The architecture of convention hotels in the United States, 1940-1976
Cohn, Amy Elizabeth
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The convention hotel emerged as a distinct building type in the years of the Second World War and its aftermath. The earliest examples of convention hotels were distinguished from their pre-war counterparts by the design of their meeting facilities and the layout of public areas. In these projects, new techniques in architectural design were used only where they were critical to hotel operation. As the number of hotels increased in the fifties, competition for business required new approaches to design. For some hotel companies, the policy was to improve a hotel's capability for handling groups in order to attract sizable conventions to the property. In resort cities, hotel operators found that innovations in style and decor enhanced popular appeal, thereby increasing business. In the late fifties and early sixties, the participation of developers and corporations outside the hotel industry in building new properties brought about an increasing diversity. In the projects, design was based on potential profitability regardless of traditional hotel principles. At the same time, the inclusion of convention hotels in large-scale urban developments called for innovations in site planning and expansion of public amenities. While these hotels and their predecessors of the fifties rarely displayed architectural excellence, their contribution to guidelines for modern hotel design was critical to later, more spectacular developments of the building type. One project of the late sixties, the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, dramatically explored the potential of new approaches to hotel architecture. The astounding design of the public spaces, the integration of the hotel with surrounding development, and the hotel's subsequent popularity have served to transform this commercial building type into significant public architecture. The success of the. Atlanta Hyatt has led to a repetition of the concept by the hotel company, while inspiring new experiments by the architect. In the early seventies, a series of hotels of remarkable design opened in the United States. Their public appeal confirmed the value of good architecture to the successful operation of a hotel. Hotel professionals were forced to reconsider the necessary elements of hotel design, while architects were encouraged to re-examine the possibilities inherent in this commercial building type.
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