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Design Crime: New Luxury Hotel Is a Five-Star Disaster Shelter

Move over, Four Seasons! A new building concept takes its design cues from ad hocdisaster shelters and can transform into just about anything includingyes, a swanky hotel! Like you’re slumming it, but with turndownservice!

Radical Innovation Disaster

Move over, Four Seasons! A new building concept takes its design cues from ad hocdisaster shelters and can transform into just about anything includingyes, a swanky hotel! Like you’re slumming it, but with turndownservice!

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The designers, WATG, call it pop-up hospitality. Youknow, like pop-up shops,pop-up cafes, and, of course, pop-up reliefshelters.Modular units, which they say resemble prisms (and we say resemblemelting ice cubes), are pre-fabricated with plumbing, lighting fixtures,and furnishings, so you can throw them up in a snap. Then, you canconfigure them any which way: as spas, salons, guestrooms, mini-homes,restaurants, bars, tented villas, you name it! If a rich person wantsit, they can do it!

WATG design
resort resized

WATG — the same firm that gave theworld the Venetian andDubai’s Atlantis at the Palm — says their new concept is especiallywell-suited to “adventure travel and ‘voluntourism.'” We can picturethe trip brochure now: Ever wanted to visit a squalid orphanage inCambodia? Teach English to illiterate adults in Sierra Leone? Build strawhuts with your bare hands in Kenya? Now you can, in five-star comfort!(WATG assures us that the units can be be redeployed as housing once thetourists have cleared out. That’s assuming locals want to live in it.)

WATG design

MosaicPATHWAY wonthe Radical Innovation in Hospitality award recently, which just goesto show how tone-deaf the hospitality industry can be. Disaster sheltersare portable, temporary, and easy-to-assemble because they have to be;they’re life-and-death accessories. Appropriated for the tourismindustry, they’re just shtick — pretty objects that come dangerouslyclose to aestheticizing disaster itself. Lord knows we don’t need anymore of that.

Thenagain, that’s the lay of the land in tourism country. Hell, you couldargue that Hawaii is one big tourist-friendly tragedy adventure park. Mosaic has the benefit of a small environmental footprint.And if it’s as flexible and as simple as the designers say, ithas real potential in emergency situations. But as a shiny addendum tothe luxury hotel industry? That’s just disaster porn. We’d rather stayat a Best Western.

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Radical Innovation food unit

[Images courtesy of WATG]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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