of technical, architectural and engineering experiences we have a strong product development team who understand materials and form creation. This enables us to take a themed concept and transform it to a real world solution that can be replicated on an industrial and commercial level.
What do Areen look for in a manufacture when deciding on products for a project like the Sleep Set rooms?
AL: Since this was an exercise to explore the possibility of a buildable prototype, we required robust, hospitality-industry approved, realistically-priced yet stylish products. Our whole design concept was centred on this approach. Laufen products fit perfectly into this category.
Away from this theme, and back to the industry as a whole, whatís the dynamic between designers and manufacturers usually like on projects?
AL: Usually good. Industry-specific suppliers like Laufen understand designersí needs and are accustomed to reacting quickly to requests for product information and supporting us with samples and detailed specs.
IH: Laufen likes to go that extra step, to engage on a consultative level and demonstrate the values of being a trusted partner. As mentioned before, the Sleep Set room is a fast track version of how we are able to work with creatives in the real world of projects. Our professional pleasure comes from working in a collaborative way to provide the product solutions which answer the specifiers design brief.
What ís more important for design when it comes to manufacturerís products, aesthetics, brand reputation or reliable functionality?
AL: All three of them? We need all these qualities; commercial requirements are higher than domestic.
IH: I think all three are a given. I believe the key is tied in with the ability to underline trust and consistency of delivering these factors.
How do you see the hospitality industry moving forward in the next two decades?
AL: More consolidation within the large, international operators. Online Travel Agencies and AirBnB type booking options will take some business away from traditional hotels but will also open up new markets. This is already impacting on hotel design as we must make our designs more comfortable, user-friendly ñ with all the facilities one would expect at home ñ as well as reflecting and encouraging interaction with local neighbourhoods. Hostel and Economy hotels will improve their quality.
IH: I see the profile of the modern traveller changing dramatically, with a convergence between budget and high luxury in terms of design expectations. The hostels and economy hotels, as Andrew points out, are using design as a differentiator by using iconic design elements whilst having to maintain their costs. In a way, I see this as a democratisation of design through budget management. We can also see this with the growing number of design awards given for this type of hotel project. To satisfy the demand from these groups we are strongly committed to using our SaphirKeramik material to create fresh and new product solutions, more normally associated with customised products, within a project budget.
Is the role of customised products increasing in hotel design?
AL: Not necessarily; whether light switches, bathrooms or furniture, large quantities will always be required for larger-scale properties. Itís easy to view our industry in terms of established European/ Western markets but donít forget developing markets in Africa and India. Or religious tourism in the Middle East. Such markets have different economic drivers.
IH: I think there is a move towards a particular design theme and language that sometimes needs to go beyond standard offer products. Colour and finishes are also a key consideration. A balance of using standard and customised product solutions can create a unique identity to reflect the image a new hotel is trying to create.
How much of an influence does product development have on design innovations ñ and vice versa?
AL: Products need to evolve continually in order to retain existing market share and
develop new sectors. Top manufacturers like Laufen, gather feedback from Designers on how market requirements are changing.
IH: Depends upon the corporate culture of an organisation. For Laufen it is a natural consequence that innovation is an integral part in any new product development whether that product be functionally innovative or aesthetically innovative.
Favourite project you've worked on? Most challenging project?
AL: A 10,000 key hotel in Makkah where we are helping the existing design team apply their concepts to a real-world situation. The scale is simply astonishing! Westin Palace Madrid; an iconic hotel (something like Claridges in London) which we are renovating to an extremely tight budget, while retaining its established levels of luxury
IH: Difficult to choose but it has been fascinating to see the Mondrian brand develop from the original vision of Ian Schrager. After working on Mondrian London at Sea Containers, now the whole team at Laufen is eagerly awaiting the opening of Mondrian Qatar next year driven with the design direction of Marcel Wanders Creative Interiors, and incorporating a combination of customised and regular products from Laufen.
Most challenging? The Sleep set room! But itís the challenges which make us stronger!
What would be your dream project to work on?
AL: The next one!
H: A project that would bring me into direct contact with Ian Schrager, as you can see I am a great fan.
See more photos from the event: [click here]
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