What Hospitality Design Architects Do Best

The reference to Hospitality Architecture covers a broad spectrum of business and leisure hotels and resorts as well as theme parks, food and drink outlets, and transportation. As one of the leading Hospitality Architectural and Interior Design firms in Africa, Bentel Associates International’s team of hospitality design architects understands that providing an extraordinary guest experience is key, whilst operational planning is as important in making sure that these areas are adequately serviced. However, a hotel is not designed linearly or solely on the basis of aesthetics and functionality; on the contrary, proper design takes into consideration all aspects of the visitor’s stay, both tangible and emotional. And, of course, it ends with one key goal: to create unique experiences for the traveler.

The hospitality industry yearns for innovation, with each hotel brand and independent operator looking at ways in which to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. Future hospitality design revolves around technology, brand proliferation, up-cycling of materials, and the ‘animation’ of public areas. We have noticed that many hotel brands are shifting away from homogenization and uniformity, towards a more localized approach of a ‘neighborhood’ concept. Brand standards are very much still relevant, whilst the design intervention is bespoke and reflective of the community and location of the hotel. We are also constantly looking at ways to enhance the use of sustainable design techniques and principles, in order to create a more resilient future.

Now faced with the recent global pandemic, hospitality designers are redefining existing projects and beginning new ones, with a focus for the future on social distancing and contact-free systems. That means we can expect to see fundamental changes to hotel meeting spaces, lobbies, guest rooms, and food and beverage options in the near future. In particular, multifunctional and flexible spaces will be incorporated and conference rooms will ideally require a direct connection to the outdoors, and more natural and ecological solutions.

In form and function, hotels are very different from other types of real estate and while even the most experienced hotel Architect or Interior Designer will not fully understand the operational aspects of the property, repeated experience working alongside hotel managers is fundamental to providing an efficient and effective project. A hotel design professional, especially those in the creative phases of concept and interior design, must be able to provide a portfolio of at least ten related hotel projects that match the property segment, type, scale, and geography. Compromise on the professional experience will cause time delays where the operator’s technical team has to explain and educate, or repetitively ask for adjustments and resubmission. The inefficiency of the hotel property in the design process will have a fourfold impact on the investment, due to (i) elevated cost of the build, (ii) increased operating costs during the lifetime of the property, (iii) reduced or lost revenue potential of the hotel operations, and (iv) reduced value of the asset.

Therefore in selecting an Architectural firm for a project, the most important aspect is experience – past experience as well as the brand experience. The firm must be able to demonstrate a reputable portfolio of work. Hospitality design has a multitude of aspects to coordinate during the design process, and the best Architectural firm for the project will be one that understands the process and complexities required to successfully deliver a project from inception to handover, final commissioning, and brand sign-off.  Another aspect is the team structure – the firm must be able to showcase, firstly, that the team of Architects involved is experienced enough. This includes seasoned professionals, but also young Architects with fresh perspectives. No matter where the hotel is being built, it’s important to provide consideration to the prospective Architectural firm and how their various hotel and resort projects integrate with the environment and how the design complements its surroundings. Design process and understanding is an important consideration.

Bentel has the requisite skill set and experience to design well-planned and aesthetically pleasing hotels and resorts, having successfully completed numerous projects in South Africa, as well as across Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, and the Middle-East.

When one considers Bentel’s long history in hospitality design, some of the key projects in South Africa, and across the African continent, include: Montecasino Entertainment complex (Sandton), The Palazzo (Sandton), Hilton Sandton (Sandton), Da Vinci Hotel (Sandton), Michelangelo Towers (Sandton), Johannesburg Marriott Hotel Melrose Arch (Johannesburg), Marriott Executive Apartments Johannesburg Melrose Arch (Johannesburg), Southern Sun OR Tambo (Johannesburg), Radisson Hotel and Convention Centre Johannesburg, OR Tambo (Johannesburg), Stay Easy Pietermaritzburg (Pietermaritzburg), Stay Easy Lusaka (Lusaka, Zambia) and Le Meridien Hotel Accra (Accra, Ghana).

Some frequently asked question about Hospitality Architecture and Design include the following:

  1. How does an Architect start designing a hotel or a resort?
  2. How do Architects design for hospitality with the future in mind?;
  3. Which is the best Architectural firm to appoint?;
  4. Why is context so important when designing a hotel or resort?;
  5. Which is more important – the guest experience or the back-of-house and service areas?;
  6. What makes for a successful hotel or resort project from an Architectural perspective?;
  7. What is the relationship between Architecture and Interior Design in a hospitality project?;

We have been privileged to have been given the opportunity by our numerous hospitality Clients to participate in some exceptional projects, which have been recognized by various award platforms. Awards are not our motivation, rather the recognition that we are positively contributing to the urban environment and designing responsible and well-planned hotels and resorts.

A number of Bentel’s hospitality projects have received recognition over the years, with the awarding of industry awards for excellence in the field of hospitality Architectural and Interior Design. Some of our recent awards include the winning of a 2018 African Property Award for Best Hotel Architecture ‘Un-Built’ in South Africa for the 390-key Marriott Hotel and Marriott Executive Apartments in Johannesburg. The same project received a 2020 Africa Property Award, also for best Hotel Architecture, but this time for ‘Built’ in South Africa.

In a conclusion, it is apparent that it is important for a Client to consider the prior experience and relevant expertise that a firm has when appointing an Architect or Interior Designer for a hospitality project. Simply put, this type of project requires the ‘best firm for the job’, so-to-speak across a number of criteria.  In Africa, hospitality is not a mature asset class, when compared to other countries or regions across the world. This offers a unique opportunity for the variety of local Africa-based professionals to participate in the growth of tourism across the region.

Our extensive portfolio includes retail architecture, residential architecture, commercial architecture and much more.