People who have a good sense of taste in food appear to be becoming increasingly interested in architecture that makes sense.
Restaurants have a certain duality in terms of functionality. They must be able to strike a unique balance between privacy and social amenity. Dining, which was previously associated with home life, has seen a significant shift into the public realm due to the ever-increasing dynamics of work life.
This simply means that contemporary restaurant spaces and buildings have had to respond to the modern-day impetus to provide unique retreats from hectic city life for longer hours and for a significantly greater variety of occasions.
Boqueria Chicago – Winner in Interior Design Restaurant – Casual by studio Razavi architecture
Growth presents an interesting challenge for architects once a design has contributed to defining a brand. How does one maintain a brand’s established identity and familiarity while avoiding copying and pasting previous designs into a new location?
In Chicago, Boqueria is located in the West Loop, in the gentrifying Fulton-Randolf District, a former industrial and meatpacking neighborhood. The majority of new and old buildings have kept their industrial look, with large open floor plates and columns. Because the proportions of these spaces are predominantly horizontal, we chose to layer the information so that the overall design clearly understands how it is organized.
Wood and black tiles are the most common materials because they are reminiscent of the original Boqueria and because of the feelings they evoke. One develops a lovely patina over time, while the other provides a sense of permanence and security throughout the space.
All of the light fixtures were custom-designed to create a variety of lighting atmospheres while also serving as a reminder of Boqueria’s eclecticism.
Bondi Green– Winner in Interior Design Cocktail Bar by Run For The Hills
Bondi Green, a new all-day bar, restaurant, and alfresco café/bakery beside the peaceful waters of the Grand Union Canal in West London, needed a colorful but still pared-back, industrial-luxe design scheme. To let your imagination run wild with a Miami-inspired palette in an unadulterated celebration of tone and texture, experimenting with pattern clash and wow factor specialist surface finishes.
Creating zones and nooks in such a large, light-filled space with super high ceilings was one of our design challenges. The design of the venue’s massive hero bar, which had to include not one but two cocktail stations, a dedicated tank beer zone, a wine tasting section, a working, live bakery, and a dedicated pizza oven, was also a major scale challenge.
The end result is a design that puts colorful glamour front and center, with massive art and dramatic arches lit in an atmospheric way. Extrovert botanical and animal print fabrics make furniture pop. Planting and highly textured metallic specialist wall finishes help to divide the large space, which sparkles day and night with a perfectly placed ‘opening’ in the bar’s center, straight down the pizza oven’s barrel.
The Soviet building is transformed into an Instagrammable restaurant by YODEZEEN. The Follower restaurant, one of Kyiv’s newest hospitality establishments, is envisioned as an eclectic, eccentric, and modern hangout for millennials who are obsessed with social media but never forget the benefits of social interaction.
YODEZEEN was tasked with two important tasks as designers: maximum preservation of the building’s historical past while also creating a restaurant space where visitors’ offline and online presence is strongly intertwined, a space that leaves no opportunity not to post it on social media.
Business owners increasingly recognize the impact of social media on their businesses in the current Internet era. So, in a commercial project like Follower, where we were trying to meet the needs of local businesses and create a space that perfectly suits generation Y, the design-for-Insta strategy is becoming increasingly important. The ultimate goal, of course, was to create a more appealing environment for customers», says Lead Architect Artem Zverev.
The food hall design evolved from the building’s rich history as the Citizen Publishing Company (1929), and it fosters an eclectic dining and entertainment atmosphere. The design team began developing the building’s design and designing tenant stalls in 2018, guiding the space into its next life.
The design concept incorporated existing Art Deco and Beaux-Arts architectural elements, elevating their level of craftsmanship and beauty. While working with all tenants to ensure the quality, craftsmanship, and honesty of materials created an inviting atmosphere, the design team continued these nuanced motifs. To complement a variety of cuisines, wood grains, marbled stone, and hand-crafted tiles were carefully chosen.
The project required highly specialized knowledge to navigate the city requirements and preserve its historical discourse within the local context. The team successfully navigated the complexities of a historic, unreinforced masonry building and the necessary permits required to operate a food hall that occupied two municipalities within Los Angeles County, all while maintaining the design integrity.
Shellfish dishes are the main menu at this Spanish restaurant. It is on the second floor of a newly constructed commercial building in Shibuya, Japan.
The Shellfish inspired the restaurant’s design identity. We translated this image into materials, patterns, and forms based on this inspiration. What’s more, by enhancing the Catalun’s details? We have created an extraordinary atmosphere, so-called the trinity of Shellfish, Spain, and Sea in Spain, thanks to a culture that is deeply connected to the sea.
No two shellfish are alike here, as evidenced by the keyword Shellfish, and by focusing on how they appear when accumulated, we have also designed from the visual appearance side as well as from the perspective of what it would be like to be a shellfish. Our ceiling design is a good example. We tried to capture the calming atmosphere by using lustrous tiles, patterns, and mirrors to depict the wavering water surface and light refraction seen when looking up from the ocean floor where the shellfish live. We used mosaic mirrors and sea anemones that resembled lightings to complement the scenery outside the restaurant.
It’s impossible to ignore the growing popularity of condominium living. These residences offer all of the benefits of a free-standing home while requiring far less maintenance, security, privacy, and luxurious amenities. It’s no surprise that their popularity has reached new heights.
These architectural designs have presented innovative and inspiring ways to improve occupant experience in a communal setting without compromising the built environment’s architectural beauty.
