MILAN – St-W stages a new industry event, which was launched at Milan Design Week 2017. Entitled MINDS, it serves as a platform for top creatives and industry leaders to share ideas on the latest trends and current issues in interior design.
The first instalment took place on three consecutive evenings in Room Mate Giulia hotel, a stone’s throw from the city’s impressive Duomo. Designed by local hero Patricia Urquiola, the hotel formed the perfect backdrop for a series of lectures and discussions on hospitality.
Central to the event was the changing role of the contemporary hotel. In the late ’90s and early ’00s, ‘design’ was the key to setting hotels apart. Once design became a commodity, hotels sought other ways to seduce visitors. More than offering gastronomy-as-entertainment and impeccable customer service, hospitality venues know that becoming locally relevant is the way to appeal to global travellers. After all, nobody wants to stay in a soulless, flavourless hotel chain. No longer just tourist bubbles, hotels are opening up, their communal spaces becoming hubs for locals and guests to intermingle.
And yet another strategy has recently appeared: hospitality venues are increasingly catering to professionals, offering everything from meeting spaces to private workstations. There’s now an increasing need for adaptable, flexible spaces. At the same time, the growing concern for physical and mental wellbeing in work life is also on the hospitality agenda. Fitness spaces and spas are reclaiming their importance, while healthy menus and even personal dietitians cater to a wellness-conscious crowd.
So what shapes the future of hospitality? And what’s the role of design? On the evening of 4 April, Sushir Kadidal, design director at Yabu Pushelberg, kicked off with an impressive array of projects and visions. The New-York-based firm’s global portfolio of high-octane projects for the likes of Four Seasons and Edition instigated a discussion about the importance of meaningful visual connotations. Kadidal guided guests through the studio’s process of getting to the root of a client’s visual story by prompting them with certain imagery. He also highlighted the increasing importance of art in hospitality spaces.
Daan Lucas, founder of Random Studio, called out for responsive space – something that’s lacking in today’s hospitality venues. What if a hotel room could interact with you, adding new layers to a spatial experience? He talked of losing the one-size-fits-all approach in favour of spaces that adapt to each user.
Daan Lucas on the first night
MVRDV’s Fokke Moerel looked back before looking forward, revisiting the firm’s Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam. Revolutionary at the time, it staged a series of creative interventions – more art installations than standard hotel rooms – and challenged the system by covering one to five stars under a single roof. Moerel also discussed the potential of hospitality to parasitically invade everything – even a parking garage in the city.
The second night Foscarini president Carlo Urbinati explained the crucial role of lighting in any space, but especially in today’s hospitality interiors. Not only can light create an ambience, an atmosphere, he said, but even more importantly, it can give today’s global travellers a sense of place.
Lyndon Neri, co-founder of Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, captivated the audience with a provocative lecture that promoted reflective nostalgia. Half preaching, half rapping, Neri made clear that unlike restorative nostalgia – which seeks to reinstate the past – reflective nostalgia celebrates emotions related to yesteryear without literally wanting to return to it. His speech sparked much discussion, aimed at discovering when Neri’s advocated approach in fact results in kitsch.
The room settled down again when Sabine Marcelis entered the stage. The young Dutch designer, invited by St-W to design a lobby installation at Room Mate Giulia, works magic with materials like marble, resin and neon light. One could label her approach ‘expression by material’. Which made it even more remarkable that she could imagine a hotel devoid of stuff, giving visitors free reign to create their own experience.
From left: Robert Thiemann, Carlo Urbinati, Lyndon Neri and Sabine Marcelis on the second night
Bearing a strong Spanish accent, Jesus Llinares introduced the final MINDS night. The Andreu World CEO sees an increasing tendency of hospitality and work spaces blending into each other, involving different furniture requirements. He unfolded his strategy to create product families – from armchair to bar stool – instead of singular products to give interior designers both flexibility and consistency in their choice of furniture.
German designer Peter Ippolito pondered the role of social media in architecture and design. With a portfolio spanning the globe and ranging from retail to work and hospitality venues, the cofounder of Ippolito Fleitz Group is the father of many an eye-catching interior. Without judging the phenomenon, he pointed out that he’s in fact in the business of supplying a spectacular backdrop for people looking for self-reassurance: those who don’t experience, but only make selfies in front of memorable places.
Natali Canas del Pozo, one of the founders of El Equipo Creativo, revealed the strategies behind the studio’s successful restaurants for the Adrià brothers and other gastronomic temples in Barcelona. The Spanish designers take their creative cues from one main protagonist, whether it be the food, the locality or a historical element. The entire design concept is based on that respective ingredient, making it possible to reinvent their language time and time again.
A guest appearance by the director of Room Mate Giulia, Luca Stragliotto, served as a reality check for designers and manufacturers alike. Pointing out that the average lifespan of a hotel interior is seven years, he raised questions about sustainability. What’s more, he revealed that visitors base their hotel choice on three characteristics with equal importance: location, service and design.
From left: Peter Ippolito, Jesus Ilinares, Luca Stragliotto and Natali Canas del Pozo on third night
And because what would hospitality be without a dining element, Jasper Udink ten Cate provided MINDS guests with an edible food tableau each evening.
Food tableau by the Creative Chef, Jasper Udink ten Cate
The events marked the beginning of a lively discussion between the stakeholders of any interior project – client, designer and manufacturer – and put the importance of design into perspective. We couldn’t have hoped for a better start to MINDS.