emotional evolution

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The ability to feel and express emotion is one of our most human characteristics, and, according to more than a few of the world’s top designers, the spaces we live in and objects we use are set to appeal even more to our inner states of mind in the coming years.

“Soft qualities” like empathy, understanding and compassion are steadily gaining value in Western society. Corporate marketing has long known this, with successful companies paying heed to Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts’s idea that there is something beyond brands. His “lovemarks” – products that command respect, passion, commitment, loyalty, sensuality and a host of other attributes that are strongly tied to the user – represent a revolution in understanding the emotional side of why people buy (and show why Apple has done so well in recent years). Design plays no small role here. As the movement’s manifesto states, “A poorly designed object cannot be a lovemark”. The relevance of emotion is even entering the sciences. According to German biologist Andreas Weber, author of Alles Fühlt (Everything Feels), even the field of biology is about to undergo a paradigm shift, as it considers growing proof that evolution has had far more to do with an organism’s emotional states than with the Darwinian idea that beings are essentially small machines that evolve only for efficiency’s sake. So – mechanism or mood? The cool, superfunctional “modern hotel” aesthetic is already falling by the wayside and is set to continue doing so. As recently as ten years ago, many would have scoffed at the idea of ambient music, programmed, indirect lighting or the soft whiff of an aromatherapy-based scent in a hotel or public space. (Or they at least preferred the ubiquitous minimalism and utter efficiency of the 1990s to such “esoteric” stimuli.) Now, however, it is far more common to engineer spaces not only to appeal to all senses and create ambience but also (or even) to generate deeper mood shifts. What is more, soon spaces not only will create well-being, but will react, and consequently interact, with the people occupying them.

Berlin-based architect Jürgen Mayer H.’s heat-sensitive chairs and chaises, which hilariously display an exact imprint of the sitter’s body in a lighter colour (the material turns lightest where the body is hottest), are just the beginning, as are Dutch industrial designer Bas Kools’s chairs that twist around their sitters in a kind of hug, or the popular small home appliances and kitchen tools that sport faces and feet to appear as if they have funny personalities.

seem to smell things better, your glass of wine is nicer, your senses become more alive. It’s about senses.” Heightened, even extreme, emotions will always be desirable when people travel, for release or escape. But the predominant mood of the future in hotel design will likely be calmer, kinder and more tactile. High touch meets high concept indeed. New interiors might represent even more of a respite from an accelerating world than they do now, dominated by an increased sensitivity and concern for our fellow man and the earth itself, along with the everlasting search for meaning. Design scholar John Heskett claims that “design, stripped to its essence, can be defined as the human nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedence in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.” In an age of great prosperity coupled with the world-aswe-know-it on the edge, looking for that meaning becomes more important, even if it means finding it in a kitchen appliance or a resort space whose space is perfectly in sync with both its surroundings and the feelings of the people in it. _«

"Design, stripped to its essence, can de defined as the human nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedence in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives."

In the not-so-distant future, extrapolations on these technologies will create interiors that can “perceive” and personally interact with their users’ states of mind – not on command but by measuring heartbeats, breathing rates or brainwave frequency, and consequently dimming or brightening the lights or infusing the air with a calming or invigorating fragrance. And what emotions will future travellers look to experience? It could be the heady euphoria of an innovative, almost sculptural space such as Ron Arad’s Duomo in Rimini, Italy (see page 290), taken to another level, or the lusty dusk of Vincenzo de Cotiis’s Hotel Straf in Milan (see page 270) times ten. Says Gerard Glintmeijer of Amsterdam-based design team FG stijl: “Sometimes you go into an environment and you


New York-based, Egyptian-born Karim Rashid is one of the most prolific and eloquent designers of the modern era. His design oeuvre ranges from quirky small appliances to mind-bogglingly flashy hotels, like the Semiramis in Athens, Greece. The Semiramis (see page 238) is a prime example of Rashid’s exuberant signature style.



Carlos Couturier is one of the four founding members (the others are brothers Jaime, Moises and Rafael Micha) of Mexico’s groundbreaking hotel group Grupo Habita. The group’s madly innovative properties Condesa df, Habita, Básico, Azúcar and La Purificadora have seismically shifted Mexican hospitality’s landscape. (See hotels on pages 066-092.)

Mankind will be More sensible and sensitive about its surroundings in the next 15 years. respect, tolerance and solidarity will influence the way obj ects, spaces and technology are designed. people will want coMfort but peace of Mind as well. wealth, luxury but basic experiences. independence. hubs for social interaction. isolation. the independent, isolated individual will deMand beauty. design will have to provide this beauty. search for perfection will rule the next 15 years. as long as there is world peace, the coMing 15 years will be the Most creative and innovative in huMan history.



Armin Fischer is the founder and director of Augsburg, Germany-based 3meta, an interior design firm whose vision has come to fruition in private residences, restaurants, public spaces and hotels like Hamburg’s 25hours Hotel (see page 208).



Architect and designer Colin Seah is founder and design director of the Singapore-based Ministry of Design, which was instrumental in creating the interiors for Singapore’s New Majestic Hotel (see page 630), an eclectic property whose look and experience relies heavily on local influences and backstories. The multi-award-winning Ministry’s mission is to “disturb, question and redefine the fundamental elements of Space, Ritual and Perception. ”



FG stijl is an Amsterdam-based design studio headed by Colin Finnegan and Gerard Glintmeijer. For the past 12 years, the duo has created innovative interiors for shops, offices, restaurants and hotels such as Do & Co in Vienna (see page 126) and The Dominican in Brussels (see page 138).


That of individuality and a sense of space. We are all individuals. I like the idea of walking into a room and being able to simply say “could you change this colour to purple for me?” Technology will give us a lot of great benefits – but technology has to stay human. When you’re a guest in a hotel you don’t want to have to be taught to use everything!

Design has to be open to technological advances. It’s through computers that amazing forms of architecture are possible; with them, you can build dreams and fluid forms. It’s even possible to use natural materials in a different way.

You have to be flexible: to go into the future and keep the concept, but change with time. When you open a restaurant or hotel, techniques change, entertainment changes, ideas of comfort change. We always try design an interior that you can add on to – there’s a degree of flexibility. In design you have to be ready for the future.

The travel issue will be solved within 15 to 20 years – people will travel more and more. Mankind has always solved its greatest problems so far!

We foresee fluid cities. Like in the Middle Ages, with small alleyways and everything curving in a naturalistic way. Things were never in a straight line. The environment let people walk. The future will perhaps return to the speed of walking. We recently saw a model for an amazing Chinese city for three million people, but everything was within a 15-minute walk. Hopefully people would build new cities, anyway! We keep making the mistake of thinking we have the best, greatest ideas and tearing down parts of old cities. Or we build our greatest ideas next door to the old ones. We’ve made this mistake very often.


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About Sean Percival is a web developer and author with many years experience of messing around on the Internet for fun and profit. He has been featured in Forbes Magazine, The Orange County Register and several online publications. Sean Percival lives in Hollywood, California.