Integrating Local Craft in Hospitality Design

Architecture, Art, and Food, all form vital parts of the travel and hospitality experience. But more often than not, the experience of a destination only begins beyond the walls of the hotel. Today, with hospitality design reinventing itself to stay relevant to changing times, we have an opportunity to redefine this, integrating stay into the holistic experience of a new city, country or culture.

Hotels require to be designed to global standards and abide closely with planning guidelines. While it is important for hotels to uphold these standards and offer their guests state-of-the-art facilities, I believe that it is now equally important for them to be memorable and distinct spaces that represent the legacy of their location in a contemporary manner.

In an increasingly globalised world, identity and culture are regaining meaning and importance. This gives us the perfect opportunity to create culturally relevant spaces that make an impact in the mind of the user. One way in which this can be achieved is by tapping into the region’s traditional craft.

Local cultures, age-old building traditions and crafts have a lot to offer and can complement contemporary architecture in a variety of ways. Moving away from our desks and exploring these crafts as designers can help us understand their multiple influences and expressions and can inform our designs. We need to stay away from superficial imitation or kitschy referencing to create meaningful design. It also uncovers possibilities for us to collaborate with local artisans and experts, exploring new ways of keeping their work relevant. Modern architecture and interior design can use local craft as a vital source that lends a sense of place to otherwise standard or generic hospitality spaces. It also allows us to reintegrate age-old practices into popular visual sensibilities with these elements being shared, posted and spoken about on social media.

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For example, at our refurbishment of the iconic Soaltee Hotel, Kathmandu, we drew deeply from the vernacular Newari architecture of the region to create a contemporary space that was yet rooted in tradition. Traditional wood-carved motifs were reinterpreted and expressed in bespoke cement tiles that form part of a large feature wall. These gestures were instrumental in creating a distinct expression for the hotel’s interiors that is unique to the region. The scheme works to bring together modern construction with traditional building techniques to create a space that cannot be found anywhere else.

Hospitality design needs to move beyond offering guests facilities. It needs to create for itself a memorable identity, and this can be achieved by integrating itself into the social, historic and built context it inhabits.

Vijay Dahiya, Partner, team3