We were lucky enough to spend ten minutes with Tom Ito, prominent hospitality and lifestyle practice leader and principal at Gensler. We got to know him and learn about the trends he’s seeing in today’s hospitality and workplace design. Tom launched Gensler’s Hospitality Practice in the late 1990s, when he led the celebrated renovation of the Beverly Hills Hotel. He has since expanded the practice globally by leading numerous complex mixed-use, entertainment, master planning and hotel projects across the U.S. and worldwide.
Tom grew up in Los Angeles and in the hospitality industry. His family was in the restaurant business and growing up with that experience sparked his interest in hospitality design. Over the past three decades, he has built one of the most successful and innovative hospitality design practices in the world. The cutting-edge global hospitality and lifestyle practice was shaped from the ground up and under his visionary leadership. It’s the firm’s talent and the progressive outlook on architecture and design that has kept him at Gensler for over three decades. He’s had the opportunity of a lifetime – to build a global hospitality practice that is a trailblazer in hospitality design. He shared with me a piece of advice that Art Gensler, founder of Gensler once gave him and that is “Hire great people and get out of the way”. I was curious to know, what might be one of Tom most memorable moments at Gensler and Tom shared that he was given the honor of introducing Art Gensler to the Hospitality Design Platinum Circle Hall of Fame.
Gensler is designing today’s hospitality and workspaces with an increased focus on creating spaces for live-work-play. Hotels today are focusing on providing a unique guest experience during their stays. Tom is seeing that today’s hotel rooms are much more flexible, adaptable and offer privacy, individuality, and customization with reduced footprints. This is a similar trend taking place in the workplace, where companies are offering their employees a variety of workstations and spaces to think, create, connect and relax. Employees in top-performing workplaces—those that balance focus and collaboration—outperform their peers on critical business measures. It’s all about providing spaces that empower staff and guests. Reduced workstation sizes are also driving people to social or amenity hubs at the workplace. There is a focus on “we” spaces instead of “me” spaces and the boundaries between work, home and community are blurred. The employee-client experience is dictating a personalised approach from designers, similar to what’s happening in the hospitality industry.
We asked Tom about one of his favorite recent projects and it was Hotel Chaco they recently completed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His team worked closely with the client and studied the historical ruins of Chaco Canyon to draw inspiration from them and localize the guest experience at the hotel. Gensler design drew inspiration from the art, sculpture and basket weaving of local artisans, as visible in the design of the building’s exterior façade. A garden and luxury pool also added to the calming, spiritual nature of the property and it’s landscape.