Birding Hotel

Here’s a project by Morris Architects that was a runner up in a 2009 hospitality design competition called “Radical Innovation,” looking for new creative ideas for hotels.  With little criteria defined in the competition brief, the project calls for the opposite of a branded, cookie-cutter hotel solution to be applied anywhere; but rather one that relies heavily on context and environment – largely because it is so program driven, requiring special responses to the habitats of local birds.  Their response created two prototypes, one in Alaska; the other in Costa Rica, covering the two extremes of climate found in birding, cold, and dry; and hot, and humid.

While I’m not convinced there is really such a thing as “birding honeymoons,” or “birding family holidays,” (see project description below); the architecture itself is seductive, and appears to contain enough other program and amenities, that such a venture could succeed as a boutique hotel attracting anyone, not just bird enthusiasts, purely for the amazing scenery.

The exciting thing about “Radical Innovation” is that Hospitality Design Magazine, one of its organizers, along with the John Hardy Group, a leading hotel developer – attempt to pitch some of these ideas to hotel developers around the world.  It would be exciting to really take ideas like this into schematic design and design development and really dive into some of the constructability and sustainability issues involved with sites like these, and take on more than just the typical consultants (structural and mechanical engineers, etc.) but also biologists, and environmental scientists.  Projects like this would really stretch the capabilities of all involved.  Here’s the project description from Morris Architects:

Birdwatching – or rather birding, as its proponents prefer – presents tremendous untapped potential for the hospitality industry.

The sheer numbers are telling. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2007, birding is a hobby for 47.8M Americans – and that number is growing, up from 46M in 2003. The U.K., as another example, is known as a country of birders. Birding is appreciated by every culture and ethnicity around the world, can be shared across generations, and can be enjoyed throughout the course of one’s entire life.

Of particular interest to the hospitality industry, there is a strong connection between birding and travel, ranging from honeymoon adventures, to the occasional family holiday, all the way to species- or location-specific international tours for the obsessive and the rarity-seeker. Birders who travel tend to be well educated, affluent, and enjoy trying new places.  In particular, U.S. baby boomers, who by 2015 will command 60% of this country’s net wealth, have embraced the hobby with its elements of conservation, continuing education, and travel.

Up until now, hospitality offerings for birders tended to be ad-hoc – the local motel, a camping lodge; convenience or adjacency was the prime criteria. We, however, propose to integrate luxe hospitality into the birding experience, creating a methodology that can be adapted for implementation at sites around the globe.

We’ve designed an approach that can make this great pastime a sensory, exciting experience for anybody – professional naturalists, hobbyists, or those in search of a luxurious retreat experience.

We present case studies of this venue in two extreme climates – Alaska, a cold, dry region, and Costa Rica, hot and humid – to test how a birding hotel translates for each environment.

Geographic location and climate dictate the bird species present at various times throughout the year. Typically, a birder has to travel from point A to point B to observe different species. Our strategy is to combine these points to a centralized location.

1 comment
  1. No doubt about it; birding is popular, and the accommodations at some remote birding sites can be rustic.

    My comment about the designs, though, is that I hope all of the glass is screened to prevent bird strikes. Otherwise, the lower level of the Alaska design could have some serious impact on birds flying in the area. Audubon Society of Portland (Oregon) has recently developed bird-friendly building guidelines to help developers build structures that reduce hazards for birds:

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