Congratulations on your new role! What are your key objectives going forwards?
Thank you! I have a very simple and clear objective and that is to create the very best hotels and hospitality projects in the coming years, destinations that will stand the test of time. We have the passion, talent and expertise at HKS to achieve that.
What was it about HKS that attracted you?
HKS has at its core, the spirit of exploration and innovation. That is very compelling. I see a team of dedicated, curious and driven architects and designers. It’s the perfect cocktail of qualities required of a hospitality team and it’s a hugely exciting time for the practice.
Could you talk a little about your design background and experience up to this point?
I started my working life in theatre design and high-end residential design. Then an opportunity to join WATG arose and I grabbed it.
From the very start of my hospitality career I was truly blessed to be working on high end luxury resorts all over the globe, from Ritz Carlton, Viceroy, Four Seasons to name a few. Over the years I have realised how very specialised our industry is, the expertise required to design a hotel is very specific.
You have to understand how to design in a way that will give clients the greatest chance for a return on their investment. You also need to create beautiful and comfortable buildings that will help to give guests the transformative experiences they are looking for. This takes a lot of hard work, but I feel very fortunate and excited to be working in this sector. I like to think that Hospitality found me. Sometimes you don’t realise that you are meant to be in something until you are in it.
How would you describe your design approach or philosophy?
It always starts with the guest and the location. I picture the guest spending time at the hotel and imagine what they would want to experience, see and feel. I often compare the design process to couture, but instead of a physical body we have a site and in place of fabric we have the architecture, interiors and landscape.
In hospitality design, these normally separate disciplines are in fact almost inseparable if the outcome is to be a success and I love it when they come together at the very beginning of a project and the architecture and designs develop in synergy. The end product is always more spectacular.
Alongside this design process, the crucial key ingredient for me is ‘exploration’. I have an inquisitive mind and its important in the process to continually question and sketch and test our designs, seeking out the essence of a site and its rightful design.
What do you feel will be the central issues or challenges affecting the hospitality design industry in the coming years?
Hospitality design has gone through a period of huge change from product homogeneity to experiential authenticity. This has been in response to the change in the guests’ desires, both the millennials and the baby boomers. Our challenge now is to fully embrace this change and to foresee what the next generation will be seeking out.
I think that sustainability and eco-design will steadily rise up the agenda. Not the kind of tokenism seen in the past but real efforts to reduce damage to the planet and put something back into the land and local communities. In tandem, I believe that demand for architectural solutions that support healthier lifestyles will grow. Often, the design that supports one, in fact serves the other.
What has been your proudest moment as a designer, thus far?
There are many, but they are almost always the same. It’s when you see your designs come to life first hand, and it’s even better than you imagined. These are very special moments in a designer’s career. I still get a warm feeling thinking back to these moments.
What are you working on at the moment, and have you got any upcoming projects you’re able to tell us about?
Right now, I’m busy on the new Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Bodrum, Turkey. It’s a fantastic location and it’s going to be very beautiful but beyond that I currently can’t say anymore.
What do you like to do with your downtime?
Downtime is hugely important to me. I usually can’t stay still for long, so I take advantage of what London has to offer. There is always something interesting to see and do in the city – galleries, shows, museums, food. They provide inspiration and spark ideas. That and spending time with my wonderful wife and kids. These are precious moments to me.