Design vision: Luca Franco of Luxury Frontiers
For our latest TOPHOTELDESIGN exclusive, Luca Franco, founder and CEO of Luxury Frontiers, gives us a fascinating insight into his career, design philosophy and love of extreme marathons.
Founded by Luca Franco in 2011, Luxury Frontiers strives to turn locations of remote beauty and wilderness into majestic and experiential destinations. The firm specialises in developing all-encompassing turnkey solutions, including architecture, interior design, procurement and project management, that put guest experience at the centre of each scheme and experiential programming as the focal point.
What does your role at the company involve?
I am the founder and CEO of Luxury Frontiers, a San Francisco-/Johannesburg-based international firm specialising in design, development and guest-experience concepts for upmarket, light-on-earth hospitality structures. Our work ranges from tented camps to cocoons and treetop suites, always embracing nature. Luxury Frontiers’ projects are frequently based on leave-no-trace principles and are part of our holistic and regenerative approach.
Rewilding, transformative travel and entrepreneurship are my passions. I founded Luxury Frontiers in 2011 based on my desire to do something meaningful for people and the environment and have grown the firm with a passionate multicultural team of designers, architects and eco-resort experts to create genuinely experiential hospitality structures.
Could you tell us about your career to date?
Before founding Luxury Frontiers, I was an owner of Luxury Leisure Properties International, an advisory company that delivered holistic solutions to developers and investors in luxury mixed-use hotels and resort real estate.
What key hotel projects have you worked on down the years?
Over the years, I’ve worked on projects with hospitality leaders such as Four Seasons, Bulgari Resorts, Auberge Resorts, Hyatt, The Stein Hotels, Icehotel, Ferragamo, Marriott Vacation Club International, Interval International and RCI. I was a joint-venture partner with Strategic Hotels & Resorts on mixed-use projects and served as an architect for Icehotel in Sweden.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
We are always working on pioneering new travel concepts and fresh developments, such as in 2005 with Palazzo Tornabuoni, a private-residence club managed by Four Seasons in Florence – the first one of its kind in Europe. And in 2020, Luxury Frontiers pioneered experiential hospitality structures by creating Camp Sarika by Amangiri, the first-ever North American all-weather, year-round luxury tented camp.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
I embrace challenges. I love challenges – otherwise, life would be boring. I am always on the lookout for the next challenges.
How would you sum up your design philosophy?
As a hospitality design firm, Luxury Frontiers has a responsibility to stimulate and improve the human psyche within the built environment.
We often do this by learning from the solutions that nature has conjured over centuries. Whether adopting the systematic thinking behind biomimicry or the sensory-driven biophilic approach, we need to draw inspiration from the natural realm and make valuable contributions to the built world.
Luxury Frontiers’ outdoor experiences are sensitive to the natural environment and facilitate immersive guest experiences inspired by an authentic sense of place and purposeful responsibility to the planet and people.
What would your dream hotel look like?
I like the concept of living without walls. Al fresco guestrooms are fascinating to me. I am in awe of the seemingly simplistic idea of removing some or all walls and opening up the interiors to the natural elements. Nature becomes the backdrop, and in some cases, it takes centre stage.
The idea takes Luxury Frontiers’ thinking of blurring the boundary between in and outside world to the extreme. Total immersion in nature will not work for everyone, but it deepens the adventure of travel for some.
Who do you admire most in the industry?
Luke Bailes, the founder and chairman of Singita, is someone I admire immensely. Since 2010, and throughout my experiential and rewilding journey at Luxury Frontiers, I consider him a mentor.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming talent looking to make a name for themselves?
My advice to up-and-coming talent is to never give up, bring a genuine passion for impact awakening into your work, and maintain a laser-sharp focus and drive.
What are your main hobbies outside work?
My passion is my work, and my job is my passion – I am fortunate. I wholeheartedly believe in rewilding as a pathway to transformative travel. Born and raised in Italy, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Building Engineering from the University of Pavia in Italy. I’ve lived in ten – and travelled to 90 – countries and speak four languages.
I am also an adventure seeker and marathon runner with over 25 marathons finished from the northern Arctic Circle to Chilean volcanoes at 16,000 ft. My interest in extreme marathons has a two-fold purpose; I like them for fitness, and because they open my eyes to the amazing beauty of the world.
For more info about the firm, and to view an extensive gallery of hi-res images, check out the Luxury Frontiers page on the TOPHOTELDESIGN website.