The visual language expressed by architecture and structural design in commercial buildings is becoming increasingly more important. This is especially true of hotels, which have become places where society can conduct business; find comfort along a traveled road, or more commonly chosen as destinations where people can glimpse another life. The appearance of these hotels, whether modern in design or classical in their lines, is enhanced by their structural elements.
So what is a structural element and how is it used to the best advantage in good design? A structural element refers to any part of a building that by itself or combine with other parts supports a portion of that building. We often think of structural elements in modern terms, such as steel joists and girders, or vertical wood members that support walls and roofs but are covered up. The Greeks and Romans did not hide their structural elements. Their classical designs elevated the simple post and lintel construction to an art form. Fluted columns with scrolled Ionic capitals supported decorative horizontal lintels. A building with this look is recognized as an important building. It commands attention.
Architectural styles of the pass still influence modern design for hotels or villas and should never be overlooked. Consider the use of an exposed colonnade. Whether an external feature attached to the building, or used within the structure on an external wall, guests enjoy the lit passages overlooking beautiful vistas, instead of dark enclosed hallways. And if the design is for a villa, how can the Romanesque style be ignored with its distinctive row of arches. This design can be modified so that the center arch is a doorway and the arches on either side are windows. With the front of the villa so extraordinary the remaining building is almost plain in comparison.
All ancient styles have modern applications. Imagine approaching a hotel in your car without a large covered entrance through which you drive. Such approaches are so commonplace and expected but their origin is in the past. How that entrance is designed can either repel or welcome guesses. First impressions are everything!
Any plain box of a building can achieve a fresh new look with the skillful use of structural materials and the hint of antiquity. Think columns at entrances or in lobbies made of new materials, like cast stone (concrete) burnished with stains that make them look like marble, accented with rolled copper. For a rustic look, envision massive redwood timbers, ruff-cut as if they were hulled straight from the woods with the aromatic scent as a bonus. Or for the modern look, simple, hollow metal, painted posts could support a steel and glass atrium over an entrance, walkway, or inter courtyard.
There is no end to imagination when refreshing an old hotel or transforming a villa. A place to start for winning ideas is the architectural standards of the past. Then modernize their use and celebrate the present with the use of new materials and building techniques.