The Radical Innovation in Hospitality Design Awards has been a mainstay of HD Expo since 2007. Each year, finalists present game-changing hotel concepts, which are debated by a jury of hotel executives and investors Shark Tank–style, and then voted on by a live audience—this year on Thursday, May 15th at 11:30 a.m. After seven competition cycles and nearly $100,000 in prize money awarded, JHG’s John Hardy—the competition’s champion and driver—is itching to raise the stakes. He wants to see greater feasibility in the concepts presented. We caught up with him to hear about what’s new.
Tell us about your work on Radical Innovation. Why are you driven to stimulate change?
It’s my passion. I’ve spent more than 30 years in this industry as an architect and a developer and I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some of the best projects—ones that were very difficult to pull off—and that’s rewarding for our group and me personally. Radical is my chance to do something larger than my own firm, working with some of the best minds in hospitality design and investment, and giving a chance for some undiscovered voices to disrupt and improve an industry that has so much to offer in terms of guest experience.
This is Radical Innovation's 8th year. How will the competition be different this year?
A stricter focus on feasibility. In previous years, we’ve seen lots of wild ideas relating to repurposing structures and sustainability. We made a conscious decision to focus more closely on projects that could happen in the near term. If it’s too radical to be built, then it misses the mark. We want to award concepts that could be realized within the next three to five years and will offer new guest experiences and revenue streams to the hotel industry.
2013 grand prize winner: Pop-Up Hotel by Pink Cloud
For the first time, we will also team our finalists up with individual jury members so that they’re coached and mentored prior to taking the stage during HD Expo. We want a strong showing with ideas that are vetted so the voting audience can make a clear comparison from one idea to the next. It will level the playing field and add more of a reality check to the competition.
What were some of your favorite concepts from previous years?
That is like asking which one of your kids you like the most. Most of the time, our jury tends to agree on our favorite projects, though it doesn’t always start out that way. One of the most interesting parts of the whole competition is the conference calls with the jury that determine the final three competitors—they tend to get quite combative at times. Our jury members don’t lack strong opinions, and we don’t always agree on the contestants right away.
2013 runner-up, Convergence by Caroline Fraser, Luca Valentini, and Flora Olivieri
What do you hope this competition does for the industry?
I think we all hope that it pushes boundaries and genuinely leads to improvements in the industry. For me, I’d love to know that this competition inspired someone to design—and especially build—projects that challenge the way things have always been done.
Do you work with the winners to help them develop their ideas?
More so in recent years. We make introductions and give advice. We would love to see one of these projects get built but it’s a challenge for any project to get built. It’s a mixture of the idea, funding, and the right teams in place. In the last 25 years, the greatest innovations in the industry came from those outside the industry—who did not follow the norm—and who successfully took the risk. It is our hope that Radical Innovation can contribute to making those new experiences a reality.
John Hardy, CEO, The John Hardy Group
Simon Turner, President of Global Development, Starwood Hotels
James Woods, COO, The Bowls
Jena Thornton, Managing Director, Eagle Rock Ventures
Michael Medzigian, CEO & Director, Carey Watermark Investors
Wing Chao, Founding Principal, Wing T. Chao Architect
Claude Amar, President, The John Hardy Group International (moderator)
2013 grand prize, Pop-Up Hotel, PinkCloud.DK
2013 runner-up, Convergence, Caroline Fraser, Luca Valentini, Flora Olivieri
2012, Koi, MM Planners
2011, Ark Hotel, Remi Studio
2010, Mosaic, WATG
2009, Pixel Hotel, Metro 1 Properties
2008, Oil Rig Platform & Spa, Morris Architects
2007, Poseidon Undersea Resort, Jean-Claude Carme