Making Sense of Poorly Performing Space
The majority of Europe’s luxury hotels are to be found in old buildings, rejoicing in history and an embodiment of national pride. However, their age can also render them wasteful of space, confusing for guests trying to navigate an illogical floorplan and suffering from under-performing F&B areas. These problems may have many roots but one is almost certainly to do with design. Successive architectural interventions to modernise the operation or allow the hotel to expand into adjacent properties over many years are frequently the culprits, and it becomes all too easy to accept under-utilised spaces as the inevitable downside of a charming but unwieldy heritage building.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, I would argue that the most significant contribution a designer can bring to a hotel refurbishment is to challenge the client to be bold and allow the designer to reimagine all the spaces, to open up walls and ceilings and to create new directional pathways to guide guests. Happily, we were encouraged to do just this in our recent redesign of the public areas at NH collection Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky Amsterdam and here’s a selection of what we did:
Guest way finding. Sightlines in the reception lobby were very poor, largely due to a profusion of columns. Some were structural; however we removed those that were not and then introduced a number of new columns in an orderly fashion in between the structural columns, creating an avenue that guides guests through the area. This we reinforced with a flooring design to further define the primary guest routes. The result was that pressure was taken off signage and way finding was made a more organic element.
Redundant space alongside the entrance lobby. We created a partially glazed VIP lounge accessed from the entrance lobby. The previously semi-closed nature of the space had made guests uncomfortable to venturing in, so this was transformed into an inviting privilege for executive guests.
Creating a grand European café . We took the existing café space, relocated the bar, removed a mezzanine level occupied by offices and extended the room further along the building at street level. This achieved a café that could be distinctly zoned into different dining experiences, with generous space and continuous views across one of the city’s main squares. The café is now an all-day dining destination within the tradition of grand European cafés.