Beth Campbell is an award-winning architect, who most recently served as CEO of Wilson Associates, a top global interior design firm. Prior to Wilson, Campbell was EVP and head of design for Westfield Corporation, and spent 16 years at Gensler, serving as managing partner and global account director. A visionary leader, she has overseen the design of iconic projects around the globe for nearly 30 years.
Tell us about your role at Campbell House
As an opportunist, I get to champion a vision on and lead a collective of passionate people, which is an honour that drives me daily. “With great power comes great responsibility” was a saying first uttered in the 1793 French Revolution, and made wildly popular by Spider Man – it is also a concept I adhere to, and one I do not take lightly.
Inside of this daily philosophy, I see my role as one of visionary and strategist, the one who sets a clear path. I am a curator who cultivates an environment of innovation, safety and empowerment, while openly making culture a priority. I also see my role as one of conductor, who sets the tone, pace, and expectations for personal and collective success. And, most importantly, I see myself as the champion for our purpose and meaning – first by playing the storyteller who inspires and cascades meaning, then mentoring to help all players realise you do not find your purpose, but rather you build your purpose.
True success in our creative house will be found and expressed by all leadership espousing this philosophical approach to our talent, to our client relationships, and to the communities where we live and contribute.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
I have had the great fortune to work with some amazing clients over my architectural career. With these relationships I have been able to express my passion for design excellence around the globe. Hospitality design exposure started over 20 years ago with the engagement to direct the design team for the Fairmont Pittsburgh, which was an amazing learning opportunity with a brilliant client – PNC, a top-notch operator in Fairmont.
Building upon my extreme desire to learn and grow, I have built a skillset of global business, design and executive coaching that have served me very well in honing my craft. Bringing to bear my passion for hospitality design, my appreciation for global cultures and my in-depth industry knowledge will serve us well as we build the legacy of Campbell House.
“We are a collective of adventurous souls who are willing to take risks, try new methods and ideas, all in a desire to create new experiences”
What three words would you use to describe Campbell House?
The three words that best describe Campbell House at this fresh, new and opportunistic stage in this spinoff that is our startup, would be adventurous, edgy and seasoned.
We are a collective of adventurous souls who are willing to take risks, try new methods and ideas, all in a desire to create new experiences. We are boldly stepping out to capitalise on the blend of opportunity and market need, and our gritty attitude towards passionately providing a service that our clients truly want.
We are daringly innovative and edgy, providing a pivot point in our industry that both provides an enlightened approach while curating a work environment that fosters innovative design solutions.
To make this successful, we are applying our global learnings from our seasoned leadership team. Our House 9, as we call ourselves, is a collective of industry experts whose finesse and experiences will provide the ideal backdrop to our cultured and worldly group of designers and clients.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Campbell House plan to stand out?
We are so fortunate – there are so many phenomenal design firms in our market. I am a true believer that healthy competition drives us to be better. Acknowledging the competitive field has driven us to sharpen our resolve on our differentiators. Quite simply put, we are unapologetically putting our people first, creating an offering that drives a mindset of better support for our clients and a space for deeper innovative design ideas for our designers.
You see, our differentiator is in focusing on designing great guest experiences, thus driving happy clients. Nowhere in our formula for success do you see an emphasis on bottom line, for we believe that should be the outcome and not the goal. We are truly building for engagement design in an era of meaning and purpose.
“Acknowledging the competitive field has driven us to sharpen our resolve on our differentiators”
Being based in the US, do you plan to work globally, and will you be launching an Campbell House EMEA arm to the business?
At Campbell House we have the great fortune to have a strong history in global relationships, along with a cadre of brilliant designers around the globe. These two factors are driving us to create design studios in EMEA. Acknowledging that our business approach all along has been one of measured prudence, the growth and evolution of the brand will be built along servicing our clients, and not based on ego. We will adhere to our core philosophy of being nimble and agile while serving our clients’ needs around the globe.
It’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry. What do you think will be the hospitality sector’s biggest challenge, post-Covid?
The opportunity for the hospitality industry post-pandemic will be to reassure travellers of safety without compromising on the sense of hospitality stylings, which I believe all operational models are providing with strength. The biggest opportunity will be to blend the perception of safety while accomplishing the agility to accommodate the evolving needs and desires of the traveller post-pandemic.
How is Campbell House planning to hit the ground running in the coming months? Do you have any projects in the pipeline?
We are indeed off to the races. Our approach to the market is providing us an avenue to secure remarkable projects, due to pent-up demand in our marketplace and the inability for a few design firms to deliver. These combined factors are the key driver as to our timing for launch, and the intersection of opportunity and changing market needs are proving to be an ideal moment in time to set our creative house in motion. We have a few major projects starting up now and throughout the spring – projects that will set our design team in motion while establishing our brand through our design solutions and our partners in the industry.
What makes a good designer or architect?
