Expert’s Voice: In quest of surprise – the elusive element of hotel design

by | 15 Nov 2019 | People

Immersion is what today’s hospitality needs for tomorrow’s market. (Photo: Franck Robichon.)

Design is thriving on a new type of commodity that will boost hotel development: the element of surprise, writes H. Ozkasikci, Senior Vice President, Design & Technical Services at Kerzner International.

The hospitality industry is experiencing many challenges. However, the design is thriving on a new type of commodity that will boost hotel development: the element of surprise.

As the majority of what was once inaccessible is now within digital reach, we are all in search of this element; be it a designer or a guest. Be it luxury or not, the designer is challenged with maintaining the ability to surprise a guest who is in anticipation of being surprised.

After trimming the usual suspects, aka the “expected” notions, there remain two main factors that pave the way to the unexpected: immersion & volume.

A successful immersion requires designers to step out of their comfort zone. The necessity is to be diligent to comprehend the circumstantial factors and needs, and then embrace and reinterpret them in such a fashion that the end-user will have the ease of maintaining the connection to feel comfortable. The initial impact can be striking (and it better be so), and this will help provoke the senses and the curiosity of the user to explore the design further.


Both the guest and the designer are indeed prompted by the prospect of discovery and we are all inherent enquirers for new experiences. In his 2014 book “The Explorers”, Martin Dugard describes the main tenets of discovery as curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline and perseverance.

Immersion via design is indeed a discipline of storytelling and bears all the explorer qualities outlined above in a designer to find that which is “not yet done,” together with a sheer drive for empathy that enables the visualization of the possible impact on the guest. An immersion is bound to be cultural, tactile, visual, sensual and simple in a most sophisticated way that makes it easy to remember.

A cookie-cutter take on design is thus not an efficient way of capturing the much-desired attention of the well-informed guest today. They have “been there and done that”, and the reaction after the first visit will be in favour of moving on to the alternative that is there to respect the anticipation of change, to provide that breathing space from the “was original yesterday but is ordinary today.”

Photo: Greystone Purepod


As designers, we are obviously confined within the premises of a zone allocated for the functions needed to serve the purpose. This simply means there is a limit for volume.
Volume is directly linked with stature. Designing for luxury, authority, wisdom and belief have undeniably been based on a generous volumetric provision.

However, the expectation of volume has a shortcoming today, which is the financial setback of a business model that will enforce the efficiency parameter of any given design to use the overall volume to the minute extent.

However, technology avails us with countermeasures to control this constraint, and immersion via multi-use facets of basic place-making elements can lead to an innovative visual volume provision that is not necessarily physical. The early concepts of virtual and augmented reality will keep amplifying the impact of technologically sophisticated space, and the immersion will become all the more exciting as the borders between space and humans will blur, thanks to the imagination of the explorer who creates and the perception of the explorer who experiences.

Hakan Ozkasikci was a delegate and keynote presenter at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Dubai 2019. To attend, address or sponsor our boutique hospitality networking events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.

Hakan Ozkasikc
Hakan Ozkasikc

Senior Vice President, Design & Technical Services at Kerzner International

Hakan Ozkasikci, Senior Vice President, Design & Technical Services at Kerzner International, is a devoted architect and designer. With a credible international track record in hospitality design, he has his fingerprint on notable ultra-luxury projects of elite hotel brands around the world.


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