Where do hotels go when they die?

Where do hotels go when they die?

Lok-kan Chau


In Doha, new hotels are constantly being invested in, despite the anticipated surplus in hospitality industry in the very near future. Where do hotels go when they die? We imagine a hotel that its use is to be transformed, and its space could be gradually eroded.

Hotel 3D Axon Colour.3dm

The arrival of AI-assisted structural 3D printing means the once expensive architectural curvatures could become cheap and available to everyone. Here, we propose a collection of 3D printed metabolic structural modules, in a shape that roughly resembles tree branches, of 4.5m x 9m x 9m which could be freely stacked on top of each other around reinforced concrete service cores. These skeletons enable a freedom for slab, partition and ceiling, that could be infilled according to need, transformed through time, or simply left empty.

Hotel 3D Section.3dm


What prompted the project?

Graduated, working in conventional practice, preparing for licence exam, the pragmatic dehydrates all of us. Looking back, pevious generations of architects – from Cook to Ando to members of NATØ to many more – would have dreamed and drawn architecture purposelessly while tackling the daily trivial at our age. So I treated the project as a little excursion for myself. The brief was adopted from a studio assignment from another school. There have been a few recurring themes that interested me: absence, process, rite of passage, place-making, ecology, agency. The enjoyable thing to self-impose a project is that you could always tailor the brief to suit your own agenda.

What is your take on the condition of the hotel typology? How and to what extent have formats as airbnb affected and endangered the hotel? Will hotels still exist in the near future?

Almost two centuries ago Victor Hugo exclaimed ‘Ceci tuera cela’, referring to the arrival of printing press that would have killed architecture as a medium to preserve and propagate knowledge, which did not take place. Two decades ago we exclaimed the arrival of computer and the Internet that would kill printing press, which did not happen either. Take an example: today, drawings and sketches are still being photocopied and circulated in many construction sites for builders to refer to – more readable than the small reflective iPad screens. I guess the case for hotel would be similar: Airbnb offers more individualized and unique choices, often local, authentic and charming; hotel brands will soon develop these characters in their own way, while trying to maintain their convenience, scale and quality-assurance.

Hotel 3D Section.3dm

What defined Doha as site of interest? Is Doha’s condition unique or is it shared with other cities in the peninsula?

In terms of over-speculation, Doha and the peninsula are not unique. It is a phenomenon shared by many developing countries. Even today, in mainland China, there are still a lot of ghost towns under-occupied due to over-optimism. What I am interested in Qatar is that it is a relatively small nation but capable to compete with other giants on the peninsula.

How and to what extent do you see the viable transformation of existing hotel structures worldwide?

Often we see derelict factories and offices converted into hotels, less so for the reversed. A technical reason is that the partitions and specific mechanical ventilation and air conditioning systems of modern-day hotels allow but costly transformation. Serviced apartment or rehabilitation residence could be likely alternatives for existing hotel structures. If not, perhaps ruin-tourism could also be an income generator…

Hotel 3D Unit Birdeye.3dm

What defined your attitude to representation in relation to the project?

I am fond of a literature device in Chinese which was also available in drawing called Pai-miao or Baimiao, which means to narrate a scenario as plain and bare and straight-forward and detailed as possible. It does not mean the piece is to be a replica of reality – it will never be, it does not have to be, and it should not be – but it is to let the content speaks for itself, without much seasoning or decoration. This device was often correlated to frugality, and it could be a response to the imagined hotel, which is meant to be a luxury.

What defined the various drawings through which you explore the speculation? How does each one explore and reveal specific aspects of the project?

In general there are two types of images in this project. Some depict the proposed building in its originally intended function as a hotel, some imagines its potential transformation or erosion through time.

Hotel 3D Overall.3dm

What defined the absence of people inhabiting the speculation? How was this sense of alienation reinforced by ‘aerial’ views within the rooms?

I draw no people. Instead, I draw quotidian objects that suggest past habitation, as if time was stolen, or as if the objects await for human presence again, quietly and patiently. Aerial view of room interior creates a strangely familiar effect: the familiar domestic furniture viewed from a strange angle often associated with death, when legends have it that our soul would elevate from our body. I would say it is also a spatial psychology: looking-up is admiration, worship, anticipation, imagination, desire, fantasy; looking-down is reflection, compassion, offering, departure, transcendence.

Hotel 3D Axon Colour.3dm

What tools did you use to develop the project?

Sketches, Rhino, Vray, Photoshop. Lots of iterations, lots of quick screenshots for comparisons.

What would you say is the architect’s most important tool?

Architecture is like orchestral music composition: you could hardly imagine the final outcome before it is realized. A drawing is different from a digital model is different from a physical model is different from a mock-up is different from a finally-built space is different from a photograph of the built. For an architect, during design stage, I think it would be better to work with as many different tools as possible. Each tool reveals a particular aspect of the whole…



Lok-kan is an architectural practitioner and researcher interested in ecology, place-making, rite of passage, tectonics and agency. He designs architecture that evolves over time, gathers people, and gives a sense of serenity to life. He studied architecture at University of Hong Kong, exchanged to ENSA Paris-Malaquais, prior to obtaining his master degree at University College London. His graduation drawing ‘Construction Manual for Lantau Commune’ received the Hugh Casson Prize from the Royal Academy of Arts.




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