The best designers and architects I know are true to their ideas while adept at providing solutions that make a difference. They have a knack to fully understand the stated needs of the project problem statement, with a keen ability to challenge the conventional notions of design – all capped with an artful expression of inspiring storytelling, in their written and oral communication, as well as storytelling through the traveller’s experience of a spatial journey.
“At Campbell House we have the great fortune to have a strong history in global relationships, along with a cadre of brilliant designers around the globe”
Do designers think about loyalty when they design a hotel, or is it just an operator’s concern?
Our designers are 100% focused on the experience. This includes the goal of engaging each guest where they are and capturing the property’s brand in an authentic and locally diverse solution. This drives a blend of attention to a global brand while providing distinct solutions for the intended guests based on their evolving travel desires – all of this resulting in driving guest satisfaction, joy and loyalty.
Although guest loyalty is not a goal, it is indeed a result.
With social media (especially Instagram) becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for hotels, do you take it into account when designing spaces?
It has been an absolutely stunning evolution of how social media has influenced desire of experience and the resultant buying power. Today, travel is one of the top instances of impact, as the longing to explore, travel, experience and generally be free is all-consuming as we near the close of the pandemic-driven confinements. As designers, we find great opportunity in designing spaces that drive memories and stir a desire within travellers to share their experiences with others.
Is there anything exciting you’re working on already that you can tell us about?
We are getting ready to design a brand-new, two-storey seafood restaurant for Truluck’s Restaurant Group in Dallas, Texas. Truluck’s is recognised as a top-100 restaurant in America by OpenTable, and offers guests an exceptional experience and authentic fine-dining atmosphere. The new restaurant will be over 12,000ft2 and feature a monumental stair design, show kitchen, 80-100-seat lounge/bar with a piano entertainer, as well as private and VIP dining areas. The project is part of a larger new development in a trendy new area in uptown Dallas. We’re very excited to be working on this signature project for the client.
What do you love about being an architect?
Being an architect is a joyous pursuit. One that allows us to foster relationships that drives the framework of the puzzle pieces that are the desired built environment – taking these data points, immersing yourself in the local culture and freely visualising a building space that provides both stimulus for and backdrop to memory-making. The pleasure of taking an idea from your head and heart, converting it to paper, conveying the story to the owner and then finding a built physical environment is a brilliant journey. The trick is to not get lost in the demands of bureaucratic needs that drive design profit, or bogged down in processes that inhibit creativity. As architects and designers, we must go where we are celebrated, and not just tolerated. Seek out the moments and opportunities to express your creative gifts that can change the tapestry of our world.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I have always had the good fortune to realise that I draw my inspiration from people. If you slow down enough, and allow your curiosity to push forward, you will see the people around you are extremely insightful and inspirational, each in their own intrinsic and exciting way.
Do you have a most memorable experience with architecture – something you saw that changed or inspired you?
At a very young age, my father arranged for me to stop by a local architect’s offices on the way home from school – Jack Rigney. Turns out he studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and had an abundance of FLW books. Each week I would stop by Mr Rigney’s office and watch him sketch by hand and talk me through his process of design iteration. Each session was capped with him handing me one book from his extensive library of philosophical design books. I would walk home and daydream of passing down the street and pointing to a building that I created. Between the ages of 9 and 12, I worked my way through most of Mr Rigney’s library. I was hooked.
What would be your dream hotel project?
My ideal hotel project would be a secluded resort that is integrated to its surroundings. One that is eco-friendly and respectful of nature, while providing an escape from the technology pace that has become our lives. A resort that blends both escapism and connection to nature. Quite simply, this could be an island escape or a ski-resort. It could be a mountain cabin or desert oasis.
What’s next for you and the studio?
Right now, as a start-up, it is critical we provide innovation and quality. Our brand is being built upon innovative solutions, quality delivery, and our market alignment and partners. And, very soon, on the horizon, we are building upon our core business as a creative house, providing additional services our clients need as the impacts of the post-pandemic drivers are realised.
“Our brand is being built upon innovative solutions, quality delivery, and our market alignment and partners”
Lastly, share some good news – have you done anything to stay busy in these crazy times?
While this is indeed an abnormal time, I have found myself and my team invigorated and focused on the opportunities driven from our ever-evolving environment. Our team continues to push forward, through a combination of curiosity that is inherent in designers and a belief that inside every crisis is the next level of excellence.
On a personal level, I went from a 95% travel schedule to 5%, which has significantly added to my individual wellbeing during an otherwise calamitous time, providing a deepened opportunity for focus and clarity. I now am finding more time for daily exercise, meditation and reading – which creates a wonderful start to each day that I cannot always enjoy on the road. We are also finding that our clients need our support now more than ever, which keeps my day quite full.
I am indeed fortunate to be surrounded by loved ones and tethered to friends via ‘pandemic pods’ and Zoom gatherings, and we look forward to the day we may safely return to our socially interconnected lifestyle. Though, I must say, we are certainly still finding joy in these strange times.