Is 3D printing the future of hotel design?


The Sleep Hotel competition, part of hotel architecture and design show Sleep, provides a platform for designers to show how creative they can be.

Working to a different brief each year, and with suppliers and a fit-out team of their choosing, designers are initially invited to pre-qualify by submitting an outline concept. A maximum of six design teams are selected to fully design and build their concept for Sleep, being held from November 20-21 at The Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

The judging panel, which includes ReardonSmith Architects MD Conrad Smith; Starwood Hotels and Resorts VP – luxury & design brands EMEA Anthony Ingham, and Barbican Centre curator Catherine Ince, reviews all the entries and announces the winner.

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Purpose Design managing director Gail Thomson explains how she is using the competition to explore how technologies such as 3D printing will impact interior design as pop art did in the 60s.


What is your approach to Sleep Hotel?
Our approach is really inspired by what pop art did, or what impact it had on art and design generally in the 1960s.

Our concept is harnessing a fairly-recently developed technology, 3D printing. It is very much the zeitgeist of what is being developed now, not just in terms of general design but in terms of fashion and product design in other industries.

"There is a race to see who’s going to be developing the very first 3D printed building which is really exciting and it does make you wonder where architecture and design in a spacial context is going to be in 15 years time"

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What impact is 3D printing having on design?
It has been around for about 20 years, but it is only really being utilised in terms of product design — lighting and garments. It’s allowing designers generally to utilise new materials that never really have been utilised before and I think that’s what is really exciting.

Traditionally, if you were creating a 3D element you would sculpture it from marble or some timber for example, but now you have the opportunity to utilise interesting resins and plastics, and a lot of these materials are environmentally friendly. So we have the opportunity to showcase what new and developing hotel design might be able to harness and that’s what we want to explore.

There’s definitely an opportunity for other designers to look at how can we harness that, exploit that in a soft way, how can we explore the opportunities because designers should really be — and so should hoteliers — looking at new ways to inspire, to evoke interest and character in the hotels, and this might be one small aspect to help that happen. The important thing is that you harness it with other forms of technology. So we’re almost celebrating technology for our concept.


How does 3D printing in product design translate to interiors?
That’s being explored at the moment and it’s something we’re currently investigating with 3D printer companies because this is definitely a development that we’d like to drive forward for potential new projects we’re working on in the coming 12 months.

How could 3D printing enhance the guest experience?
You can use the 3D printing process to create unique objects, so this could be creating a ‘companion’ for your guest left in their room based on a photograph of their favourite person. That’s a very basic format of 3D printing which is very common today; people submit a photograph of themselves or another person and that is used to make a 3D model of the person.

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How long will it be before the first hotel room, designed and created using the 3D printing process, is launched?
There are so many people who are keen to do it, but I think that’s something that can only be driven by the exposure of what the limitations of this technology actually are.


Sleep Hotel – The brief

★ Designers are invited to refurbish a junior suite within a building that was completed in 1966 as a purpose-built hotel, located on the western edge of central London.

★ At the time, its architecture was considered leading-edge; its style optimistic and unashamedly modern. In its heyday, the hotel was the haunt of headline-grabbing artists, fashionistas and trend-setters.

★ Last year, the hotel was acquired by a new owner with a passion for reinventing the fortunes of significant buildings and a fascination for the era of its construction. This was the time when Britain finally emerged from post-war austerity, when mass production was making itself felt in peoples’ homes and the term ‘pop art’ was coined.

★ Pop art was a rebellion against the artistic and social norms that had previously existed, and sought instead to harness the new media and technologies that were rapidly changing the western world.

★ Your client wishes to capture this radical spirit in his rejuvenated hotel.

★ The hotel will comprise 400 rooms of which 32 are suites. The average length of stay is anticipated to be 1.7 nights and the average daily rate approximately £300-350. Visit for further details.


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