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About three months ago, we were in the nation’s capital to celebrate the opening of the Conrad Washington, DC. After exploring the art-filled spaces, enjoying bites from the Voltaggio brothers at Estuary, and sipping cocktails on the roof at Summit, we wandered throughout the sophisticated spaces to take in the unique feel—a combination of relaxed elegance and approachable luxury. We had certain questions about the hotel’s design, and were soon led to HKS Hospitality Group—the architectural and hospitality consultancy firm behind its glitz. The nationally-ranked organization specialized in the design of an array of sophisticated spaces—like hotels, resorts, luxury spas, boutique properties, golf clubhouses, and more—and operates out of 24 offices around the globe. Having designed projects in 45 countries, HKS is currently underway with projects in five continents.
Whitewall spoke with Luis Zapiain, Principal and Director of Hospitality at HKS, about the hotel’s unique new features, how the firm is designing sustainably, and what they’re working on next,
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about HKS and what types of projects the company aims to create.
LUIS ZAPIAIN: HKS is a global firm of architects, designers, advisors and makers driven by curiosity and devoted to creating places that combine beauty with performance. Whether we are creating memorable experiences for sports fans; providing a world away to resort guests; or enabling teens living with cancer to support one another. We believe design can change people’s lives for the better.
WW: Tell us a bit about your design for the Conrad Washington, DC. What did you initially know you wanted to include?
LZ: We at HKS used and leverage our hospitality design knowledge and expertise to enhance the guest experience and hotel operations. One of our main goals was to create an unforgettable arrival sequence understanding that we needed to take the guest from a small street level entry to the sky lobby. We also focused on a seamless connection between the front and back of house areas that will provide the guest everything they would need while keeping their privacy.
WW: What are some design features you personally enjoy at the property?
LZ: We love the lobby atrium and how it connects all the floors, as well as the great rooftop terrace.
WW: Sustainability in architecture and design is a big factor today. How does this impact your design plans or practice overall?
LZ: We practice design with sensitivity to the challenges of the 21st century, to the communities we work within and to our environment. Our work is integrated and holistic, balancing beauty with performance. As we create design solutions, we work as responsible stewards of our resources, communities and planet. Sustainability and high-performance design are part of our culture, and our sustainability experts coach and advise our design teams. Our specialties include: healthy materials analysis, design for well-being, energy analysis, ventilation and computational fluid dynamics, carbon accounting, project sustainability assessment (such as LEED, BREAM, WELL) and workshop facilitation. In all that we do, we create maximum value and innovative solutions for our clients.
WW: What is HKS working on now?
LZ: Gaylord Pacific (Chula Vista, CA); Grand Hyatt Nashville; Live! by Lowes Texas and St. Louis; The Distil Hotel, Louisville; and Hall Arts Hotel, Dallas.