Soon after Starwood Hotels & Resorts moved to its new global headquarters in Stamford, Conn., in January 2012, it unveiled The Starwood Experience, a two-story creative design lab within the eight-story building. Showcasing the company's nine global brands, the idea lab gives associates, owners, developers, customers, and marketing partners a chance to see in-the-works innovations in staging areas and model hotel guest rooms. It's a place for Starwood to “tell its story,” according to Mike Tiedy, Starwood's SVP of global brand design and innovation, who recently gave Convene a tour.
A mobile sculpture suspended from the ceiling in the open staircase above the lobby to the second-floor Experience space gives visitors a foretaste of the facility. “If you look at the starburst in the middle of the Starwood logo,” Tiedy said, “this is meant to echo that kind of creative spark.”
We entered the SPG Tunnel, which highlights locations of Starwood brands on a freeform global map, and where a message on the wall reads: “Innovation and design are the heartbeat of our brands and the reason our guests don't just check in to our hotel, they are immersed into an experience.”
And so it is with the lab. The tunnel opens up into a kind of lobby, with modern leather sectionals and distinct, curated installations, including a wall with drawers and shelves featuring materials for different brands, and several “story walls.” One green wall, splashed with messaging and type, is dedicated to the Westin brand. The word “Biophilia” pops out. I moved closer for a definition: “The human need for connection with nature, on physical, mental, and social levels.”
Westin's new guest rooms take their inspiration from nature. Westin's Erin Hoover, who joined us for the tour, pointed out subtle fractal patterns from nature — “which have been proven to have a calming influence,” she said — in the drapes, carpeting, and furniture in several Westin model guest rooms we visited. The concepts, prototypes, renderings, 3D models, and wall displays in this space change frequently — so much so that Melissa Pogue, with Starwood's global communications department, who was also part of the tour, noted some new elements that were added during her maternity leave, from which she'd just returned.
We also looked at several meeting spaces throughout the Experience. Although they don't serve as sample spaces in the same way that the model guest rooms do, they speak to Starwood's melding of design and technology. A customized meeting space demos next-generation event technology, including a 22-foot-long immersion projection screen along a curved wall. Across from the screen is a bank of windows overlooking Long Island Sound.
Tiedy, who splits his time between the Stamford office and The Starwood Hotels Design Center — creative headquarters for the Luxury Collection, St. Regis, Le Meridien, and W Hotels — in Manhattan, said it’ s important for the global design team to “crosspollinate” between brands. Another reference, albeit unconscious, to being inspired by nature.