From Icon to Concept to Innovation A Lobby Intervention

του Michael D. Saarty*

σααρτυSimply put, the hotel market is getting stronger, an expanding global economy, flourishing tourism, rising disposable income, intra-regional growth, and with design expectations and tastes expanding via hot commodities like Apple iPod’s and evocative halo concept cars coming out of German, Japanese and Detroit’s worldwide design studio’s, “homage” is the movement of the day for achieving flagship and iconographic brand status.

Even though Motel 6 has been a household word for nearly 40 years with nearly 1000 stores across North America, its basic price value equation is the industry model for an efficient frugal operation that delivers a room product that is as basic as breathing. It is nearly unmatched industry wide. The “We’ll leave the light on for you” tag line is well known and the guiding light for weary travelers hunched over their steering wheels looking for a trusted American Icon.

A simple concept and a simple notion can be most difficult to execute. Commerce and culture often are not harmonious in the world of design leaving only space for haute projects that project a critical importance on society, norms and business. In the landscape of design there is a propensity to only consider advanced practitioners engaged in big projects, big budgets, and big ideas that are abound with enormity from scale to contexture. At Motel 6 frugal is the operative word.

We often forget that there truly is potential at every avenue and turn as we engage the world around us with our minds and spirit, with the people and places across our vast landscape of cities and towns, throughout our human modern made infrastructure – we often forget the latent. Embracing new perspectives is fundamentally important and recognizing that our guests are looking carefully at considering our future as paying observers, within broader economic, social and demographic trends shaping our world.

The economy lodging sector has homogeneous and prosaic attributes that can be described as tendentious and utilitarian. To hasten a new discus of design and make a new aberration within the interstitial norms is complex and polydactyl, creating new forces outside our hexahedron world. New outward motions can reinvent the same places on their own terms without abandoning the attributes of good design. A micro-transformation with macro-impact if you will of the meaning and purpose of these enhanced spaces.

This is a semicolon type of mantra for making new gestures in a constrained context using strategic planning and graphic elements in the most unique ways. Defining the outcome first and gently layering the constraints in a receding manner make the virtues of restraint happen in a casual and powerful manner very self evident, acuminating the brand message to every guest passing through a lobby.

These lobby interventions are an intricately composed vignette of luminous materials & technology, the materials catch and reflect overhead light and add drama to the composition. This lobby intervention develops the idea of figural masses within the space, formally resonating with the functional boundaries of the space itself and focusing these concentrated elements toward the interior, it is designed as intricate layers of materials and shapes that help define the program – the line of the mural projects into the space as a thickened wall or poche, while an intervening volume [TV portal] creates a horizontal datum that cuts back against the form between the two mediating elements – the materials are finished with the same stainless steel laminates, a kind of mesh that unifies the pieces and folds around external edges.

The composition is a pleasant aesthetic, layered with the tension of a minor axis created by the juxtaposition and contrast of opposites – Dark & Light, Old & New, Hard & Soft, Refined & Raw, Vertical & Horizontal. Good design requires combinations that forge counterpoints, starting with the basic background material then adding gestures that are surprising and curious to create an edge, favoring the theatrical and unexpected.

By contrasting them in balance using proportioning systems and playing off the strategy of positives & negatives, line, planar shapes, mass and continuity, a visual harmonious tectonic form helps define a space, its sifting boundaries and demarcation of territories within a compact area that serves multiple commercial functions – from brand identity to coffee service and everything in between – a polyvalent solution created.

What counts is the intangible shape created by the relationship of points, creating a complimentary richness and harmony [an asymmetrical form always adjusts according to the viewpoint of the observer] which in turn is pacified by the intangible balance of the extended side of the axis of balance. This atmosphere of physical and visual balance can be strongly felt by using this method of intangible means and content to achieve a strongly felt architectonic form that is honest, unique, and has life quality. These are all essential aspects in the observer’s subconscious imagination, psychological experience and mental reservoir.

The intervention performs the different functions [brochures, graphics, TV, coffee] needed into a cluster of carefully placed inventions, there is no pretense of chaos or fragmentation, these are very simple volumes, carefully placed and calibrated, with the main purpose of this formal arrangement to heighten the possibility of interaction among the guests through a layering of subtleties.

In this sense, it transforms the social space and elevates the unconscious and under-explored to a contemporary form, revealing an unusual dexterity.

The concept of differentiation is most fully developed and expressed in this formal composition, engaging a broad range of compositional strategies to elevate it from prosaic to interesting, as an element of elegant invention. It is meant to stop you for a moment and be aware of where you are, to admire its originality and remember this small moment in life with the brand. An architectural language of materials, composition and details – a unique craft based design.

The objective was to design something that the observer could say is inventive and unique to the brand, a kind of formal Jujitsu, to create an atmosphere of flexible growth in the room that could be strongly felt because it is the growth of size in the room which is vital to making space.

To press forward by reinforcing old and new, by balancing timeliness and timelessness. Simple solutions to a tough constraint, a vexing paradigm at nearly every entry point of every property. Lobby space can be a scarce commodity and utilizing every available square inch creatively and combining all the functions satisfactorily to overcome the space problem is a challenge.

Simple interventions can immediately lead to a new approach, creating a layout and interior elements that provide contrast and harmony and communicate a powerful message about a legendary brand, simply put, a strength, in this case hindsight and foresight can be 20/20.
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(*) Michael D. Saarty: Architect, Director of Architectural Services, Motel 6 Accor North America

(Ιανουάριος 2008)