While in Seattle helping meet a deadline, John Goldwyn took a short road trip on Thanksgiving Day with Jeff Naprawa to the Olympic National Park.
In early February, WATG's Seattle office is participating in a two-day retreat designed to establish short- and medium-term goals for the development of both the individual staff members and the office as a whole. The group of individuals tasked with leading the various sessions has, among other things, sought ways to walk away from the retreat with a specific to-do list as opposed to a we-should-do (read: someone-else-should-do) list.
The reason for this is obvious—we’ve all been there—lots of great ideas written on a dry erase board with no plan for carrying out the idea. Twelve months later, everyone sits down for another session and (surprise!) the same ideas are tossed out again because no one followed through last time.
So it was a pleasant surprise to read an article in February’s Fast Company addressing this very problem. It differentiates between New Year's resolutions which are doomed to fail within weeks with no negative consequences (no, I did not work out more in 2007, nor do I care that I didn't), and goals that at least come with a sense of failure when not met (my architecture license is a work in progress and hangs over my head daily).
Adding publicity and accountability turns a resolution into a goal, say the authors. A little peer pressure doesn't hurt either:
"Add publicity and accountability to a resolution, and you get a goal. At Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), for instance, employees set ambitious goals for themselves each year, called "commitments," that are created in consultation with their peers and supervisors and later made public. Peer pressure, or even just peer awareness, is a powerful motivating factor."
Much of the conversation for our upcoming retreat has been about how to facilitate the creation of something along the lines of Microsoft's "commitments." The challenge is how to not only brainstorm, discuss, and debate, but to also walk away with a set of benchmarks, solutions, and goals.
So how will we do?
Ask me next January.
Tom Williams was part of the design team for the Nanjing Zhongshan International Golf Resort, now operated by Sofitel. Recently he had the opportunity to stay at the hotel and play a round of golf on the Gary Player Signature course.
I had been meaning to see QUA Spa at Caesars Palace since it opened this past year in Las Vegas, and found myself finally having the chance. I didn't have time to book a treatment, but wanted to see the 40,000 square-foot spa that cost $24 million to build. I had a few biased opinions after having seen a plan last year; I had originally consulted with the local firm that designed it. On plan, it appeared to be loaded with excessive circulation. While the Roman Baths layout was nice, it seemed far from the rest of the locker spaces. Would I agree after seeing the real thing?
I'm big on processions--especially for spas--and found myself heading to the spa by walking past the wedding consultation offices and then a series of chapel rooms. The rooms looked a little stage-like and I felt they could serve a funeral as well. Not the most romantic, and not the decompression walk I like to see heading to the spa. Where is the water, the dim light or natural light, the aromatherapy smells of herbs and the soothing music? Well…it was coming, but not at the entry.
The reception desk did have a token water feature, but nowhere as spiritual as the one I found at the end of the long corridor to the locker rooms. The salon was immediately to the left of the reception through frosted doors, and the retail was along the way to the locker rooms. It was the first time I had ever seen guests have no choice but to walk through the retail. It reminded me a little of the Disneyland mentality of exiting through retail after you have been on a ride. It should be interesting to see if their retail sales are higher than average because of it.
I was now off to snoop through the locker rooms. The corridor was long, but the walls were wide and clad in beautiful stone. There were water features at each turning point and the sound did bring you a tranquil feeling. I felt like I was entering a sanctuary. I didn't sense the long length of the corridor which was actually taking me around the men's locker room. The water feature before the locker rooms was of a ring of slow moving water coming from the ceiling. The water fell into a circular trough filled with long growing grass. It was very spiritual and refreshing.
