Decoding Design

Pop-up hotels, from the chic to the utilitarian, grow as a business trend

Posting in Architecture

Hotels are by definition temporary housing. Why not take the idea a step further with pop-up accommodations--and follow one of the 21st century's biggest design (and business) trends?

It's clear that "pop-up," or temporary, architecture is becoming an enduring cultural trend. In our own coverage at SmartPlanet, we've looked at everything from pop-up holiday-themed boutiques, grocery stores, entire neighborhoods. One of the newest waves in fleeting real-estate projects is pop-up hotels. This concept seems to make sense from a business perspective: hotel developers can try out locales, experiment with design ideas, and test out the market for guests without a huge financial commitment. Some hospitality companies are even making new business bets on the pop-up approach.

Take, for instance, Design Hotels, a carefully curated network of 200 chic hotels across 40 nations. These include the fashionable Standard hotel in New York and super chic boutique destinations like the Murano Resort in Paris. Design Hotels is also a marketing consultancy for the hospitality companies that create and manage such hotels. And now Design Hotels has recently launched its own property that also happens to be its second pop-up hotel project.

Located on a beach where local fishermen once gathered on the Greek island of Mykonos, the San Giorgio is a 34-room hotel with sparely decorated rooms that have a clean, streamlined feel to them--the perfect aesthetic for an easy-to-set-up, easy-to-disassemble pop-up hotel. The property also houses a 30-seat (pop-up) restaurant that serves local sea food. No end date for the project has been announced. It follows Design Hotels' first pop-up hotel, Papaya Playa in Tulum, Mexico, which launched late last year and is scheduled to be open for a five-month duration.

"Designed as shifting hubs, they provide an open platform for creatives to gather and shape meaningful moments," Design Hotels founder Claus Sendlinger told glossy lifestyle publication Wallpaper, of the pop-ups. His statement suggests that the clientele--"creatives," likely globe-trotting designers, ad agency executives, filmmakers, and other imaginative types--are also globe-trotting networkers in need of either time off or interesting, off-the-beaten destinations for retreats and meetings.

On its Web site, the San Giorgio pop-up hotel is described as the setting for an experience "like visiting the summer home of your coolest friend, who whips together a feast for the eyes and palate with as much ease and grace as he throws the island’s most talked-about fete. And you’re along for the ride." Sound tempting? Rates range from 170-1,200 Euros during mid-season (August). There you'll be surrounded by white walls, mosquito nets over low beds, hand woven rugs...and Mac computers at handmade tables.

It's worth it to note that pop-up hotels aren't only for jet-setting design aficionados. Snoozebox, a British company, creates modular, temporary hotels that can be configured in sizes that range from 40 to 400 rooms. While not as elegant as the Design Hotels' digs, they have a minimalist, industrial-chic feel to them and are marketed as practical accommodations for audiences of large spectator events or film crews, as well as a solution for disaster relief. The company has been gaining visibility in the U.K. In early May, for instance, Snoozebox pop-up hotels housed more than 600 performers who participated in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Windsor Castle. And the company's Web page states in its informational sections that Snoozebox Holdings was admitted to London's Alternative Investment Market stock exchange--indicating it's a healthy business.

On both ends of the spectrum, pop-up hotels seem to be welcome and flexible places to stay--and so far, as evidenced by their trendiness, successful business experiments. After all, as hotels are by definition temporary homes, doesn't it make sense that their physical forms might reflect this basic fact, too?

Images: Design Hotels

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure