Every year, the Radical Innovation Award looks for “big ideas for the guest experience” from established designers and students across the world. Taking place outside the business demands of the travel industry, the Award allows for some truly wild ideas that reinvent everything about the hotel – from making it more eco-friendly (2014’s winner envisioned hotels that could remove air pollution from cities) to overhauling its architecture (a 2015 winner suggested replacing permanent buildings with pop-up vinyl balloons).
Entries from the last couple of years have taken things even further, hosting future travellers in space, on floating pods, and at vertical resorts powered by the sun. We spoke to six recent winners to find out what the Award says about the future of the travel industry, and to see how quickly their ideas could become a reality.
1) Hyper-Adaptability: Garden House by Caspar Schols, 2017 Student Honorable Mention
At first glance, Caspar Schols’ Garden House looks more like a glorified garden shed than a hotel room. However, this might be precisely the point. Originally created for his mother, the building is designed as a cabin for all seasons. Its sliding inner wall means the building can be quickly and easily adapted depending on the weather, becoming everything from an outdoor terrace to a glass-encased living room. Its wood stove and insulated outer shell means less wasted energy. “Where hotels become interesting in this story is their ability to show people, and be experimental with new ways of living”, says Schols. “A hotel can offer a radically different new experience for a few days. People are generally very excited for this because they know they will go back to their old lifestyles afterwards.”
Schols sees this kind of adaptability as the future of all buildings as properties come under greater pressure to respond to their user and environment, rather than remain static. “I see hotels adopting adaptability to save energy and be more economical, but above all, to provide new experiences”, he adds. “Hotels need to seek their added value in experiences that people can’t have at home, or at somebody else’s home. By being adaptable, hotels can provide this over and over again at a relatively small cost.”
2) Insterstellar Stays: Space View Inn by Juan Sebastian Orduz, 2016 Student Winner
“Leaving this planet temporarily for a vacation can be considered the next frontier in terms of hospitality, and the last frontier, if we go further conceptually”, says Juan Sebastian Orduz, whose Space View Inn imagines a more distant future. That said, with Virgin Galactic aiming to fly tourists into space this year, it may not be so far-fetched to start considering how hotels will adapt to this extreme environment.
“A hotel that orbits the earth will not only breaks all precedents in hospitality, but it will also provide knowledge to be used for future human endeavours”, adds the designer. His inn relies on an expanding system, which provides an alternative to current, confined-space structures, and which offers the kind of views intrepid space tourists would make a trip for.
“The people who’re waiting in line to spend a vacation outside this planet can be counted by the millions, so the demand for this market is tremendous”, he says. “All the technology to support space hospitality is currently available, so the lack of commercial entrepreneurship is the only obstacle in the way of the next step in hospitality.”
3) The Next Generation of Nomads: Driftscape by HOK Toronto, 2016 Grand Prize Winner
Nomadic hotels aren’t exactly a new concept, but HOK Toronto took the idea a few steps further, designing a self-sustaining hotel that can roam anywhere its guests choose using drone technology. Driftscape hotels would offer various travelling modules, including a food-focused “Oasis” and a more exploration-driven unit called the “Driftcraft”, which would allow guests to enjoy “untethered excursions”. To top it off, the pods offer 360-degree views and are designed to make as little impact on the environment as possible. “Regardless of generation, guests are seeking out stays that are more immersive in nature”, says the architectural firm, who believe the increased use of drones and other autonomous vehicles means that this kind of idea could be a reality in five years’ time.
“The desire to commune with the surrounding environment and experience the way locals live is paramount for today’s travellers”, they add. “With drones and a floating Driftcraft, fragile ecosystems – or locals located off-road or off-shore – can be visited without causing harm, and without bringing large-scale developments to a setting.”
4) Sky-High Sustainability: Vertical Micro-Climate by Arno Matis Architecture, 2017 Third-Place Finalist
Sustainability has been a buzzword for years, but it’s not just seeping into the way buildings are designed – travellers are also becoming more conscious of the impact they’re having, and how that can be mitigated. Arno Martis’s Vertical Micro-Climate uses new thermal and solar technology, as well as concave towers, to warm and brighten its resort grounds – which means that even though it’s located at the top of a mountain, it’s a comfortable climate all year round. Other eco-friendly additions include natural light apertures that reflect sunlight into suites; a natural geothermal exchange to warm cliff-edge pools; and greenhouse-like pool cabanas.
“Sustainable living has become highly popular in buildings, cars and day-to-day lifestyle”, says the firm. “One aspect of green living we believe has the opportunity for growth is a ‘sustainable consciousness’ when vacationing, particularly in the luxury market. Vertical Micro-Climate looks at how using green technology can enhance – rather than hinder – the guest experience.”
5) Public Goes Private: Nesting by MM Architects Designers & Planners, 2016 Runner-Up
As cities are squeezed for space, and their parks and public areas struggle for funding, MM Architects has designed a concept that kills two birds with one stone: Nesting envisions partnerships between urban parks and hospitality companies, helping support and find revenue for these spaces, while offering modular units that are immersed in the city’s pockets of nature.
“Tomorrow’s hospitality will have to change drastically as clients’ ideas and behaviours are constantly moving”, says the firm. “Nesting is a connected and connecting hospitality concept.”
Designed to be light, playful and adaptable, the Nesting units are raised off the ground on stilts, and can be connected together to form suites or temporary offices. As well as a fresh experience for guests, MM Architects Designers & Planners believe Nesting can offer hotels a chance to “play a unique and relevant role in tomorrow’s urbanity that obviously requires regenerative city and community development projects.”
“Nesting answers the pressing need for dynamic and committed hospitality spaces”, the company adds. “Rethinking the way to enjoy urban territory and life while reducing burdens on local entities and curating innovative partnerships.”
6) A Hyperloop Hybrid: Hyperloop Hotel by Brandan Siebrecht, 2017 Student Winner
As travel gets faster, what if the hotel itself becomes the mode of transit? Brandan Siebrecht’s Hyperloop Hotel is a transport system that would let guests travel from city to city via pneumatic tube and check in without ever having to board a separate plane, train or automobile. More of a transport network than a traditional hotel chain, Siebrecht’s concept shows how the hotel’s role is becoming increasingly blurred.
“Guests would be able to travel to any hotel destination within the network, and even to visit multiple destinations in a single day”, says the designer, who was inspired by Elon Musk’s project of the same name. “I believe the Hyperloop One is the biggest innovation in transportation in the United States – and possibly, the world”, he told Business Insider. “I wanted to explore ways in which this technology could transform the overall travel experience and hospitality.”
Emma Tucker is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and visual culture. She has written for publications including Eye on Design, Dezeen, Creative Review, Grafik, The Pitch, The Spaces, Wrap and Riposte.