Tablet was founded in the year 2000 by Laurent Vernhes and Michael Davis, a pair of new-media veterans who were tired of predictable chain hotels and faceless hotel search engines. On the principle that today’s traveler needs fewer choices, not more, they set out to create a tightly curated list, showcasing only the hotels that matter — hotels with personality, hotels that obsess on the details, hotels where experience beats economy. That list, after a decade of evolution, makes up the selection of TabletHotels.com, the trusted source for extraordinary hotels around the world.
The natural next step, of course, is to open a hotel. Anyone with enough money can open a solid-gold luxury hotel. Tablet’s hotel would be up for a conceptual challenge, tackling what might be hospitality’s hardest problem: creating a hotel that brings people together.
This is the holy grail of urban hospitality: a hotel where guests mingle freely with locals, and with other guests — where experience is shared, friendships are born, business contacts are established, and real human connections are made, all under the hotel’s roof.
Create a hotel that connects travelers and locals.
What we are proposing is an architectural challenge, but also an experiment in human psychology. Many a hotelier has gone broke chasing an elusive crowd, and many a “hip hotel” has alienated its following with lazy (or greedy) gimmicks. A rigorously enforced guest list can create a buzz for a while, but it always fades when interesting people find themselves on the outside looking in. In today’s hotel business, the word “exclusive” is bandied about as a posh way of saying “really nice.” Nobody ever stops to ask who’s being excluded, and why. It’s all rather unbecoming, for an industry which purports to be about hospitality.
So above all the proposed solution must be inclusive. The winning hotel will be a place where people come together unpredictably, unexpectedly, serendipitously. Hotel Claska, in Tokyo, has transformed its oversized lobby into an open-plan office-share workspace, which naturally brings hotel guests in direct contact with the creative professionals who use it. And the Ace Hotel in New York features a lobby that combines the best features of a café and a public library, where laptop-toting freelancers mingle freely until nightfall, when the DJ takes over and the drinking and dancing begin.
While entrants need not confine their solutions to physical space alone — there are technological ways of making connections as well — the focal point should be the place (or places) where hotel guests and city residents are brought together. Think beyond the typical lobby bar, restaurant or pool deck, and draw inspiration from your own travels to design a space with the potential to revolutionize the ordinary hotel experience.
The proposed social space can be located anywhere in the hotel, and it’s only one aspect of the challenge — naturally, the way in which it connects to the rest of the hotel experience is up to you. Your entry should not use a pre-existing hotel space, but the location is limited to downtown New York City, south of 23rd street. This means an urban setting, with street frontage, and a hotel surrounded by buildings of a roughly similar size.
Ultimately the space itself is only a piece of the puzzle. It’s up to you to find a way to create natural, unforced social interaction. Serving drinks is a tried and true method of nudging things in the right direction, but the tricky part is assembling the crowd in the first place — especially if it’s an authentically diverse, eclectic crowd you’re after. The winning space must demonstrate that it stands a chance of bringing together people from all across the city’s demographics and psychographics. The real test, though, will come at the end, when the chosen design will be featured on Tablet’s website as a Tablet hotel, available for booking.
This is not a concept for a far-future hotel. Proposals should utilize existing materials and existing (or currently possible) technologies. The desire for human connection is a timeless one. A central goal is to merge the two audiences; local and guests, in an authentic yet compelling manner. And while tasteful (or otherwise attractive) interiors are important in selling the concept, the foundation for a winning submission is the concept itself, not the surface qualities. Remember: the winning design will eventually appear on Tablet’s website as a Tablet hotel and be available for bookings, meaning the amount of bookings will be the ultimate determinate of its success.