135 Jardins – Winner in Architectural Design Condominium by Reka Arquitetura
The 135 Jardins was designed with the goal of creating an iconic residential, commercial, and hospitality space that would stand out among the many other buildings in the area.
It was designed as a prism, with the apartment tower interconnecting with the base and retail area, in order to set it apart from competitors in the market. The housing units were designed in such a way that users can have complete freedom in designing their internal spaces, with a wide range of layouts and fully integrated living areas.
The project is located in Balneário Cambori, a city with massive urban infrastructure, dense population, and tourism as its main source of revenue. It has an excellent hotel chain, a diverse gastronomic structure and is conveniently located near some of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.
The project aims to be an extension of the city’s already-established gastronomic structure, with stores available for lease to restaurants and bars. The project was designed with natural materials in order to create warm, inviting, and hospitable environments, with the conceptual characteristic of living in a five-star hotel.
Amber Skye – Winner in Architectural Design Condominium by Mercurio Design Lab S.r.l.
Nestled close to the seashore, Amber Skye, a 22-storey, three-tower multi-residential development on the East Coast of Singapore, is masterfully crafted to resemble the infinite waves of the sea. The structure features a unique aesthetic facade with its balconies forming a wave-like pattern, complementing the oceanside atmosphere.
To minimise the sense of uniformity and emphasise individuality, there is a diversity of apartment types from the villa units on the lower floors to the apartments to the penthouses at the top of the property. Each unit is provided with private facilities – lift lobby, carpark, large garden, and a swimming pool. Moreover, each penthouse has a sky terrace sporting a private pool and overlooking Singapore’s downtown skyline, one of the best sights in the country.
The common amenities which include a large curvaceous swimming pool, gym, playgrounds, the aqua lounge and lush landscaping, take its cue from the wavy boundary wall to reflect the idea of a tropical seaside resort.
With a city and sea view and a design resonating the sea waves, Amber Skye offers residential owners a feel of being sheltered in an oasis within the urban chaos.
The Mill is a high-end luxury residence with all of the features of a fine custom home. It combines the historic candle-wick Mill’s architecture with modern industrial features to create a one-of-a-kind residential complex in Westport, Connecticut. Residents will feel as if they are living in a 5-star hotel, with a gracious porte-cochere entrance, a doorman, and extensive public seating areas.
Beary High– Winner in Interior Design Condominium by SCA X KOD
This penthouse house belongs to a young couple who are Bearbrick toy collectors. As a result, the design story began with a platoon of space bears arriving on Earth and settling on top of a Tembusu tree in a vast rainforest.
The irregularly-shaped floor plan is carved in such a way that the entire space appears to be defined by the few families of volumetric forms that were injected, taking advantage of the penthouse’s high ceiling and using the Injecting Architecture methodology. The volume visually extends to the other side of the home, encasing the TV wall cabinet system in the Family area, thanks to the aluminum-clad spaceship bearbrick display cabinet. The three-light wells lightboxes that protrude into the living space through the curved ceiling are part of this family.
The client desired a one-of-a-kind penthouse on the 34th floor, filled with art and life. The goal was to combine comfortable interiors with expansive views. Handmade Bubble Lights greet you as you walk in, creating a cloud-like effect in the living room. With hidden drawers and pop-up appliances, the kitchen to your right is attractive and clean. When you enter the master bedroom, you’ll notice two separate sitting areas, one for comfort and the other for taking in the view. Every room has carefully curated artwork, including a one-of-a-kind painting by Thomas Schools in the dining room.
When it comes to architecture, visual design engages, exhilarates, and inspires. It has an almost indescribable quality that embodies design ingenuity, a sense of place, and, most importantly, imagination.
Our six inspiring properties, however, aren’t just meant to be admired from afar. It’s not just about creating an icon; it’s also about creating a space where the audience can immerse themselves in the experience.
Ettan – Winner in Architectural Design Restaurant– Brasserie by Schoos Design, Inc.
The goal was to create an upscale restaurant that was also comfortable enough for people to visit several times a month. Our goal was to evoke the senses through color, texture, and pattern while remaining true to Indian culture’s deep-rooted heritage. The colors and textures of indigo allude to how the original textiles were dyed and processed generations ago. The combination of these elements and more refined details results in a space that is both sophisticated and welcoming.
A dramatic blue entryway serves as a transition from the downtown pedestrian alley to the vintage-inspired interiors. Random patterned blue and white tiles surround a hand-carved wood door painted a deep indigo blue on all sides (including the floor). An eclectic collection of light fixtures, ranging from brass Indian drops to crystal chandeliers, illuminates the path ahead.
Lost highways, express romance, a coast-to-coast road trip in a Mustang, and an endless number of cinematographic sequences shot in motels and diners across the United States These are the inspirations for Concept Hotel Group’s new hotel, Romeo’s Motel & Diner. In summer 2020, the Group’s sixth hotel, which has revolutionized Ibizan accommodation, will open its doors.
The hotel’s interior design, once again by the Ilmiodesign studio, transports us to the classic landscapes of American road movies from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, with a nod to the era’s iconic love motels, and finished with the stylish design details that have become Concept Hotel Group’s hallmarks.
DWP finished the renovation of the Lobby & Public Areas, F&B, including the first W All Specialty Dining, GARAGE, and the WET Deck to deliver this second W Hotel developed by DWP in the Middle East and the biggest W Hotel in the world to life.
The refurbishment of W Abu Dhabi is in response to its surroundings. The W Insider concept is brought to life through a curated design approach based on research and creative interpretation.
