What makes a place special? What keeps people going back for more in this day and age of limitless enticing options? The secret is “Hospitable Thinking” – a term coined by renowned design firm Avroko. It encapsulates the idea of making people feel comforted and cared for by creating the ultimate expression of hospitality.
There are three different layers, outlines William Harris, one of the four principals of the firm. The first – safety and security – is making people feel assured of a certain predictability. “Studies have shown that the brain can perceive even social discomfort as threatening and can trigger certain primal responses. All it takes could be as simple as losing your way in a space or not having a logical, instinctual flow. It’s very important to bring a sense of anchoring, grounding and protection,” he says.
The next is, on some level, the opposite – or variety. “Too much predictability can be monotonous and boring. Shake that up and inject some shots of dopamine! We play with surprise, moments of delight, unexpected treats and treasures, and little details that excite the brain and ignite the senses.”
The last component is a sense of significance. “It’s about making people feel that their identity is noticed and matters; that they’re worthy and perhaps part of the space,” adds Harris.
These ideas certainly aren’t groundbreaking, and may even be a little obvious – after all, they centre on fulfilling basic human needs, tapping into behavioural sciences and environmental psychology. But it’s how Avroko manages to enfold the intangible key ingredients that are so often overlooked in a systematised approach that is so interesting. “Hospitable Thinking is a process that we’ve been crafting over the last nearly two decades. It’s been a journey of understanding the industry and coming up with our own practices,” shares Harris. “At first, it was very instinctual and then we needed to understand more deeply where our instincts were coming from and why, in order to put form into it and make it more systematic.”
When asked for an example of how one can experience Hospitable Thinking in play, Harris cites Beauty & Essex (a restaurant and bar in New York City) where the ladies’ restroom had to be situated in the basement of the three-story space with no elevators. “It’s a long journey down and in order to thank and reward the women for making the long haul in potentially uncomfortable shoes, we put a free pink champagne bar in the restroom,” he smiles. “That’s an example of surprise and showing some caring and creating delight to be hospitable.”
Publico restaurant and bar in Singapore is another example, where Harris says novelty and flexibility entice. “There’s the indoor-outdoor experience, carving off different nooks and areas for people to congregate, and a flow of spaces awaiting and offering a lot of variety.”
(Related: Publico Ristorante)
Avroko, known for its concept-driven projects across a multitude of disciplines, is behind some of the region’s hottest hospitality venues, including Union at The Opposite House in Beijing, Eaton HK hotel in Hong Kong, Nan Bei and Lennon’s at the Rosewood Bangkok, as well as F&B concepts at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok. Upcoming hotel projects include The Standard in Phuket, Thailand, as well as Capella in Chongli, China.
Seemingly, the notions of Hospitable Thinking are more relevant than ever. Living in a world with constant stimulation and overwhelming of the senses, a hospitable environment can bring a sense of respite and refuge while entertaining and delighting.
Harris has noticed that brands and owners from even adjacent industries are looking for ways to adopt this concept in order to have a distinct offering and go that extra mile to attract their tribe.
Being truly hospitable is a way to build loyalty and positive experiences that go a long way, especially in such a social age. “A lot of it is the small things, whether it’s attention to detail or specificity,” says Harris. “But the more care you put into the project through the details and thoughtful functionality, the more that translates to the guest.”