We’re at the Green Building Focus conference in Birmingham–come check out our booth! The vendor hall is free and open to the public at in the North Exhibition Hall of the BJCC starting 8:30 AM Wednesday and continuing Thursday.
In the meantime I can’t help but illustrate how the lobby of the downtown Sheraton needs help. This lobby of the main hotel connected to the convention center has no visual focus. It’s a blur of beige tiles, brown paneling, more brown planters–and odd little angled reception desks hidden behind columns. This space is lacking in “visual hierarchy” , where elements and colors are carefully arranged in relation to one another to guide guests to the check-in, to the elevators, the ballrooms, etc.
In the 5 minutes I stood there, I saw at least 4 people looking bewildered, asking the bellman where to find elevators, wondering where to check in, etc. This could be much, much easier with a change of materials, color, and orientation. OK, back to the conference! More on greening Birmingham shortly!
Just recently I came across an essay by Classicist architect Quinlan Terry that addresses this issue:
“This leads to misunderstanding 2, which concerns functionalism. It is said that in a democratic age, the greater or lesser importance of such a simple thing as a door is no longer relevant. Quite apart from the democracy question, every large municipal building has to serve different groups of people, and it is helpful if the main public entrance is easily distinguished from the office staff entrance or the door to the refuse collection. Even in the sitting room of a small house the door to the hall or kitchen should be more important than the door to a cupboard. The old rules relating to relative importance (the hierarchy) of doors and their architraves still apply and fulfil an important function. If they are well understood they help the client use the building and if they are ignored as in most modern buildings, you have to resort to signs and symbols to guide the public in the right direction.”
Of course, the correct use of architraves is only one method of clarifying the function and arrangement of space. But the larger point about the tendency to ignore the need for visual cues is valid.
Ironically, most of corporate America (such as Sheraton) tends to agree with that old-world classicist Terry: it’s ideal for consumers to feel relaxed, confident, and perceptive in the visual environment provided to them. Of course Terry is not right about all modern buildings, just some; and certainly we can think of some rambling old Victorian mazes as well. But really, I just hadn’t encountered a major hotel lobby seeming so adrift in some time. Astounding.
Good observations. The lobby (at least in this picture) has the look of a crypt church. Where are the entombed bodies?