"Hotels need to be different"

Many architects can design good-looking hotels, but far from all can design well-functioning ones. This is according to Martin Montelin, responsible for the competence area Hotel & Conference at FOJAB.

What is so special about hotels?

- Few places are as intense as hotels, so full of life. Many people are crowded into a small area and most of the guests are replaced almost daily. This places special demands on the architecture," says Martin, pointing to an exciting duality:

- Hotels are both luxurious oases and super-efficient workplaces - at the same time. What should feel like a break from everyday life for guests is just a regular working day for staff. As an architect, it is important to understand both sides.

What is most challenging about designing hotels?

- A lot is about logistics and building smart flows in the parts that the guest does not see. In Scandinavia, where staff costs are high, it is important to be able to build hotels that can be run with a small staff. Rooms should be quick to clean, breakfast and reception should be handled by as few people as possible. There should be separate elevators for guests and linen - there is a whole world behind that you as a guest never notice.

- Conference hotels also need to ensure that regular hotel guests are not disturbed by a group of conference guests entering and leaving the building and suddenly having coffee at the same time. Again, it's about arranging flows so that guests don't disturb each other and making everyone feel welcome.

Is there a blueprint for a good hotel?

- Not really, hotels need to be different. Each hotel should have its niche, its special offer and add value to the specific location it is in. As an architect, we need to be sensitive to the client's needs and the environment so that we can design unique solutions.

- Then, of course, there are trends in everything. Right now, hotels should feel a bit like home; you should step straight into a warm and cozy environment rather than being greeted by a formal reception desk. The reception is moved further into the entrance area and you are greeted by a bar or restaurant instead.

F&B is a concept in the hotel world - what is it?

- It stands for Food & Beverage and has become an increasingly important complement to accommodation and conference activities. For hotels that cannot add more rooms, F&B can be an opportunity for expansion. The development is also linked to a changing view of the hotel's function. Traditionally, the hotel was a closed world reserved for guests, but successful hotels today are those that have opened up and become meeting places that attract both guests and locals to have a drink in the bar.

- This trend of blurring the lines between different types of visitors has reached conference hotels as well. Business travelers have started to make new demands. They want the conference hotels to feel a little more fun, be a little cooler, have a more pleasant atmosphere and offer something extra, such as a spa. So conference hotels will need to broaden their offerings.

How are hotel architects addressing climate challenges?

- Extending the life of existing buildings by giving them a new function - that's real sustainability and the potential for hotels is huge. This is of course my personal opinion, but I think hotels in old buildings are often more charming than new ones. Old buildings require some unexpected solutions that give a special feeling and character.

- Locating a hotel in a post office, police station or old prison can also help the hotel gain a certain profile that makes it stand out from the crowd. But it doesn't have to be a magnificent turn-of-the-century building. We need to take care of the newer stock as well. Obsolete office buildings can work perfectly well as hotels!

- For both economic and climate reasons, it is also important to save space. It is important to manage the large spaces in conference hotels so that several different events can take place in parallel without disturbing each other. For the same reason, we are also seeing a trend away from the large breakfast rooms that are so typical of hotels in Scandinavia. They are only used for a few hours in the morning and are often empty for the rest of the day. I think we will see the same development in Sweden as in the rest of Europe, where breakfast is not automatically included in the price. It will be something you can choose to add yourself, breakfast will be a bit more exclusive, the rush every morning will disappear - and the space can be reduced.