The Architect: The Rightful Custodian of I.D. Implementation
As specialist hotel architects, we are sometimes asked by prospective clients if we also provide hotel interior design and when we answer "no", the response is often greeted with initial surprise.
However, our decision not to include interior design in our stable of services was not some sort of oversight on our part; on the contrary, it came out of the wish to work with a diverse variety of interior design firms individually suited to meet the aesthetic aspirations of different owners and operators. Our decision has enabled us to offer clients a carefully selected range of hospitality designers from which they can chose. We will recommend and take contractual and briefing responsibility for these designers, or we will collaborate with the client's preferred designer. In either case, we are independently placed to handle what I believe to be a key determinant in the quality, usefulness and longevity of the hotel interior: building out the design.
The debate still rolls on about the respective roles of architects and interior designers - some of who prefer the title "interior architect" as being more reflective of their contribution to a project. In terms of professional training, the difference is absolutely clear. While some qualified architects elect to work as interior designers and need no further training to become - once experienced - excellent designers, the situation cannot hold true the other way round. I am not intending to denigrate the contribution of interior design. Working over the years on luxury hotel projects around the world, I have been privileged to collaborate with several of the best known and respected interior designers in the field and I appreciate how it is their vision that makes the memories for guests.
However, visions need to be professionally developed so that they can be enjoyed by guests for years to come. It is here that architects have a significant role to play and, in our experience, clients are increasingly recognising this and looking to us to realise the design. Architects may be colour blind but we do have the technical knowledge and the understanding of the building infrastructure to realise the interior design within a hotel. While being sympathetic to the original design intent, we also have the training and mindset to make things work, ensuring that everything which has been designed can be constructed and is fit-for-purpose. Our skills bridge what could otherwise be a disastrous gulf between designer and building contractor, avoiding at best disappointment and, at worst, down-the-line redesign with all the costs and time delays that this incurs.
Hotel developers and owners are understandably concerned by the number of "specialists" that swarm around their projects today. In my opinion, this problem can be significantly alleviated if the lead architect is understood to be the custodian of the interior design concept. This was our experience at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane where the client gave us the responsibility to detail and implement Pierre-Yves Rochon's concept designs and, as a result, now has a hotel interior that has been widely acknowledged as seamless in quality. A beautiful concept, worked through in every detail to last for the next generation.