As the team investigated the historical, physical, and social context of the UAE capital, it became clear that it is a place of fascinating juxtapositions and contrasts. As a vibrant, modern city rich in ancient cultural traditions, it defies preconceived notions and skepticism.
On the basis of these findings, a multi-layered concept centered on the theme of Mirage was created. The diverse elements that make up Abu Dhabi today were drawn upon for inspiration, ranging from centuries-old Bedouin customs and the country’s natural attributes to the city’s modern face and the wealth it is known for. As a result of the renovation, the hotel now has a strong sense of place that celebrates Abu Dhabi and provides a truly unforgettable W experience.
Hotel Devi Ratn – Winner in Architectural Design Hotel – Boutique by Designers Group
Devi Ratn tells the story of Jaipur, India’s heritage-rich city while fusing it with an extraterrestrial design vision, with the scenic Aravalli Hills as a backdrop.
The entire hotel, which spans 20 acres, exemplifies bold, big, and captivating with subtle regional nuances. The project had to have its own identity and design language because it was part of Taj Hotels’ new line of boutique spaces called SeleQtion by IHCL. The hotel’s central theme is Ratn (Jewel).
This can be seen in the gleaming ceiling design and lighting elements, the vibrant hues with a composition of vibrant décor items, furniture configurations, and customized soft furnishings that depict Rajasthani culture.
The Mughal architecture-inspired landscaping adds to the space’s regal feel. The all-day dining restaurant Vyom, which is part of the boutique hotel, is a hidden gem that offers seating arrangements with clear views of the Aravalli hills. The team decided to keep the structure’s authenticity by not interfering with the civil work, resulting in a harmonious blend of heritage architecture and intricate interiors.
Torno Subito – Winner in Interior Design Restaurant – Fine Dining by Bishop Design By Paul Bishop
Torno Subito is a visual tribute to Massimo Bottura, the world’s number one chef and 3-star Michelin holder. The chef is known for his passion, creativity, and eccentric sense of style with this venture. He saw a unique opportunity to recreate his childhood memories through intelligent design and innovative food.
The interiors were supposed to bring fantasy to life by reflecting Massimo’s fondness for the past in a seductive way. The film was to play a major role throughout, with Fellini films serving as inspiration. The goal of the venue was to combine design, food, and influences from the golden era into a seamless offering.
Massimo wanted his restaurant to have a nostalgic feel to it, reflecting his innovative approach to food. His tradition in evolution sentiments enticed the design direction to take the best of the past and carry it forward into the future.
The Laurichhof was designed to be a hotel as diverse as its guests, inspiring as a showroom, and cozy as a particularly lovely home away from home. The design hotel’s interior is like a lookbook, showcasing not only rooms but also entire stories. The 27 different suites’ high-quality furnishings and designer furniture are expertly stage-managed to surprise and inspire guests, transporting them into fully functional fantasy lands.
From the taps to the sockets, the rooms have been meticulously designed. What stands out the most is that guests immediately notice the positive impact of the atmosphere created, with an improvement in their personal well-being as they go about their daily routines.
All of these features are complemented by a concept that makes the hotel unique in the world: hotel guests can take home not just individual pieces of furniture, but entire ensembles or rooms, after thoroughly appreciating and trying out the furnishings during their stay. Interior designers complete the concept by advising them on planning and optimizing a room’s functional and emotional assets.
In order to understand our country’s history, historic structures must be preserved. It is also an environmentally friendly practice. Historic preservation is essentially a repurposing of existing structures. By incorporating good ventilation, long-lasting materials, and spatial relationships, existing structures can often be made more energy-efficient.
The following are the LIV winners in Interior Design Historic and Heritage for their architectural visions that have elevated the context of restoring historic properties to new heights.
Architectural treasures should be restored rather than destroyed. When Hamburg’s historic tax office was converted into Germany’s first Fraser Suites, selected design details were preserved, highlighting the protected 1910 landmark’s past: 100-year-old Art Deco floor tiles were a pleasant surprise, while restored 1950s corridor pendant lights allude to the previous extensive renovation. The former legal building’s imposing, awe-inspiring architecture is softened by playful floral and geometric patterns, while it takes inspiration from the Roaring Twenties adds inviting elegance.
Designers were able to reimagine the four-story hotel, adding 13 rooms and 19 suites while maintaining the historic structure’s integrity.
The design evokes a gracious, opulent setting that is intimate in scale. A black-and-white awning and black trim contrast with a contemporary white stucco finish highlighting classic architecture, in addition to basic structural repairs and preservation. Designers also updated the historic structure, such as hiding cables behind the original scalloped balcony railings and adding a simple glass addition to the top.
The project uses layers of textures, patterns, and a museum-quality art collection pop against a palette of soft, warm, and cool neutrals in the interiors, evoking traditional Palm Beach elegance. Historical details, such as an original fireplace that was restored, relocated, and reinstalled to maintain the building’s center axis, were also preserved and incorporated into the design. Built in the 1920s and designated a landmark in 1980, the White Elephant Palm Beach asserts a fresh interpretation of Mediterranean revival architecture.
The historic property’s restoration pays homage to the hotel’s history by restoring its original name, Hotel Paso del Norte.
The redesign, inspired by the existing structure’s striking, historic architecture, emphasizes local materials to create a rich traditional ambiance with burnished metals such as brass and copper, leather, and rough wood to balance it out.
Visitors arrive at the reception area, which is highlighted by the stained-glass dome and ornate plaster details surrounding it. A ballroom, a pool lounge, a full-service spa, and a gym are all part of the 10th-floor rooftop’s restoration. The bar adjacent to the rooftop terrace has been expanded to include views of the Franklin Mountains, Rio Grande, and Mexican border.
