A “Global Gallery” highlights Starwood’s global footprint in 100 countries with a five-panel installation featuring some of the company’s most high-profile recent openings around the world.
STAMFORD, Connecticut—Executives at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide are hoping their recently opened worldwide headquarters will itself spur development in its global portfolio.
To that end, they launched last week The Starwood Experience, a “creative design lab” at its offices designed to showcase the company’s nine brands. The space gives associates, owners, developers, customers and marketing partners a first look at innovations in two- and three-dimensional design, guest-facing technology, brand programming, event activation in public spaces, and food-and-beverage initiatives.
The building is also home to model guestrooms for Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Le Méridien, Aloft, Element and Four Points by Sheraton.
“It’s great to be able to have owners and developers come into this space and see how serious we are about design,” said Simon Turner, president of global development. “As people walk through here they can understand the culture of the company. This building feels like Starwood.
“One of the best things about a space like this is that developers can get a real feel for what they want to do—which brand they want to build,” Turner added. “Sitting in a boardroom looking at a PowerPoint presentation is different. If a developers looks at pictures of a lobby in Doha that he likes but his building has a different configuration, our designers are here to talk about how to adapt it. We can put that together.”
Asked if developers were open to coming all the way to Stamford, Connecticut, to learn about Starwood brands, Turner replied, “It’s actually far more efficient for them. We can bring in designers from any brand to meet them. Developers did seem reluctant to come to our White Plains office (the company’s previous headquarter from which it moved in 2011), but there is the ability here to see and touch our brands—so much more than a traditional presentation.
“We can figure out which brand works on the piece of land the developer has,” he continued. “We can offer a total immersion in our brands.”
Digging into development
Turner said the majority of Starwood’s deals are focused in North America, followed by China. Activity in the rest of Asia and the Middle East also remains strong, he added.
“While some competitors see China as slowing in momentum, we don’t and maybe that’s because we had a head start,” he said.
Turner also said Starwood has learned to be “adaptive” in its development.
“For example, when we realized that new building in North America was difficult, we were able to switch quickly to a conversion mode,” he said. “So with our first 50 Alofts being purpose-built, we are now doing many conversions—like an old rail freight terminal in Dallas.”
The Starwood Experience “idea lab” helps convey that flexibility and strategic approach to owners, executives said.
“We developed The Starwood Experience as a way to tell the Starwood story and give our partners a real immersion into how we drive design and creativity and create unique experiences for our guests,” said Phil McAveety, chief brand officer. “As importantly, this is a working lab for us to experiment with what’s new and next in a world where brand building is ever more dynamic and fast paced.”
According to McAveety, the Starwood Experience will change from one day to another.
“At any time visitors will see different concepts, prototypes, renderings, materials and models as we design next generation guestrooms, public spaces, spas or even furniture,” he said. “Likewise, displays, graphics and stories will change and adapt so the space is always showcasing what’s new and fresh.”
The new design center was conceived of by Starwood’s in-house creative team, led by Mike Tiedy, Starwood’s senior VP of global brand design and innovation, in conjunction with design firms, HOK NY and Jump Studios. The space complements Starwood’s Tribeca-based design center, which debuted in 2010 and houses offices and design elements for the luxury brands: St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotels.
The “SPG Tunnel” highlights the partnerships and programming of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program as well as personal stories from SPG members around the globe.
The Starwood Experience space
Guests entering The Starwood Experience will be greeted by an image of Starwood’s core belief statement: “We believe people want a better way to experience the world.”
On the ground floor, an LED wall features a feed of Starwood news and headlines from around the world. Nearby, a “Global Gallery” highlights Starwood’s global footprint in 100 countries with a five-panel installation featuring some of the company’s most high-profile recent openings around the world.
As guests move to the second floor, they pass through the “SPG Tunnel,” a passageway that highlights the partnerships and programming of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program as well as personal stories from SPG members around the globe.
Following the SPG Tunnel, guests enter the public space of The Starwood Experience where there are four installations, including:
a 40-foot “Articulated Wall,” which features stories and core values of each of Starwood’s nine iconic brands;
“The Showcase,” which is comprised of two separate Corian walls where drawer and shelving systems allow for story-telling through physical elements and graphics—the first features a “Brand Storytelling” exhibition and the second is called the “Power of Starwood,” which highlights the company’s cross-brand, cross-division and cross-hotel programs; and
“The Story Wall,” which provides a look at some of Starwood’s latest brand launches, such as W Hotels Designers of the Future Awards and the Live at Aloft Hotels music program.
A customized meeting space within The Starwood Experience demos next generation meeting technology, including a 6-foot tall, 22-foot wide immersion projection screen delivering high-impact presentations.
Additionally, The Starwood Experience is a staging area where visitors can see two- and three-dimensional design work in progress through a combination of eight different design studios and model hotel guestrooms for brands including Sheraton, Westin, Le Méridien, Aloft, Element and Four Points by Sheraton. This is the first time a model room for Le Méridien has been provided because, as one design executive said, “The brand will be less bespoke than in the past.”
Other executives also contrasted the new offices favorably with the old White Plains building.
“White Plains was like a financial Center,” Tiedy said. “We wanted to be able to tell our stories. Also, we previously spoke through our individual brands—not as Starwood. This space (which comprises an eight-story building and half of another building) allows us to display the Starwood image. We now have a clean and functional backdrop on which we can display each of our brands.
“Our competitors are mimicking our brands, (especially W),” McAveety said. “But with W now approaching 50 hotels, nobody is close to catching up because a brand is more than just designed space. Space is the stage which needs to be filled with programming that creates drama and attracts people.”