Hilbert's 'Infinite' Hotel
What is a Hotel? What is not a Hotel?
At a very basic level, a hotel is an establishment that offers lodging to paying customers. In addition, a hotel will often provide a variety of amenities ranging from restaurants and shops to day spas or concert halls. Visitors to a hotel may not only be guests with a room, but may come for the shopping, performances, food, or other events. Thus, the hotel is an establishment with offerings for all the activities of daily life. It is a small piece of relocated city condensed into a single facility.
I am interested in making a destination hotel where the hotel itself is the destination. The hotel is a vehicle that allows people to escape a routine existence for a moment and live a different experience in the world. It offers a pause, an interruption, a change of pace, what we call a vacation. It is a vehicle for making memories, for experiencing new adventures, for social encounters, for cultural blending, for the well being of the human spirit.
This hotel is situated in a warm, tropical environment, just off the coast of an anonymous island. Open-air design enhances natural ventilation and sunlight fills its spaces. The hotel provides the environment that offers its community all the activities for a complete cycle of life. The inhabitants of the hotel, the guests and workers, are living symbiotically within this autonomous system detached from the normal sequences of their lives. They are free to explore the land and marine-scapes of the hotel’s context. There are no other amenities on the island, and no commercial airport. So it often has plenty of vacancy and getting to the hotel is part of the adventure.
Having said this, what is not a hotel? In terms of function, is it simply when the establishment can no longer offer lodging? This may occur when the hotel is full, and indirectly recalls Hilbert’s concept of a Grand Hotel. But to further conceptualize when a hotel is not a hotel, I will introduce the dual concepts of direction and divergence. This idea is a set of opposites that are kept in balance. Each is dependent and interdependent upon the other to fully enhance its realization. Without a direction, there could be no divergence. What would you be diverging from? Without divergence, direction would be left untested and wanting.
The direction of ‘hotel-ness’ as described previously suggests a commonly excepted paradigm. Diverging from this direction reveals the negative side of a positive description, or the absence of ‘hotelness’. For example, if the simple purpose of a hotel is to attract guests by offering rooms, amenities and hospitality, then the negative would be to repel guests and stand vacant. Or in another case, the negative could be revealed through a divergence between the hotel’s program and the architectural form. Guests could shower in the gift shops, keep their luggage in the restaurant, and swim in the guestrooms. This project explores a balance between both the positive and negative, the threshold between ‘hotelness’ and the absence of ‘hotelness’, privileging neither and both at the same time in search of a richer architectural experience through awareness of the other.
Genotypic and Phenotypic
The hotel is modeled after the recursive qualities of coral reefs and emerges from the water as if it is an outgrowth from the reef below. The basic animal organisms of coral are called polyps which generate asexually through a process called budding. Each generated organism shares the DNA of the parent organism. These polyps and their generated clones combine in colonies that act as one organism, growing and sharing nutrients through a single skeletal structure. It is these colonies that form the architecture of the reef. Like the hotel, the reef creates the landscape for a complete ecosystem, providing housing and food for all species of marine life.
The architecture of the hotel is generated in a similar way. Substitution systems are used as genetic codes, applied in multiple layers and at multiple scales. These systems are based on designed sets of rules and constraints that are consistent and unique to each system. A simple geometric ‘root atom’ is aggregated into basic molecules. These molecules are propagated into form through a translation extracted from subscribed generations of abstract matrix systems. This subsystem (bone) is nested in a metasystem that organizes the hotel genotype. Other subsystems (skin and circulation) are also nested within the metasystem each with their own intrinsic logic and consistent set of axioms and operations.
At the phenotypic level are the programmatic requirements for the hotel. This influences the recursive generating systems through transcription factors; operations such as adaptive deformation, material substitution, extrusion and deletion. The generated form is mutated and adapts according to the functional requirements of the program. However, on occasion the generative system resists mutation causing the program to adapt. Event and form merge together to create the spatial elements of the hotel appearing seamless in its evolution.
Absence and Infinity
The hotel is organized around a common spine. It is a skeletal infrastructure that circulates inhabitants as well as supplies to all parts of the hotel. One end of the spine connects the hotel to land, the realm of terrestrial beings, the other to the ocean and a submarine world full of mystery. Each end of the circulation spine is a threshold of entrance and exit, to and from the hotel and the contextual worlds it is situated between.
The connective spine also represents a segment of a continuous line, a line that could conceptually extend to infinity. The linear direction points toward the horizon, another threshold between the realms of sea and sky, inspiring ideas for the infinite possibilities of each new day. The slope of the spine diverges from this direction submerging into (or emerging from) the oceanic realm and a finite distinction acknowledging the absence of infinity.
Absence is an infinite concept. Although not a quantitative concept, it is a concept of the negative, a state of not being present. In terms of matter, the presence of matter gives form; the absence of matter gives space. Regardless of the quantity, any matter that is not present is absent, to infinity. In programmatic terms, the absence of inhabitants does not imply the absence of function. Without habitation, a hotel can still be considered a hotel. The architecture is left to its own experience and its own conception of environment.