The historic building, which was completed in 1912, was originally a 10-story hotel with 195 rooms, but when a 17-story building was built adjacent to the existing hotel in 1986, the room count was increased to 356.
One of North America’s largest castles, Casa Loma, was once Canada’s largest residence, measuring over 64,000 square feet. The castle, which was built in 1914 by financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt (1859-1939), has become one of Toronto’s most imposing symbols of the city’s illustrious past. BlueBlood Steakhouse is found inside Toronto’s majestic castle, Casa Loma, which offers a refined dining experience in an upscale setting.
With a juxtaposition of the classic heritage architecture, unique heirloom antiques, and modern art pieces by Warhol, Mr. Brainwash, and Salvador Dali, this one-of-a-kind space offers a modern and edgy feel. The menu features various cuts of the finest beef from around the world, fresh seafood, and extensive international spirits, giving it a modern twist on the classic steakhouse.
Diners at Don Alfonso Casa Loma will be surrounded by the award-winning Casa Loma Gardens team’s creations, including an incredible floral exhibition that will serve as the room’s backdrop.
Nadia Di Donato, LEG’s VP and creative director, is the brains behind this one-of-a-kind space. She was instrumental in developing unique design approaches for each of the Liberty Group properties. She’s established the company’s facilities as the most creatively themed venues in Toronto and Miami, and was recently shortlisted for restaurant design by design et al and its prestigious 2020 International Hotel and Property Awards for Don Alfonso 1890 and its other Casa Loma restaurants.
Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto has won a slew of national and international awards and accolades since its inception, including Gambero Rosso’s ‘Best New Restaurant in the World’ and Tre Forchette (3 Forks), La Liste’s Best Italian Restaurant in Canada, and in the Top Ten of Restaurants in Canada, Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants, the DiRoNA – Distinguished Restaurants of North America, and OpenTable’s Top 100 Restaurants in Canada.
LIV Hospitality Design Awards recognize the excellence in Hospitality Architecture, Interior Design enhancing exceptional Guest Experiences globally. The yearly catalog showcases The LIV Awards winners in Architecture and Interior Design categories as well as the interviews of the professionals and students’ grand prize winners.
You can view and download the PDF version freely below or buy it on your favorite Amazon online store.
Nicholas J Hickson is a British furniture, lighting, and interior designer for more than 34 years. He has worked with high-end interior residential and commercial projects for international clients and developers in exclusive areas of London and worldwide. In 2005, together with his wife Manuela Mannino, Nicholas opened the THDP Studio focusing on hospitality.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a designer and creator and studio founder of THDP a London & Milan based interior design studio founded with my partner Italian Manuela Mannino in 2005.
I have been a British furniture and interior designer for more than 34 years, working with high-end interior residential and commercial projects for international clients and developers in exclusive areas of London and worldwide.
Having studied design for three years I found myself at 20 working in a studio dealing in Italian furniture. The company was the first importer of B&B Italia, Cassina, De Sede in the UK and had a real ’60s vibe, loaning furniture for the Bond films. I learnt more about design there than I did three years studying – it’s also where I became hooked on Italian design.
Detail is the design for me, so sometimes I start an interior design project with a small furniture detail and build upon that. I think having studied furniture design and construction can really help you understand the language inherent in the design, and with that language, you are more able to describe what you mean.
Where are you from?
I am from Kent, England my family is from London and Oxford, I love history and can trace my family back through 11 generations to 1560 – so I’m really quite English…
Was it a childhood dream to become an Interior Designer?
Not so much a dream but something that my mind always did through conscious reasoning, what is called designing. I knew from a very young age, perhaps 8 that I had an ability to find answers to questions and problems intuitively – often without understanding the reasoning but simply by thinking ‘instinctively’ – this process is still fundamental to how I approach design work now. Trusting yourself and especially your team and relying on your and their
team experience really does lead to better solutions and what I call happy accidents.
Hilton Frankfurt City Centre
Photo by Beppe Raso
Why have you chosen to work in this field?
I knew at 13 years old that I wanted to be a furniture designer, so I really didn’t have much choice in the matter as it were – having studied for three years I joined a company importing and selling some of Italy’s finest modern furniture – there I learnt about all the classic Italian designers and suppliers.
In 2005, you founded “THDP” your Architecture & Interior Design practice, when did you decide it was time to start your own company?
It only took me another 25 years with the infinite support of my Italian wife and partner to take a leap and start our own studio focusing on hospitality. In some ways it was a happy accident, and somewhat of a life change, moving to the Italian Alps for 18 months to start our first project together. Then we were hooked. Founding a studio with my wife creates a really interesting dynamic, being from two different cultures sometimes leads to the odd misunderstanding, but more often than not gives us real advantages that can improve our approach and our work with our clients.
If you have to choose only one project you have been involved in, which one’s would it be and why?
Our first project is probably our most memorable, it was for the 2006 Olympics in Turin, so a long time ago – but it was really somewhere to design and learn so much. The scale and speed of the project was really an opportunity for us to find new solutions, one was to work directly with suppliers and contractors relying on the infinite talents of Italian manufacturers was the key to getting the project finished on time – now this process is part of the ‘lean’ thinking process. Since then we have gone on to design over 30 hotels internationally but I still remember the lessons from our very first.
Terme di Saturnia Natural Destination
Photo by Giorgio Baroni
What can you tell us about your ongoing projects?
