Are hotels no longer just for tourists?

This question laid the foundation for the latest episode of Places, the event organized by Lualdi to delve into the role of design in defining our living spaces.

Originating as a local carpenter’s shop in 19th-century Magenta, Lualdi has undergone a transformative journey, emerging as a cornerstone in Italian design and furniture through partnerships with leading names of Milan’s scene such as Luigi Caccia Dominioni. Over the years, this long-standing yet future-oriented company has been committed to engaging with the large community that revolves around the world of design.

The Places series of events epitomizes this commitment, fostering connections among architects, designers, and interdisciplinary figures and engaging them in a discourse on “places of living,” where to share ideas and case studies and envision prospective design scenarios.

The first two Places events delved into educational and residential spaces, revealing the imperative to adapt to contemporary shifts, with the awareness that the places we’ve inherited from the past don’t necessarily suit our present needs.

This year’s third and final event focused on hospitality. What role do accommodation facilities play in shaping new social practices?
The basic assumption is disruptive, almost paradoxical: hotels are no longer just for tourists. They are for “locals” as well, interweaving hospitality into the fabric of everyday living environments.

Preserving the monumental essence of a structure as a reference for the city, while fostering a deep connection with the surrounding area was the principal objective behind the Palazzo Tirso hotel project in Cagliari. This initiative breathed new life into a historic 1920s building overlooking the sea.

Architect Marco Piva illustrates how his vision resonates within the interior spaces: “The communal areas of the hotel aren’t exclusively reserved for its guests; they’re open to the city.” This ethos is evident in the ground-floor restaurant and café-bar, as well as in the top-floor vantage point overlooking Cagliari’s harbor, both levels accessible and inviting to all. Piva, with a smile, remarks, “Naturally, the doors are crafted by Lualdi because we seek collaborators who grasp the essence of the project, contributing to our designs without constraints.”

Today, the responsiveness and flexibility of companies to meet the demands of designers from all over the world also matter. We can participate with our products in what is the uniqueness of the project.
Pierluigi Lualdi, CEO of Lualdi. Photo © by Beppe Raso

Palazzo Tirso is part of the Accor Group. Ettore Cavallino, Senior Director, emphasizes the pivotal role of context in crafting a luxury hotel experience. “Luxury transcends mere materials; luxury springs from historic architecture, breathtaking vistas, and memorable moments.”

Yet, this alone isn’t sufficient. The new concept of luxury demands more. This includes engaging non-tourists, the local residents. Cavallino contends that “when locals like the hotel, if it is not used only by tourists, it will naturally attract travelers.” Therefore, highlighting and nurturing a hotel’s communal spaces becomes a strategic imperative for hoteliers, because spaces that frequented by locals inherently inspire trust and allure to tourists.

It’s a fresh and distinctive opening of luxury to the general public that Marina Jonna, the event’s moderator, emphasizes as a defining trait. It revolves around catering to a more complex and experiential demand than mere overnight accommodation or adhering to the “simple” traditional norms of luxury.

At the entrance to Lualdi’s showroom at 74 Foro Buonaparte Street, where the entire series of talks was held, Glass Code is on display, an installation created during the last Milano Design Week by Maurizio Lai, the third speaker on the panel.

Magda Antonioli, a Senior Professor at Bocconi University and Vice President of the European Travel Commission, intervenes with a warning: “Nobody goes to a hotel just to sleep; let’s not forget what tourists are looking for.” Present-day tourism – and by extension, hospitality – encompass a myriad of expressions: from leased villas to purposefully exclusive hotels, from glamping to spiritual getaways. “Adapting to ongoing transformations is crucial,” asserts Antonioli, “but we mustn’t stray from what makes each region unique, which remains the strong suit of Italian tourism.”

We’re heading towards what we could consider the “new era of hospitality,” which takes into account ever-evolving needs without compromising on the cornerstone of excellence. It’s this premium quality that transforms a place – possibly visited just once in a lifetime – into a memorable experience. After all, as CEO Pierluigi Lualdi highlights, “Every hotel aspires to be unique.”

Opening image: The rooftop of Palazzo Tirso, overlooking the harbor of Cagliari and open to the city. Project by Studio Marco Piva

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