Carla Bonilla-Huaroc’s flexible and experience-driven architectural proposal eliminates hotel monotony.

In the lead up to each issue, we challenge emerging designers to
respond to the Frame Lab theme with a forward-looking concept.
Lingering travel restrictions mean urbanites looking for an escape from
daily life are more bound to their immediate surroundings, leaving local
hospitality entrepreneurs questioning how to evolve to best serve them.
To find answers for Frame 140, we asked three creative practices to share their ideas.

Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s degree in Architecture, Carla Bonilla-Huaroc is currently based in Los Angeles where she works as an architectural designer at Gehry Partners. Activity-based rooms at Bonilla-Huaroc’s conceptual hotel can change function by the exchange of in-room tools, thus adapting to the needs of its largely local clientele.

Where did you draw inspiration from for this Challenge?

CBH: Airbnb. For the past few years, many travellers have favoured the homy and often smaller-scale dwellings offered on that online marketspace over other forms of accommodation. It’s a trend that only continued to grow during the pandemic, thanks to the increased need for anonymity and privacy. But the main draw of Airbnb already existed pre-pandemic: the uniqueness of its offering. It shows how spaces can become the destination. 

A strategy you believe hotels can adopt as well?

Indeed. The demand for more experiential spaces will require a new hotel typology. One that offers a diversity of spaces representative of the diversity of the short experiences consumers seek today, especially those choosing – or forced – to stay closer to home. 

In what way will these experiences on offer differ from before, now that inner-city hotels will likely attract a more local audience instead of the business and foreign travellers they were serving pre-pandemic,?

Rather than offering a space to simply spend the night while exploring a new city, in my proposal the inner-city hotel in itself becomes the central experience, offering local urbanites the spaces and tools to enjoy activities they might not be able to do – or find the time for – while at home. 

What type of short activities are you referring to? And what sort of spaces will these hotels need to accommodate those?

Artistic retreats such as painting, sculpting, pottery making and dancing. But also sports-related activities like skating and wall climbing. There will be a variety of spaces needed, some more static and customized, some more flexible and modular, able to change function easily by the exchange of the in-room tools present for guests. This adaptability of space will also become an attractor, welcoming what might become repeat visitors to a different environment each time. Whereas the architecture will still accommodate privacy, the building’s use will also allow for more transparency and visual access between rooms through elements such as inward-facing windows. 

Get your copy of Frame 140 here.