Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life

Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life Vancouver Art Gallery 
13 April - 15 September, 2013

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and co-curated by Jennifer M. Volland, Guest Curator, and Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator, with Stephanie Rebick, Assistant Curator

Project Team: Jer Thrope, Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen from the Office of Creative Research, and  Amelia Black. 

Grand Hotel was an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery exploring the design paradigm of the hotel along with a publication published by Hatje Cantz. 

As the archival researcher for the project, I was given access to the Waldorf Astoria onsite archives to explore and tell the story of the evolution of service design in the hotel industry during the Great Recession. 

Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life charts the evolution of the hotel from an isolated and utilitarian structure to a cultural phenomenon that figures prominently around the world. The scope of the project is global, an acknowledgement of the pervasive presence of a commercial network that is architecturally formed, geographically distributed and socially defined. The title of the exhibition is in part a reference to the influential 1932 Hollywood film Grand Hotel, in which the lives of individual guests interweave during a brief hotel stay. The film depicts a thoroughly modern condition and demonstrates the potency of the hotel as both a real and symbolic nexus of human movement, interaction and ideas.

The exhibition’s four main themes—travel, design, the social and culture—consider the vital role of travel and design in the development of the hotel, as well as the hotel’s important role as a site of social interaction and cultural production. Each theme speaks to a critical force that has given shape and meaning to the hotel. Together they tell the collective story of this important built form, elucidating its prominence in the public consciousness and reflecting the nature of the hotel itself: engaging, innovative, provocative, ephemeral. Quite simply, the hotel is a veritable laboratory of modern life.

I was invited by the Office of Creative Research, to conduct research in the archives of the Waldorf Astoria, a hotel know in the industry as the originator of the modern hotel experience. What we found through this project was a blue print for service design including complex diagrams mapping a card system for tracking a guest and all their preferences so that every element of their stay could be entirely tailored to them. 
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