Harvard Graduate School of Design
As a provocation, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is read as a critique of the modern hotel room. The film’s awkward love story unfolds inside two seemingly innocuous rooms at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Tracing the ways in which the characters’ stories and bodies come into contact with the furniture of the hotel, a conflict is revealed. In the long view, a hotel room must be generic and reusable, clean and blank in order to accommodate the thousands of bodies which will call them home. But at the moment of individual occupation, the hotel room is a stage for the chaotic human narratives which occur every time someone checks in. The emotional life of the guest is forced to occupy a sterile a unfriendly environment. Big Bed seeks to reconfigure the hotel through schemes of radical density.
Remedying the emotional damage of the hotel starts with rethinking the hotel room itself. In this scheme, the lonely plush-box room is reimagined as a network of smaller sleeping semi-shared sleeping places. The hotel’s public programs (galleries, pools, and gardens) are reimagined as shared living rooms, collective spaces that allow for greater social connection within the hotel. In this way, the emotional life that is typically isolated to the hotel room is allowed to permeate the entire hotel. Circulation, which typically moves through dead hotel corridors, is integrated with the public space to create a constant and diverse flow of interactions.
Rethinking the size role private and shared spaces as they relate to guests’ emotional life, calls into question the very purpose of the hotel. This scheme presents an opportunity to address the needs of other travelers typically left out of the hotel system, which is geared towards wealthy business travelers and tourists. With quadruple the number of beds-per-square foot, surely this hotel would be quite a bit cheaper to stay in, opening up the hotel to a more economically diverse population.
In thinking about how a hotel can operate more responsibly in Doha’s harsh environment, extreme density offers several advantages. A smaller hotel will simply use less energy, in terms of both construction and long-term use. Extreme density allows spaces to be finely tuned along comfort gradient as they interact with the surface of the building. Spaces like gardens can be arranged along sun-soaked faces of the building to act as a buffers for more temperature-conscious living spaces deeper inside. By reducing the need for long spans and cantilevers, the structure could be built using wood, the only building material which can be regrown.