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Four Seasons Unveils R&D Studio

(October 2016) posted on Thu Oct 27, 2016

Design lab includes cardboard room replica

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has taken the wraps off a new workshop designed for testing a range of hospitality concepts at its Toronto headquarters. Dubbed the Research and Discovery Studio (R&D Studio), the new facility is decked out with graffiti-style artwork, communal meeting and workspaces and multiple areas for experimenting with design models and amenities.

Four Seasons R&D Studio
The new Research and Discovery Studio at Four Seasons Toronto headquarters. Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

The studio’s centerpiece is a space where Four Seasons’ in-house team builds three-dimensional guest room replicas entirely of cardboard. Designed to scale and customized with cardboard reproductions of FF&E and architectural elements, the modular room was created to give designers the opportunity to test unusual layouts and challenging room designs in a cost-effective manner prior to producing a model room.

R&D Studio
Testing areas within the new Research and Discovery Studio. Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

“We use the R&D Studio to explore rooms that can serve multiple purposes–rooms that give our guests greater freedom and control to use the space as they choose,” says Dana Kalczak, vice president, design, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “A guest room used to have fixed features—you sleep here, you pour coffee there, you work in one corner and relax in the other. But mobile devices have changed this dynamic. You no longer need to sit at a rectangular wooden desk to 'work'–you can just as easily email and take calls from a sofa or from the bed.”

Other highlights of the new studio include work areas dedicated to elements of the guest experience, such as one devoted to the brand’s signature bed; a fully functional bar for testing coffee/cocktail equipment; an atelier to sample and model employee wardrobes; and a table-top staging area to experiment with combinations of glassware, tableware and cutlery.

“No two Four Seasons properties are the same,” says J. Allen Smith, president and ceo, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “So while we draw on our experience from previous projects, all of the decisions we make for each property require careful consideration of what the needs of that particular project are, what the vision of that owner is, and the decisions that we think will best enhance the guest experience in that property.”

“The R&D Studio is a critical tool for us because it allows us to make detailed decisions in a holistic environment,” adds Kalczak. “When we bring everything together in this space, we better understand how the different elements energize and inform one another.”

Four Seasons is one of several hoteliers launching new testing spaces for hotel concepts. Marriott Hotels recently debuted a hotel incubator at Charlotte Marriott City Center, as well as #MGravityRoom, an interactive experience inside its New York Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge hotel. Early last year, prior to the company’s acquisition by Marriott, Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched a Starlab innovation center in New York.


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