Despite the downturn in projects due to COVID over the last 18 months, we decided to invest in new talents, new team members and new processes. We now are a lean highly skilled and professional team ready to take on new luxury projects. We have focused too on our communication and regularly feature in the International magazines and awards. Receiving this kind of recognition is not just good for us but also for our team, a true recognition of their talents.
We have just been appointed on a number of projects, in Venice, Milan, Barcelona and London both large and small. From converting a small Masseria (a fortified farmhouse) in Puglia into a 5-star luxury hotel to a large Spa project.
A recent re-opening is the Terme di Saturnia Natural Destination which is a world-class spa resort in Tuscany, here we designed the refurbishment of the guest rooms, suites and public areas. Tuscany is probably one of my personal favourite locations so it was a simple joy driving through the Tuscan hills to the meetings in an Alfa Romeo Cabriolet, what could be better!
Which Interior Design most influences your work or your work habits?
Not just one but all designers and architects fascinate me. Since starting my career in the mid 80’s I have seen a natural evolution not just of style but of approach. For me, the key is to be flexible and adaptable and to learn something new every day – not to lock yourself into one way of thinking or one particular style. I love very minimal interiors but also maximalist… very classic, very rustic and super modern alike. My personal style sits in the centre of it all – and I think pulling elements from each is what I would call the THDP way of thinking. For hotel interiors, very often it’s a process of finding a narrative for the hotel and its location, expressing the local culture in an experiential way, and having fun. For that reason, I love working with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences and love working with them in beautiful locations.
I am so pleased this career choose me and to be enjoying its journey with my wife and partner.
RG Naxos, Sicily
Photo by Giorgio Baroni
David Kepron is the founder of NXTLVL Experience Design, Retail (r)Evolution, LLC and he is a former VP of Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. In his role as a strategy and experience design consultant, Kepron brings years of retail and hospitality expertise to the making of meaningful customer connections at brand experience places around the globe. David is also an international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, and emerging technology.
Do you mind sharing your professional story? How did you start working in Design and brand experience?
I guess the best way to describe my professional trajectory would be to draw an analogy between the main character in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in that I followed omens put on my path. I’ve always believed that putting yourself in the way of serendipity and being open to the possibility that, should she smile upon you leading you to different worlds of opportunity, you should simply say ‘yes’ and follow a new route to a place of wonder.
From an early age I’ve always been energized with creativity and making things. I never actually planned to end up in the world of architecture and so it was a bit of a circuitous route. Prior to architecture, I studied psychology and biology mainly because my grades weren’t strong enough to get me into architecture school. I nevertheless persisted and took electives in architecture and when, upon leaving home to register for my last year of psychology, the architecture school at McGill University called saying there was a ‘no show’ at registration and wanted to know if I would I be interested in changing majors I naturally said… yes.
Throughout architecture school, my main love was design, drawing and painting. Why doing my courses, I continued to work as a freelance illustrator and teacher at local colleges in Montreal. Later on, while running the interior design program at College in INTERDEC at LaSalle College in Montreal, I had a fateful lunch with a friend who was offered an opportunity to go to Singapore to run the visual merchandising program at LaSalle International Fashion School. She had turned it down. I immediately said that I would love to go and two weeks later I was on a plane flying halfway around the world to a place that I had never been, to run a program that I actually had very little background knowledge or experience in, but I had the teaching experience and design knowledge and I was enthusiastic about the adventure.
A year later I returned to New York and gave myself two weeks to find a job in a design firm that focused on retail. Everything I loved doing came together in the world of retail design: Architecture, design, lighting, theater, advertising, marketing, industrial design, fashion, etc. I was hooked. I immersed myself in the retail design world for the better part of 20 years creating store concepts for international brands around the world, teaching visual merchandising and store design at various universities in New York and Philadelphia, publishing a book called “Retail (R)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape The Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” in late 1994 and finding myself on various industry boards to learn from others who I admired and to continue to instigate dialogue about the world of design and customer experience.
While on a speaking tour from my book in 2016, I was invited to give a keynote presentation at a conference that was held at a Marriott hotel in Washington DC. After giving my presentation I listened to another given by the former SVP of Global Design Strategies at Marriott, Karim Khalifa, that captured my imagination about the possibilities of taking my architecture and retail design experience and crossing a boundary into the hospitality industry.
Another serendipitous moment while passing the business development director of the Global Design group at Marriott in the elevator lobby after my speech, led to a discussion and me stepping aside from the retail path into the world of hotel design. Similar to my experience with ending up in Singapore, I was now leaping into an area of the unknown that presented fabulous challenges and an opportunity to continue to apply my passions, experience and skillsets to a different industry.
It was a very exciting time at Marriott International because shortly after my arrival, we acquired Starwood and 11 new brands. While I started working in the lifestyle select-service brands, I shifted to “Premium Distinctive” lifestyle brands including Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels. There was considerable work to do to more clearly defined these brands that up until that point had been competing against each other but now we’re within the same family. We did a lot of work on recrafting design strategies and working with our international teams as well as rethinking the Westin guest room experience and a completely new approach two hospitality public space. I decided in 2020 to step away from my role at Marriott to pursue other interests and then the pandemic befell all of us.
Another moment of serendipity, within the context of upheaval, left me deeply thinking through my career trajectory, where my passions really had the opportunity to thrive and what new path potentially lay ahead. I have focused the past 18 months on developing a consulting business that crosses between retail, hospitality and brand experience-making in general, creating a new podcast called the next NXTLVL Experience Design, writing book #2, and developing a commission-based art business, while at the same time continuing to consider opportunities that might best align with where my new thinking about what I really wanted to do could be fully leveraged.