I entered into the locker room to be greeted by two attendants at the attendant desk. Wow! There was so much space! How nice to see six- to seven-foot wide corridors in the locker rooms. We usually are trimming any excess fat off of the plans, and the width of the corridor is usually the first place to reduce. What's nice about the wide corridor here was that the attendant could walk beside you and not in front of you while showing you all the amenities of the locker room
What was weird about the locker room layout was the location of the large Roman Baths. This was a room with a series of whirlpools at different temperatures. It was located adjacent to the attendant desk and separate from the other thermal experiences such as the steam, sauna and arctic rooms. It was obvious it was due to available space within the tower footprint, but awkward with the flow of the locker room. The Roman Baths themselves were nice with a large whirlpool as the focal point in the room. It was elevated with guests having to climb stairs in order to get in. I always worry about guests slipping on the wet tile floor but they may have had no choice because the spa falls within the guestroom tower and the casino below wouldn't allow for the large drop in height for the whirlpools. This large whirlpool had three infinity edge tiers. The rumor has it that the pool wasn't designed properly because only two people can get in the whirlpool or the water pours over the last tier onto the floor where there isn't sufficient floor drains.
There was a seating area on one side of the pool and heated chaise lounges to the other. It always looks beautiful to have seating along the whirlpool area but often it makes guests uncomfortable if they are nude in the pool. They often feel self-conscious so we usually angle the seats away or provide a separate seating area.
The other feature within the space was another ring of water falling from the ceiling. Guests had the option to walk into it or around to get to the other two smaller whirlpools. It was a beautiful space whether you were looking at the water experiences or experiencing them--if you didn’t mind being watched!
There was a lot of circulation space that may be deemed unnecessary, but they created a cool feature near the Roman Baths and that was a robe sauna. This robe sauna is basically a heated closet which would heat up your robe for you when you were in the Roman Baths. It was adjacent to the baths but within an alcove highly visible from the entry/attendant desk so guests would have to walk naked 15 feet coming or going to the baths or robe sauna.
The locker areas themselves were mundane with no dry vanity areas to break up the space. The waiting lounge surprisingly had a television which is not typical in the women's lounge. Televisions often appear in men's locker areas, but women want more tranquility. The lounge was nothing special and included modular seating to maximize seating counts which makes sense with 51 treatment rooms. I would rather see cozy chairs and ottomans for guests to curl up in and fall asleep--especially since there is no regular co-ed lounge.
There was a laconium co-ed lounge which is a low heated inhalation room where you can wear your robe. The seats were sculpted and comfortable, but everything was tiled and the light was dim so you wouldn't be able to read a magazine but just fall asleep in the warm air. Doesn’t sound so bad huh?
Back in the locker room the vanity and sink areas were beautiful. The counter depths were large enough to include a foot recess behind the counters to house all the toiletries and equipment so as to keep the counters clean and empty. They had a little tiny bar sink on the vanity side that I thought was very clever for those girls like me who need to wash their hands while doing their make-up or hair.
The showers were spacious and beautifully tiled with room for a dressing area. Too bad there wasn't a teak bench to put your things or towels on while you showered. Perhaps it was an operational/maintenance thing although most spas we design include them and they seem to hold up.
Because the Roman Bath whirlpools were so far away from the other thermal areas, there was another whirlpool located adjacent to the sauna, steam and arctic rooms. Another guestroom tower was probably encroaching on the plan, but this whirlpool was elevated with a series of five risers. Again, you take the risk of guests falling down the stairs when wet. It was a beautiful water zone with large artwork on the walls. I came to find out this was a common theme throughout the spa--large prints of modern art stretching almost floor to ceiling. As for the thermal experiences, the arctic room was the cold experience of the thermal areas and even had fake/disco snow falling from the ceiling. It was a beautiful room with built in heated seats and a bench around an ice machine where you push a button, and the ice falls down a long metal tube hanging from the ceiling. You then take the ice shavings and rub them on your skin to give you the cold experience of the circuit. These days, these rooms are replacing the cold plunge. The circuits of these hot and cold thermal experiences are so beneficial to one's health and heart. They say it's like a natural angioplasty because the arteries contract and expand so the blood naturally cleans out all the guck in the arteries.
