A building that has Italy inside

Our challenge subject is to create an immersive experience that is like travel but in a constrained / nearby place. For this, we imagined a (remote) location, similar to a hotel, with different rooms, that re-creates rotating specific locations, such as Italy.

We aim to inspire through a number of features and design concepts.

First, architecture. What makes places inspiring through awe? Vastness, and shapes that are “unusual” for buildings, like high ceilings, rounded corners that mirror the horizon and domes. We took inspiration from buildings such as Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Tate Modern in London, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, the Zensation Electrofestival in Amsterdam as well as the Boston Aquarium. All of them convey a sense of awe due to an effective way of relaying space, similar to the way some natural locations such as the grand canyon do.

Thinking about how we can translate these into our concept, we were thinking of 19th century panorama paintings, such as The Hague Panorama Painting. They effectively combine the concepts described above, with technology (!) and optical illusions to create an immersive experience. Similarly, the Venetian casino in Las Vegas is following a similar approach, by having water, canals, gondolas as well as lighting inside that replicates natural daylight and different weather conditions.

Second, sensory input. We thought about what it is that inspires in travel. A key component to this is the new in the ordinary, i.e. different light, different smells, different sounds and observing other people doing things that are “normal” to them, but “foreign”, “new”, and stimulating /inspiring to the traveller. While the people side is difficult to re-create, we aim to work with smells, light, humidity, temperature and sounds to create an immersive experience that is modelled after the location we are working to allow our customers to emerge. Another key part of this is taste. We aim to provide food and drink that resembles the local culture, to do not have any distracting “reminders” of (American) life but engage all senses, providing something new and stimulating.

Third, the journey. A grounding part of every journey is having to wait for it, by physically bridging distance – be it via plane, train, car or even cycling or walking. We aim to re-create this by making our customers wait, and take the time to prepare for the journey they are about to embark in. While this might sound counter-intuitive, we aim to model a travel experience that requires them to be still for a short while of time before entering, so that they physically and emotionally “step out” of the ordinary life that they are normally part of.

Fourth, our experience aims to be new and unexpected. Through a limited online presence, we do not give away what exactly to expect. Similar to travel, a key part that makes travel inspiring is exploring, seeing and understanding new things, perhaps without explicitly looking for them or seeking them out. Therefore, we aim to re-create that sense of curiosity, exploration and excitement by keeping our rooms rotating often and adding twists that provide travellers with the unexpected.

Finally, we aim to inspire through the “sacrifice” overdelivery element. Since travel is a luxury that many cannot afford and is increasingly understood to be damaging to the environment ,we want to create an experience that resembles this, but is also distinct in ways “Real” travel isn’t (e.g. no booking / stress / worries about getting stranded etc.). Therefore, we want to inspire by bringing “travel back home” and encouraging clients to see the new in the familiar, and learning to re-discover their own understandings and assumptions of travel, the new but also the familiar.

At the same time, during these times in which travel is restricted due to coronavirus, a solution like ours is more salient than ever.

Link to milanote: https://app.milanote.com/1Jc37i15q3vi5B
Link to our slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14bx_tJjU7RiQkm7Ly-sFYoKgIi3b_67VFlcG-2sfEz8/edit?usp=sharing