Hotel Design in 3D.
What do the automotive, furniture, and footwear industries have in common with hotels and hospitality? Hotel design teams may very well know the answer to that question. As dissimilar as those sectors may seem, hotels have joined companies like Aston Martin, GM, and Black and Decker (and many other diverse businesses) to explore the high-tech world of three-dimensional rapid prototyping for cutting-edge design projects.Despite being used for decades in mechanical and electronic capacities, rapid prototyping is starting to become a familiar step in the design process for many companies—and that now includes major hotels and resorts.
For the uninitiated, rapid prototyping is a technology that elevates a 2D drawing, or rendering, of a floor plan to the next level by creating computer-generated physical 3D scale models of just about anything an engineer, architect, or designer needs for a project. Rapid prototyping enables special 3D files to be “printed” in a hard material, like polyurethane plastic, to create small models of designs. For a hotel company, these models could be a lobby, guestroom, restaurant, or other spaces, along with their accompanying pieces of furniture. Creating scale models allows both the designers and stakeholders to more efficiently evaluate the design in advance, and make minimal adjustments before full-scale prototypes are built.
Erin Hoover, the vice president of global brand design for Starwood’s Sheraton and Westin brands, recently incorporated rapid prototyping into the design process for the Link@Sheraton lobby renovation project, which will eventually transform and upgrade all the Sheraton lobbies around the world. This
marked the first time the company used this 3D design system. For the Link project, the scale model was created as a complete high-end lobby with furniture, including chairs, tables, desks, couches, and room dividers such as columns.
Hoover’s team developed a floor plan scale size of 10 feet by 4 feet (similar to an oversized dollhouse) with a furniture display that replicates in miniature how the finished lobby will appear. It also features the important walls and columns to show the accurate architectural dimensions of the space. The beauty of rapid prototyping is that you can get all the details that you would see in a full-scale piece in a smaller version,” Hoover explains.
“It allowed us to really understand what would be successful and what adjustments were needed. Nothing compares to having something that is three-dimensional.”
Hoover and her four-person design team are based in White Plains, N.Y. They introduced rapid prototyping into this project so that the entire Sheraton team involved in the project would be able to clearly “see” the lobby evolve. It is a tactile experience for the entire team, as the pieces of model furniture possess all the details of the final product, and can be easily picked up and moved around by hand, if desired.