Rooftop chic

Guests didn’t want to leave this “outdoor” vignette in Nashville

Three-day, annual interactive hospitality trade show HI Connect brings together decision makers, owners, developers, architects, designers and other key figures in the industry to see the latest products and designs trends close-up. With its unique format featuring 50 vignettes of actual hotel environments, the show gives the VOA hospitality group the opportunity to spread our wings and showcase our most imaginative designs while collaborating with vendors and artists we’re excited about. In 2015, we created a guest suite vignette that won the award for “Most Likely to Make Guests Want to Move In.”

For Hi Connect 2016, we took on a huge 30 x 60 space with three different entry points. Its scale naturally lent itself to designing an outdoor environment. Inspired by recent hotspots for stylish professionals in Chicago, New York and London, we decided to create an urban rooftop scene. Materials were selected with outdoor performance in mind. We sought to create a chic and elegant space with an industrial edge, suited for a generation comfortable with blurring the boundaries between networking and socializing. The goal was to create an atmosphere that felt high-end, yet approachable; trendy, yet timeless.

The space is broken up into zones; a simulated grassy sculpture garden, an open-air lounge and an enclosed bar/communal dining area—all contributing to a cool outdoor space for after-work networking or late night escapades.

The main entry leads into the bar/dining area, designed for freedom of movement. The dark textured envelope highlights a sharp, contemporary white porcelain tile bar inside, which offers a bit of intimacy. The bar then transitions into a communal dining table made in a butcher block style for some contrasting warmth to the stone look. Obeying a no candles/open flame rule, I had to get resourceful and so I created custom LED lighting fixtures in copper wire and glass, which to my surprise turned out to be quite popular with the crowd. The pendant light fixtures rounded out the space with the perfect old gold industrial vibe.

In the lounge space, guests settle into contemporary white chairs next to a sculpture garden backed by a wall mural of New York City’s skyline, which simulates a view of the cityscape from the rooftop. The large white sculptures trick the eye with their tall robust look, but are strangely light as they’re carved from high density foam. The sleek “fireplaces” are actually a water vapor and LED system that simulates an open flame. The green wall? Obviously, it’s a stunner. No one believed it was real—but it is, with its own irrigation system for dozens of live plants. Don’t worry, it found a home nearby when the event was over. Furniture by Harbour Outdoor arrived just in time to complete our vignette, and couldn’t possibly have been a better fit.

Stunning custom art permeates everywhere in all scales, bringing our zones together as a cohesive whole. And to keep our guests connected to the rest of the world, we equipped all areas with portable charging cubes and a charging tower.

We designed our virtual rooftop with industry networking in mind, so we were pleased to see it perform exactly as planned and become a great hit at the conference—a hub for conversation and connection. With added help from a bartender serving cocktails at the bar, crowds were drawn inside ready to mingle and talk business and trends. Others worked on laptops at the communal dining table. Many had to be coaxed out at closing time: the mark of a true hot spot.

VOA Team:
Carol Renner
Mark Pratt
Molly O’Keefe
Fred Robertus
I’d like to thank the vendors that worked with us to create the space:

RAREculture, LLC

Green wall

Harbour Outdoor

Shores International

Water Vapor Fireplace

Flooring and Marble Porcelain tile for bar

Genesis Hospitality Corporation

Outlets and Phone charging tower

Portable charging cubes
Kube Systems

Michelle Wilson, from Intrinsic Hospitality

Lighting assistance:
Janine Everly-Perez, with MorrSharp Associates

Steve Dambach, with DesignLight

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