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7 Ways COVID-19 Continues to Impact Hospitality Design

7 Ways COVID-19 Continues to Impact Hospitality Design

By late spring 2020, prognostications about how COVID-19 was dramatically affecting various industries began to roll out. Clearly some impacts would be long-term, especially for the hard-hit field of hospitality design, as hotels, bars, and restaurants were forced to shutter and numerous future projects stalled. Now, the majority of a calendar year into the pandemic, designers have continually adapted to the new reality while absorbing lessons of this unprecedented period.

AD PRO spoke with hospitality designers about what it’s been like to forge ahead in the face of uncertainty, what’s likely to remain changed long term, and what back to “normal” might look like when we can congregate, relax, and socialize again. As interior designer Adam D. Tihany aptly puts it: “As 2020 is finally coming to an end and ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ has been switched on, the hospitality industry is looking to turn the page.”

Here are seven ways experts say the pandemic continues to change the practice of designing hotels, restaurants, and other gathering spots.

1. Health and wellness concerns are here to stay

“Natural light, ventilation, and human connections will all be in the forefront of our minds for years to come,” says Sergio Saenz, director of hospitality and principal at HKS, which is readying multiple large hotel projects for 2021, including the Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Architects and interior designers will continue to need to study and consider air quality, evolving health standards, and technology that can work in tandem with hotels’ own operational protocols to help boost customer confidence.

2. Open plans and outdoor spaces matter more than ever

At the recently reimagined Viceroy Santa Monica, “We opened up the plan and removed a lot of walls so that the entire lobby experience feels expansive,” says Jennifer Johanson, president and CEO of EDG Interior Architecture + Design. In addition to “the psychological benefits of this type of planning” for interiors, the outdoors have become more crucial. “We’ve learned the importance of making the exterior spaces as interesting and dimensional as the interior spaces,” she adds.

Tihany shares this perspective. “We learned that nature, fresh air, and the outdoors are the industry’s salvation, and creating outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed 12 months of the year is the next design frontier,” he says.

An inviting outdoor space at the Viceroy Santa Monica, reimagined by EDG Interior Architecture + Design.

Mike Schwartz Photography

3. There’s more communication and collaboration across diverse industries

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