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What architecture for tourism?

Di Antonio Caneva, 26 Settembre 2003


Eclecticism has now become the rule in tourism, a world where accepted styles are readily replaced by new ways of responding to customers’ expectations, or to those that are perceived as such.
I have been aboard Costa Mediterranea, the Costa fleet flagship, with its 85,700 tons and a capacity of 2,680 passengers. By now we know that the size of certain ships tends to increase all the time, and we no longer marvel at a giant with 11 decks and 1,057 cabins, 684 of which with balcony, offering all services imaginable; we rather feel curious in trying to understand why an Italian ship, belonging to a company that boasts an important tradition, has been furnished in a style reminiscent of the most gaudy aspects of Gardaland, Disneyland and Las Vegas put together.
Costa is currently owned by Carnival, and that is certainly the reason for the style that has been forced on it (it is not by chance that the design was the work of USA architects), so far from the customary look of European ships.
This style, which we may well define as being gross, clashes with the recent trend of minimalism in hotels, or the elegant classicism of some luxury cruisers. Another trend is art hotels (the last word in fashion) and whatever may cause some sensation and stir the imagination of prospective customers.
Minimalism, art, lavishness, everything in view of capturing customers, but what do customers think about it in the end? A recent American survey has analysed the typical reactions of tourists, who feel comfortable when they can identify with the environment where they live: they can choose to experience extreme situations, but then go back to a place that feels familiar and reassuring. Years ago, for example, I slept in a room of a trendy hotel, with a large mask hanging over the bed, and a mirror facing the bed; every time I looked up I saw the mask, which – beautiful as it may have been – made me feel uncomfortable. I have often been back to that place, but never again to the same hotel.
Maybe the time has come to shun excesses and go back to simplicity and comfort in designing facilities for the tourist industry.

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