For over 4 years, you have been the Vice-President, Global Design strategies at Marriott International; what were your responsibilities?
As a VP-Global Design Strategies at Marriott International, my main responsibility was the creation of the strategic design direction for the brands in Marriott’s Distinctive Premium segment including: Westin, Le Meridien, Renaissance, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord Hotels.
In that capacity, me and my team would provide future vision for brand development in customer experience through architecture, interior design and brand activations on properties. In addition, I would coordinate with interior design teams and owners and design consultants to bring the design vision to life. This would include all aspects of design strategy with the intention of aligning with the established brand ideology, bringing to life key brand principles in properties globally.
A key component of this was to create Design Foundation documents and coordinate their understanding with all Global Design Continent groups as well as external design teams, owners and developers to ensure appropriate design solutions to new build, renovations and hotel conversions.
You have now founded the company called “NXTLVL Experience Design”, can you please share with us the core activities and services provided by your firm?
My new consultancy brings together more than 25 years in traditional architecture, interior design, retail design and hospitality design to work with companies creating relevant, empathically focused, brand experience places that foster community and lasting relationships between brands and customers.
NXTLVL takes its decidedly future-forward view integrating a deep understanding of emerging technologies, the neuroscience of guest experience and a fascination with social anthropology into the design of purpose-driven and meaningful places.
(Design with purpose and meaning will be table stakes for an emerging traveling cohort. They will want the residual emotion of an experience to have supported a regenerative mindset and the knowing that they have done good, for themselves as well as the ecology.
All design is about change. Innovative design is about transformation. It reimagines not just how something looks but how it works, how it changes the process of doing something. In the best case, it results in better human outcomes. It deepens connections making lives better. At its core, great design is in the service of empathic extension. It’s a ‘what’s in it for the other guy’ mentality.)
What are you working on at the moment, and do you have any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re able to tell us about?
Projects at the moment are quite varied. They include working with a mattress manufacturer to bring a new product to the hospitality market, working with a conglomerate of international architecture design firms, digital media companies and data visualization artists to rethink urban public places, a number of art commissions, the writing of my second book and my podcast NXTLVL Experience Design that focuses on “dialogues on DATA: Design, Architecture, Technology and the Arts.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, public speaking engagements are beginning to come back and I will be venturing out a number of times over the next few months to do keynote speeches at conferences. Along this particular vector, I am collaborating on the development and implementation of a series of workshops and seminars with various industries that focus on “The Upside of Upheaval: Navigating Indefinite Uncertainty, Harnessing Impossibility, Calculating Unpredictability and Reorienting Resilience.” This is deeply needed now as we all recalibrate in the context of a continuing pandemic.
David Kepron- RETAIL (r)EVOLUTION – Book cover
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career/industry now?
OK…Here’s the ‘manifesto’…
Change is inevitable. Transformation is not.
This past year has been one of profound transformation; if you accepted the challenge to look into what we’re really the motivational underpinnings to your life and career trajectories. I have come to understand that a change to a growth/flexibility mindset and developing a compulsive curiosity is required to transform. To face the fear and do it anyway or, ‘to see with new eyes’ as Marcel Proust had said.
Embodied communities collapsed and re-emerged in virtual space. Brand engagement paradigms shifted and the exponential pace of change seemed to accelerate. Behaviors that had cycled in the eddies of our swiftly rushing lives moved directly into the mainstream.
The COVID pandemic has offered up opportunities amidst the isolation to embrace change, evaluate what matters most and make the courageous leap to transforming.
This is not about shape-shifting to accommodate new circumstances but a deeper, realignment of core meaning and sense of purpose. A re-evaluation of self, our context in a larger whole and how this moment provides a window into ‘what’s next’, a new view through Alice’s looking glass.
The community took on new meaning when we could no longer feel safe to act upon our biological imperative of being connected in social groups. Virtual space has only been a proxy for what we truly live for – physically-mediated empathic relationships and group belonging that provide purpose, meaning and context to our lives. In the absence of these embodied interactions, a longing has grown to get back to being in places where ‘our people’ collaborate in the sharing of experiences and ideas.
Expectations about brand engagements have metamorphosed, not just because of an emerging guests immersion in a digitally mediated marketplace, but also because of a renewed need to connect, to find community again, to make, dance around the fire, share stories and find commonality despite the complexity of our global culture.
Travel and hospitality experiences have been given a new message about what drives engagement in a ‘post pandemic’ marketplace. If we will travel at all, we will look for an enhanced purpose in design. This will not just be about efficiency and health safety but that the design of places provides an opportunity for deep engagement in the community, allows for meaning in the meetings, and supports a need to find purpose in the personal commitment to go out and go far.
Design with purpose and meaning will be table stakes for an emerging traveling cohort. They will want the residual emotion of an experience to have supported a regenerative mindset and the knowing that they have done good, for themselves as well as the ecology.
All design is about change. Innovative design is about transformation. It reimagines not just how something looks but how it works, how it changes the process of doing something. In the best case, it results in better human outcomes. It deepens connections making lives better. At its core, great design is in the service of empathic extension. It’s a ‘what’s in it for the other guy’ mentality.
In a post-pandemic world, experiences infused with art and culture will lead to a share of a wallet. In a post-pandemic world, we will have to understand the ‘art’ of gathering in a whole new way. Making is inherently who we are. It is what separates us from the other creatures on the planet.
