Passionate about Hospitality Design, Shannon Suess Led the Team at MG2, the Architect of Record for The Fairmont Olympic – Grand Restoration.

July 15, 2022

International architecture and design firm MG2 was the Architect of Record for The Fairmont Olympic – Grand Restoration “LIV Awards Architectural Design of the Year,” and Shannon Suess was in charge of preserving the historic elements of the property while integrating new interior design concepts. Principal at MG2 in the Seattle office, we sit with Shannon to discuss her design journey and upcoming projects.

Could you tell us a little about your professional journey?

I began my 30+-year professional journey at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. My university program offered a diverse curriculum that included industrial, product, furniture, graphic, interiors, and architectural design. I learned the importance of understanding and integrating these specialties.

My first job was with The Jerde Partnership in Venice Beach, California, where I worked on international projects. That experience sparked my interest in the “authentic place” in design. For more than 10 years I designed hotels and resorts worldwide with WATG in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2016 I joined the Seattle office of MG2 to grow the firm’s Hospitality and Interior Design studio.

How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in Architecture and Design?

I took a weekend course in environmental design, which was offered by a local college to high school students. This was where I learned to fuse my skills in art and drafting. We were exposed to furniture design, space planning, and graphic arts. The class sparked a love of design and introduced me to architecture and interiors.

What was most important for you when planning this project?

As the Architect of Record, we focused most on preserving the historic elements, while integrating new interior design concepts.

What were the biggest challenges you and your team faced on this project?

The historic renovation of a landmark building is always exhilarating, but never without its challenges. No matter what you think you know about the structure, it will always surprise you.

At the Fairmont Olympic, one of those surprises was the terrazzo we discovered under the carpeting of the main staircase and landings. No one knew the hotel’s original terrazzo floors, which had been hand laid by artisans in 1924, still existed. Replacement carpeting had already been ordered, but the unearthed floors were too beautiful to cover up. With the help of a specialist, the flooring was refreshed. The hotel’s terrazzo staircase is as beautiful today as it was almost 100 years ago.

Where do you get your motivation and inspiration for your work?

I get inspiration from meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures—and all the other things that accompany travel. My love of hospitality design is a natural outcome. I’m a life-long learner and believe experiences shape your thinking. The more opportunities I have to travel and see the world, the more inspired I am. And the more I am able to move people’s hearts and minds through design.

What are you working on now? What is in the pipeline for you?

We are currently working on renovations to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Hotel in Hawaii. We also have several projects in the pipeline—additional hospitality renovation work as well as new ground-up hotels.

Last, what would be your best advice to young talented Designers and Architects?

Don’t be afraid of failure. Learn to be in uncomfortable situations and lean into them. You’ll never know how successful you might be unless you try—and then try again. Good design comes from the exploration of ideas. Look at every project (no matter how large or small) as a way to enhance your skillset. Attack every single one of your projects with determination and an inquisitive mind.

More information on the Fairmont Olympic – Grand Restoration / Photo Credit: The Fairmont Olympic