I lucked out with my tour guide/attendant because after the tour of the locker room she was willing to show me some of the treatment rooms. Again--wow! The treatment rooms were large and connected by seven foot corridors. It was great to see a new look on the same old treatment set-up. Upon entry, there was a round mirror on the far wall near the head of the treatment table. It was placed on the appropriate wall so the therapist, or "artisans" as they call them, can't see the guest nude when rotating on the table during the treatment. They name "artisan" for their staff because they create experiences for their guests through spa treatments. This concept reminds me of the Disneyland philosophy and how they call their staff "cast members"--very clever! Again, beautiful and almost floor to ceiling artwork was on the long wall opposite the millwork. The abstract modern art may be a little distracting for some, but the soft lighting overhead helped tone it down. The millwork and counter were clean, and the hot towel cabbie was exposed in the millwork for all to see (but was framed and placed low under the cabinet discretely). The colors of the room were dark and most rooms had wood floors except the two Vichy and three Hydrotherapy rooms which had tile. Again, all rooms were very spacious.
The wet rooms were grouped together at the center of the treatment zone, and included in this area is a room for doing crystal body art. I can't imagine spending the same as a treatment for body art but if money was no object...sure! Perhaps body art is popular in Las Vegas, but this room also doubles as a wellness counselor room for guests wanting to have a session on behavioral issues like weight loss, smoking or stress. Apparently the doctor works with hypnosis to help the guests.
The facial rooms were also grouped together in a zone around another open lounge space. This area also allows guests to wait in between treatments within the treatment area and not have to return to their locker room waiting lounges. All the facial equipment was exposed in the room which makes it easy for the therapists to access the equipment, but makes for a cluttered room. We typically like to see some floor to ceiling cabinets to hide some of the equipment.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised! But when you have 24 million dollars to spend, you are bound to have something beautiful!
Several years ago, WATG traveled to Nanjing, China for a design charrette. The team spent 2 days drawing on the floor of a hotel room in preparation for presenting the final concepts to the client. To see the finished product, click here.
In a lot of projects, we are already creating resort communities. But what may be missing is that this sector is not being passionately defined by our company as part of our projects (where applicable) and portfolio. We use similar rhetoric (local character, culture, sustainability etc.) but could we utilize and define "community" as part of our project descriptions and/or marketing efforts? For the sake of discussion, let's ask:
What is a resort community (or what can it be)? Is there interest and is it salient for our projects in our economy and the future? Can the firm establish itself as innovators and thought leaders in this genre?
On the whole, we may have the "resort" part down; but what about the "community" component? Let's delve into this a little deeper...
Cultivating communities in the New Economy is a different paradigm today than it was even just five years ago. Amenities, creativity (stimulation), equity, and sustainability have been said to be the framework of today's vibrantly social economic model of a community. Livability is the defining factor for any community looking to sustain itself in this constantly changing world. The combination of strong and innovative leadership, regional cooperation, diversity, and excellent design of place and space form a valuable investment in livability and economic success. Communities that have the ability to use these natural and created amenities and open up creative means to provide opportunities to people and a vision for the future are the ones best able to compete on a global stage.
On Maui, Everett Dowling, president of the Dowling Company, reaffirms his continuing dedication to quality development, regardless of what the economic marketplace may present.
"Dowling Company is committed to responding to Maui's heated housing market with innovative quality products that fill the demand without compromising the environment or aesthetics of our island. We are excited about moving forward with our projects because they fill a range of needs from housing for native Hawaiians and seniors, to upscale residences."
In an update on current residential projects, Dowling says, "At One Palauea Bay, our exclusive enclave of 17 homes and home sites, we recently have garnered several awards for Kumulani, our model home designed by architect Tan Hock Beng. To date, there are just six unsold lots."
It is worth mentioning that in the heart of this upscale residential community is an ancient heiau and Hawaiian village that Dowling has dedicated to the University of Hawaii for study purposes.
Is there a need? Will the definition and/or concept of "Livability" evolve? Do we have the capability to step in and step up in order to become innovators and leaders here?
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