CAD Divider

Creating memorable designs for hospitality and leisure venues

Aug 2, 2023

By Ross Edwards, Director, CAD Architects

In the highly competitive world of leisure and hospitality, providing really memorable experiences for customers is the key to success. From charming hotels to vibrant retail centres and distinctive visitor attractions, architectural design plays a pivotal role in shaping the ambience and impact of these venues.

Architects are at the forefront of crafting unforgettable spaces that blend functionality with aesthetics, ensuring that customers leave with great memories and a strong desire to return in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that we need to consider when creating new designs for hospitality and leisure venues.

Understanding the customer experience

Memorable architectural design succeeds by evoking emotions and making a powerful connection with the customer. Architects need to fully understand the aspirations and desires of their clients and their target audience. The spatial elements should be designed so that they seamlessly align with the intended emotional response from the customer.

Owners of these venues will often think in terms of a “customer journey.” For example, in a hotel there are different roles played by the reception area, the restaurant and bar, the guest rooms, and other facilities such as pool or spa. The architect needs to understand these different components of the customer journey and how to design effective spaces for each of them.

Reflecting the desired brand image

The client’s brand identity or corporate identity should also be reflected in the architectural design. Branding consists of promoting the characteristics that set a company or product apart from its competition. Architecture has a big part to play in this. A brand’s identity should be consistent across all its activity – everything from its logo, website and advertising through to staff uniforms, buildings and all other touchpoints. So the design of the building should reflect the desired brand image. For example, is the desired brand image contemporary and edgy or more classic and traditional? Are there key brand colours that should be reflected in the design palette? How can the logo be incorporated into the design in a creative way? What kind of materials are most in keeping with the brand values?

The building will ultimately help shape the customers’ perceptions of the brand and so the design choices should be made in line with the brand strategy. At its best, a building can become a brand icon.

Creating a unique ambience

A well-crafted ambience can elevate the customer experience in these venues. Lighting, colour palettes, and textures play crucial roles in shaping the atmosphere. Soft, warm lighting can evoke a sense of coziness, while the right choice of colours can add a touch of sophistication.

The choice of materials also has a key role to play. For example, for a luxury hotel, the choice of materials becomes paramount. Using high-quality and opulent materials like marble, plush fabrics, and rich woods can instantly elevate the aesthetic appeal of a space.

Creating a harmony between all these elements is one of the key skills of the architect.

Adaptable spaces

A hospitality venue such as a hotel may need to host a wide range of customer events, from gala dinners to wedding celebrations and business conferences. Designing spaces that can be adapted for different purposes, with elements such as versatile furniture, movable partitions, and flexible layouts, makes it much easier for the venue to cope with different customer needs.

Having a highly adaptable venue means that the business has more opportunities to diversify where needed, in order to maximise revenue. For example, with the growth of remote working, some hotels have diversified by offering coworking space. This has allowed them to monetize previously under-used space, while also making the most of the customer service skills of their staff. The coworking sector is currently growing by more than 20% per annum.

Safety and accessibility

Safety is of utmost importance in any architectural design, but it is especially critical in hospitality spaces. The architect needs to understand how people will move through the venue and any special considerations that may affect fire safety. Additionally, ensuring accessibility for all guests, including those with disabilities, is essential to create an inclusive environment.

Sustainable design

Consumers are increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, and sustainable design can therefore be a key selling point for hospitality businesses. Hospitality spaces, like hotels and resorts, consume significant resources, so architects must be aware of best practice in sustainable architecture.

Modern venues will incorporate energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling systems. They will utilize renewable materials and employ eco-friendly construction techniques. As well as being good for the environment, energy efficient design can save these businesses significant costs over the long-term.

Embracing nature

Incorporating natural elements into the design of hospitality spaces can have a profound impact on guests. Biophilic design, which integrates nature into the built environment, has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being. Green walls, indoor water features, and ample natural light can all create a refreshing and rejuvenating experience for visitors.

Many of the projects that CAD Architects has worked on have been in wonderful rural or coastal positions. This has given us the opportunity to leverage their location through designs which make the most of their glorious views. Visitors can feel the restorative impact of nature without even needing to step outside the venue! Similarly, our use of local materials such as stone, slate and vernacular styles of woodwork can add further echoes of the natural environment.

The following three examples provide excellent examples of the architectural design solutions that the CAD Architects team has created for hospitality and leisure clients.

Lemon Street Market, Truro: The client had a clear vision: to create a retail destination for some of the most distinctive independent retailers – a unique shopping experience unlike any other in the local area.

For the building design, we kept the slightly industrial feel of the original building, but within this we designed a thoroughfare market with a mezzanine floor above to house an art gallery and restaurant.

For the principal elevations, we retained the original stone walls at ground floor level, but then used weatherboards on the upper floors, reaching up to the gabled roof. The weatherboards were painted blue. This meant that the style, shape and colour of the exterior were totally original for any building in the centre of Truro.

We installed large, glazed panels that stretched up into the gables of the building. These flooded the interior with natural light. In addition, a lantern skylight was installed that ran the full length of the roof to help produce an amazingly bright and airy interior space.

We were proud that this project was joint winner of the Cornish Buildings Group Award for best commercial building.

The Polurrian Bay Hotel, Mullion: The owner had long held a dream of creating a new restaurant and bar which would make the most of the stunning coastal views, which are among the best in Cornwall.

We created a spectacular, sunlit extension of 250 square metres, arranged on two levels, with vast floor to ceiling windows that gave far-reaching views out over the Atlantic. Building such a heavily glazed structure demanded meticulous planning and management, but having a clear shared vision with the client gave great momentum to the project.

This exciting new space, named the Vista Lounge, has now become a key selling point of the hotel, and it is the most talked about feature by customers, as illustrated by this recent Tripadvisor comment:

“Wonderful stay at this charming hotel. Spectacular views from the main seating area, called the ‘Vista.’ Panoramic sea views with crashing waves, birds and cliff-edges plunging into the bright blue sea.”

Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre: This was a collaborative project between CAD Architects and Purl Design for the Dartmoor National Park Authority. It was an extension and refurbishment of an existing building, providing an exhibition space, new entrance and improved visitor facilities.

Double the size of the original building, this state-of-the-art centre features the latest technology to bring history to life in amazing detail, giving visitors a memorable, enthralling experience.

The building makes use of local stone and timber cladding which sit below a modern zinc roof, providing a durable response to an exposed environment. The space is now home to a unique exhibition telling the story of the internationally significant Bronze Age finds at Whitehorse Hill.

CAD Architects achieved the South West Regional ‘Building Excellence’ Award from LABC for Best Non-Residential Extension or Alteration. We were also delighted that our client went on to win Gold at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards, where they triumphed in the ‘visitor information services of the year’ category.

To see images and details of these and many other CAD Architects designs, please visit our Projects pages.

For a no-obligation discussion about your architectural design project, and to find out more about CAD Architects, please get in touch at