May 22, 2020

In the hospitality sector, it’s not about lux levels and uniformity. This 12-stop tour shows how designers create drama

By Kyllene Jones

The world of commercial lodging has evolved during the past several decades. Originally, as the U.S. Interstate Highway System expanded, so did the need for lodging. The hotel industry had to keep up with the changing demand. Now, the hotel design industry must evolve with everchanging technology. Hotels must seamlessly incorporate technology—such as advanced lighting systems—into their design.

Motels established themselves as a convenient place for travelers to stop and stay. They provided a simple experience—a clean room and, if a traveler was lucky, an enhancement of a pool or café. As travel for pleasure increased, travelers wanted an experience that was beyond the basics. Hotels emerged, offering expanded guest experiences. Lobbies, restaurants and simple meeting rooms were common. Then, gyms, spas, conference centers, bars and lounges were added. In the U.S. and abroad, travelers’ expectations rose. Hotels responded with themed designs, culinary experiences, and greater and greater amenities, including enhanced lighting. Lighting that creates an experience—a lighting experience that changes depending on the hotel space, but remains cohesive.

Unlike any time in the past, lighting and controls can and should be a key design factor in shaping the hotel guest’s experience.

Lighting is often thought of as a commodity—a way to provide adequate illumination in order to see and function properly in a space. Hospitality operators disagree. For the hospitality industry, lighting must be used to generate drama within a space and create a visual hierarchy. It isn’t about lux levels and uniformity. Uniformity of light levels are critical in the parking lot or a meeting room. But they won’t lure a visitor to various destinations within a hotel. They won’t encourage a guest to stay and socialize in the lounge. Strong lighting design will. Strong lighting designs use contrast, varying light levels and shadows to create visually interesting and relaxing spaces of escape throughout a hotel.

The lighting can set the tone immediately upon a guest’s arrival no matter the reason for the destination—from vacation to exploration to even business. The guest should always be welcomed by the lighting and supported by the lighting throughout. Designers can use lighting to attract guests to the hotel from even distant views, to the front door, to the registration desk, to the dining and spa areas, and down dramatic corridors, ultimately to their guest rooms.

Lighting designers can give hotel guests an entire visual experience that enhances the story of their stay. Here’s a look at some of the techniques used from arrival to departure.

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