A stripped-down industrial gallery space in Berlin's Mitte was the appropriate setting for the fifth Design Hotels Future Forum. For two days, an intriguing band of architects, designers, artists, journalists and hoteliers gathered to envisage what the future holds for travel and hospitality.
As falling leaves swirled in the air outside, our convivial host Claus Sendlinger, founder and CEO of Design Hotels, led the forum, the theme of which this year was 'human design'.
A gathering of personalities including US industrial designer Stephen Burks and the Future Laboratory's Chris Sanderson explored and reinterpreted the relationship between us and the objects we surround ourselves with.
Designers will embrace a future formed by new aesthetics including 'fortification', 'in relief' and 'new seriousness'. Of the most importance to hotel designers will be 'fortification', where protection, adaptability and function are placed above frivolity and embellishment, a reflection of global concerns of material shortages, terrorism and social upheaval. Tough times can still inspire beautiful design.
The further blurring of business and leisure has created a concept, coined by The Future Laboratory, of 'bleisure'. A growing number of 21st-century hotel guests see no distinction between work and play and expect the places where they stay to service their highly adaptable lifestyle.
Hotels are now the 'between spaces' where lifestyles needs to connect. Boutique design hotels have become the new business hotels, which in turn are bringing the culture of their host city directly to guests. As in business hotel the Clarion in Stockholm, the lobby is now an occasional art gallery.
By 2020, women will run 53% of leading businesses, boost national GDPs by up to 16% and earn more than men. Women are coming to the fore ushering in a new era of 'womenomics'. For designers this means a new sensibility that is more human, intuitive and cerebral.
From deluxe canteens to cooking laboratories, a new social food culture has emerged. As fast moving gourmet food becomes more popular, restaurant culture is being given an overhaul. New restaurant spaces are designed to encourage interaction, provide convenience yet be efficient and elegant.
The eating experience is communal and encourages the shared starter or the collective plate reflecting the evolution of a more personal relationship with food.
Unique eating experiences are now emerging out of the periphery thanks to a new generation of eating designers, such as Marije Vogelzang.
Vogelzang gave the Future Forum an extraordinary introduction to her work and that of her Rotterdam-based design and catering company Proeff (meaning 'to taste' and 'to test'). She does not just shape food but creates narratives to explain why a dish tastes the way it does, where it comes from, who made it and why you are eating it.