The process of ‘ontological design’ is crucial to understand a post-pandemic travel economy. Collaborating in experience making, where customers have a role in making meaningful engagements, necessarily embeds deeper memories and enhances the likelihood of long-term relationships. A sense of agency leads to a felt sense of customer empowerment. The extent to which we co-opt the experience with guests is connected to their sense of authentic relationship with the brand and their desire to keep coming back.
A relationship with a hotel brand is about more than a good ADR or a ‘heavenly bed.’ It’s more than a great dinner or a ‘selfie moment.’ Given that we have all been sequestered at home over the past year, the idea of ‘home’ will figure prominently in the making of hospitality places for a post-pandemic traveling public.
I suspect that companies like AirBnB, Sonder, Vrbo and HomeAway will only continue to grow in market share since they represent a sense of the familiarity of home while also being unique location-to-location. Brands like Design Hotels, Selina, Regenerative Travel and Six Senses will also see growth because they tap into the idea that proactively doing good for the planet, and finding unique locations to do it in, makes people feel good about their commitment to go there.
Can you share your experience as a Jury Member of the LIV Design Awards? Any designs, properties that have caught your eyes?
What was great about being a jury member for the LIV Design Awards was exposure to the enormous creativity brought to bear on design solutions for hospitality around the world.
It always fascinates me how, with the same problem, there are so many potential unique solutions. Each of them addressing programmatic requirements, operational constraints and embedded brand ideologies, yet somehow, under the skillful watch of creative designers, these things come to light in magical ways. It was very inspiring.
Do you mind sharing what are your passions outside of the design world?
At my core, I believe I’m an artist, a maker of places and things and someone who believes deeply in the necessity for meaningful empathic relationships. This has led me to be fascinated with interpersonal neurobiology – what on a brain level makes us tick within the context of relationships. I see virtually everything through this filter of relationships and context.
I am fascinated with subjects that have to do with social anthropology – how we got here. I have recently read books like “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari, “A Brief History of Creation” by Bill Mesler and James Cleaves II, “At the Edge of Uncertainty” by Michael Brooks.
I love following the trajectory of immersive digital experience and technology. This area is fundamental to our understanding of how an emerging cohort of experience seekers will come to expect how brand engagements unfold whether they are retail stores or hotels or anyplace else where brands and brains connect. Science and discovery are large aspects of my search for understanding myself and the world around me. Transformative tech also fascinates me and I have enjoyed reading of people like Ray Kurzweil and others who postulate the potential outcomes of a digitally enabled world and artificial intelligence. This may be because of watching Star Trek with my father and brothers years ago.
I love art (and music) and follow a plethora of artists on Instagram who I tap into every day for creative inspiration.
I am a long-time competitive athlete who for years did triathlons, skiing, baseball, and football in college and now I love road riding through the rolling hills of Maryland.
And most importantly my family – my two sons and my wife of 37 years – who every day act as mirrors and mentors inviting me into deeper authentic relationships, challenge my preconceptions and support my decision to not just stand at the edge of uncertainly but to take the step forward into discovery.
At 16 years old, Helene Huang realized the magic of design and started to see it as a new language. Since she decided to study Architecture at the ArtCenter College of Design in California interested in the Environmental Design Department. Helene won the Emerging Interior Designer of the Year in Eating space prize at the First Edition of the LIV Hospitality Design Awards.
Could you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from?
Hi, I am Helene Huang, a human-centered spatial experience designer. I am from Foshan, Canton, China. I have interned in Penda Architecture and HBAarchitecture. Recently, I just gained my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Design with distinction from ArtCenter College of Design.
I have been studied abroad in France, the United States, and Japan. Growing up in a multi-cultural environment, I see design as a language to create meaningful connections. So, if design is a language, empathy would be the grammar — to create a bridge of understanding, honesty, and empowerment.
How did you discover your passion for Design and decided to study at Artcenter College of Design?
I started to realize the magic of design at the age of 16 when I exchanged to France. However, from all the cultural and language barriers, I felt disconnected. What grounded me back is going to the theaters. Actors perform and sing with no language, but everyone understands totally.
Therefore, I see design as a new language – a visual language that breaks physical and social boundaries and creates meaningful connections for people with different cultures, generations, and points of view. This is how I discovered my passion for design.
I decided to study at ArtCenter College of Design because of their high reputation of “professionalism” and the spatial approach of their Environmental Design Department – to fuse elements of architecture, interior design and furniture design to focus on the total spatial experience.
What kind of questions do you ask before beginning designing “ Dim. Boutique Restaurant for Dim-sum? What piece of information is of utmost value?
I started to choose the food served in the restaurant – that is, dim-sum. I asked myself: How might we bring the essence of authentic dim sum experience from Cantonese culture?
The answer for me is the freshness of the rainy atmosphere from Canton, various delicious dim-sum windows as a feast for the eyes, and the unexpected dim sum cart coming to your table.
Since my goal is to create new social connections under the pandemic, I also asked: how might we elevate the intimacy for a group of customers while maintaining social distance for different groups of people?
Then, I asked: How might we introduce and explain various dim-sums in an elegant way to Los Angeles foodies who have little knowledge of dim-sum? How might we reinvent the experience of dim-sum cart?
My approach is to create a hologram dim-sum hallway as an exhibition and a menu wall. I also recreated the floor pattern as if clouds and fogs in traditional Chinese ink painting and use the copper inlay pattern as the trail for floating dim-sum boats.
