Phillipe Maidenberg talks boutique hotel design

French architect Phillipe Maidenberg talks about boutique hotel design.

The hotel industry is a particularly interesting field because it gives designers the potential to work with a variety of spaces: guest rooms, restaurants, lobbies, theatre, fitness, and spas, and to creatively address a variety of challenges: acoustics, structure, architecture in general.

In the case of boutique hotels, I find there is more potential for creating a unique design plan as the clients that these types of hotels attract are typically looking for an “experience” as much as they are looking for a comfortable stay. There is a lot of freedom while designing a boutique hotel. Clients usually expect different universes, different rooms, and different floors. All the codes of a classical hotel have to be broken as long as the comfort of the client is respected.

At Maidenberg Architecture, each time we begin a new project, we ask ourselves the same questions: what story are we going to tell? How are we going to do it? Like a director with his camera, we have to imagine what the clients will experience upon entering and then staying in the hotel. What will surprise them and welcome them warmly? This is our main goal.

When designing a hotel, we always try to tell a story by incorporating personal references and memories. It is important for us to be able to explain our choices. To simply say ‘this is nice and this is not’ is nonsense. Too many projects are completed that are based solely on this superficial question. This does not mean that there must always be a direct theme or concept present, but there must always be an explanation.

We discovered an interesting way to broaden our universe is to incorporate artists into our designs. So, five years ago, we did the Hotel Du Triangle D’Or based upon partnerships with famous songwriters and singers, including Rickie Lee Jones, Archie Shepp, Jacques Higelin, MC Solaar and Manu Katché. The idea was to recreate each artist’s universe, one floor per artist.

In 2013, we did the Hotel 123 Sebastopol and partnered with actors, directors and composer like Jean-Paul Belmondo, Claude Lelouch, Ennio Morricone, Danièle Thompson, Agnès Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Elsa Zylberstein. With this design, we won the Award of the Luxury Boutique Hotel in 2015. This hotel was also ranked in first place in Paris (among 1800 hotels) for months on TripAdvisor, and now holds the second position for best hotel in France in 2015.

Cinema and architecture are so closely related, like brothers and sisters. I think that music and architecture are very close too. In both fields, we have to tell a story by using decor, lights, rhythms, etc.

Currently we are working on a hotel with international legends like Peter Gabriel, Roger Hodgson (co-founder of Supertramp), Gilberto Gil, Youssou Ndour, Blue Note & Impulse. The universes of these people are so rich, that they frequently take us in directions that we have never imagined before.

The hotel business is exceedingly dynamic, with everybody wanting to buy or get involved with a hotel for the financial intrigue. I always hope that dreams play a role in their motivation, because hotels are also made for that!

Our clients are not just from the hotel industry, but real estate and restaurant businesses as well. Among them: Astotel, Costes family (Beaumarly Group), Bel Ami/Bessé Group, Experimental Group, Madar Group, to name but a few. Up until 3-4 years ago our clients primarily came from the hotel industry. Today real estate firms have gravitated into the field, due to a higher profitability and an increased complication in the residential building process. Restaurant owners also developed an interest in partnering with hotel projects.  Hotel spaces were rarely like that before this point, because owning a restaurant in a hotel was difficult. Adding an established restaurant or restaurateur into a hotel’s layout has increase the dynamic nature of the design process even more.

Another major player in this business is TripAdvisor. The site has become the barometer for any hotel that cares about its image and its success. It is evident that a good ranking significantly contributes to the success of the brand. It is no mystery that customers of the hotel industry want to be well taken care of! Our work has its share of responsibility in the success of a project, but it is not the only factor. If the service is not perfect and the cleanliness is not impeccable, the hotel will fall down in the ranking.

The fact is that there is still a hotel shortage in Paris. These last years, we transformed many offices into hotels. So many creations of new hotels are on the way. I would guess there will be a change in the conception of future hotels because of the concurrence of Airbnb who has created a serious challenge to the hotel industry. Both will have to cohabit. I already feel this phenomenon on my new projects.

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