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Paul James - Editorial Comment

Issue 61 Jun/Jul 2011

I have been busy in the last two months visiting many of the hotels that we have written about in this issue.

First was a 200-mile trip to London to frequent the equally stunning, but completely different, St Pancras Renaissance and W Hotels. This was more for my own curiosity more than anything as I managed to procure the services of Martin Valentine, who was responsible for the St Pancras scheme while he was at AECOM, and Rob Honeywill who headed the team at MBLD for W to write fascinating accounts of their work at these London landmarks. Martin was lucky enough to be involved with St Pancras for around five years, constantly pushing the boundaries of the scheme (and the budget!) with detailed designs harking back to the halcyon days of the famous Midland Grand. On the other side of the coin, Rob was brought on board late in the process with a limited budget due to the looming recession. It is fascinating to read how two separate design teams dealt with different problems with two diametrically opposing hotels. The results however, are both brilliant.
Then I was off further afield to Berlin for the LED Lighting Summit organised by OLED Insider that took place at the nhow Berlin. In the W London mould, this is a thoroughly modern affair with vibrant colours and sculptures designed by the ultra-trendy phenomenon that is Karim Rashid. The lack of an independent lighting designer did leave its mark on this project however and there are flaws that would have been overcome with some more thought.
Finally, whilst in Philadelphia for Lightfair International and the IALD Awards (full report in the next issue), I popped in to le Meridien, a former YMCA in a Georgian setting right in the heart of the city. Here, a mixture of classic and modern techniques by Lighting Design Collaborative has helped create a beautiful space fitting of the architectural gems in this city.
Unfortunately the budget didn’t extend to trips to Goa, Bali and Australia for the other hotels in this issue! However, by then I understood that, at last, it has been realised the difference a lighting designer can make to a hotel. They are the key players in determining the ambience of a hotel and can help position the hotel in the market place, with classic, traditional or contemporary styles. The challenges facing the lighting designer can often be varying briefs from the operator and interior designer and trying to balance these to achieve the best results.
Hotels offer fascinating opportunities to the lighting designer and can be regarded as multiple lighting projects within one. Anything from the coolest of destination bars and high-end restaurants to a spa, landscape, a massive multifunction ballroom, conference centre and a façade scheme can all be found from a single hotel project. The rich variety of spaces and their functions represent unique challenges to the designers, incomparable to any other type of development.
A good lighting designer is probably the best investment a hotel operator can make.


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