I value the unique experience and sequence the most. I aim to provide a staged dining experience that can be revealed layer by layer. Foodies will be welcomed by the rainy facade, which introduced them to the humid Cantonese atmosphere. While foodies can learn about various dim-sum on the dim-sum wall, projected bamboo grows as they order. When the day is finished, a bamboo forest will be created by all the customers of the day.
Dim. Boutique Restaurant for Dim-sum
What do you see as the strengths of your winning project and what does this award mean to you personally?
I think my strengths would be creating an innovative immersive sitting experience and renovating a cultural dining experience in a poetic way. When foodies sit down at the sunken booths, they are surrounded by copper inlay patterns of the floor, as if surrounded by clouds. Lowering their eye levels and using low floor lights and candles on the tables creates a new dining experience and brings intimacy to a group of customers.
This award means a lot to me because I have a dream of hospitality design. I use design as a tool to create honest connections to my audience and I have spent days and nights creating the innovated, elevated and poetic dim-sum experience with Dim. Boutique Restaurant. LIV Design Award gives me strong confidence to further chase my dream in hospitality design and create new experiences!
Dim. Boutique Restaurant for Dim-sum
How do you think your own culture and environment have shaped your personal and professional creative vision?
I think my own culture, Cantonese culture is the ultimate reason to inspire me to create a boutique restaurant for dim-dum. Waiting for a dim-sum cart with hundreds of bamboo steamers to come to the table is one of my best childhood memory!
The pragmatic and down-to-earth quality of Cantonese culture has deeply inspired me to be an honest and non-pretentious designer. Growing up with two mother languages, both Cantonese and Mandarin shaped my interest in languages and inspired me to study new languages like English, French, and Japanese. Also, overcoming all the cultural and language barriers taught me the power of empathy — it will always be my lens to approach a new challenge and my ultimate design goal.
With his love of natural and rustic materials, Yongquan Yang found the inspiration to design ‘An Introduction of the Unique Bamboo Lodge’ from the natural beauty of the city of Yibin and its neighboring bamboo forest. Winning the 2020 Interior Design of the Year – Living Space award, Yongquan shares with us his passion for design.
Could you tell us a little about your professional journey?
This year is my 11th year in the design industry. I feel like I’m just getting started and have developed my own design ideas. I love natural and rustic materials and I am fond of architectural design, cherishing things, and learning from nature as a design concept. In my opinion, a house is a world!
I think design is creation; every design is a creation, and every design is a world. My design philosophy is natural, rustic, and environmentally friendly; I try not to destroy but respect nature, which is why I like natural materials. I still hold to a belief of one thought, one space, one world.
How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design?
I have enjoyed painting since I was a child and I studied art throughout high school. When the time came to choose a subject for University, I thought for a long time and finally chose to study design. This is my ideal career.
What led you to build a lodge with bamboo as the main material?
Yibin is one of the earliest and oldest cities on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and was called “Bo, “Rongzhou” and “Xuzhou”, which is well-known as “Southwest Half Wall Ancient Rong State”.
The first time I arrived in Yibin I was drawn to the bamboo covering the hills and I was even more impressed when I visited the magnificent verdant momentum of the famous bamboo forest in southern Sichuan. From this point in time, I developed the idea of building a world of bamboo in “Southwest Half Wall Ancient Rong State”. A world where I could make a pot of tea over bamboo charcoal, appreciating each of the ten virtues of tea, while listening to the arrival of the wind and admiring the beauty of the bamboo waves, rising and falling. I believed this would be wonderful!
An Introduction of the Unique Bamboo Lodge
What was most important for you when planning this project? What were the biggest challenges you and your team faced?
“Source” is the root of all things and the root source of No.10 Bamboo Lodge is, unsurprisingly, bamboo. I spent a year investigating the bamboo industry, both in China and also in some foreign bamboo industries. I discovered and researched other buildings made of raw bamboo, at home and abroad, and learned no one had made a whole space with bamboo as the sole decorative material. Therefore, I accepted the challenge: to create a world made solely of bamboo and sought out breakthrough applications for the material, hoping to encourage further use: with its strength, ability to swiftly regenerate, and environmentally-friendly applications.
Throughout the design and construction processes, the hardest problems to solve were the issues of mildew, corrosion prevention, and insect growth on bamboo; it took two years to study and solve these problems.
Where do you get your motivation and inspiration for your work?
Following a career in design is perfect for me; it has always been my favorite discipline, and having the opportunity to persistently work in design makes me very happy, while also providing a great sense of achievement. My inspiration comes from my adherence to traditional Chinese culture and my understanding of interior space. For interior design, I have the drive to solve the problems of function and space, rather than simply decorate.
An Introduction of the Unique Bamboo Lodge
What are you working on now? What is in the pipeline for you?
I am still engaged in design, which makes my life more meaningful. I hope that through my design work, I can continue to contribute to this industry and create solutions for clients, making people happy.
Lastly, what would be your best advice to young talented interior designers?
Design is creation and each creation is unique. As designers, we must consider environmental protection and nature, ensuring we are ecologically friendly, avoiding destroying nature at all costs. What interior design needs is to solve the problems of function and space, not simply decoration.
The program is one of the most highly anticipated acknowledgments in the Hospitality Architectural and Interior Design industry.
LIV Hospitality Design Awards is open to architects and interior designers around the world who have created incredible projects in Hospitality. The LIV Awards program is an inclusive platform, pursuing exceptional projects within the living and eating spaces, from co-living, boutique hotels to beach resorts, from fine dining restaurants, lounges to pop-up bars.
Winning the LIV Hospitality Design Awards is an exciting opportunity for both established and new talented designers, architects, owners, operators, and students.
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