November 15, 2001

Hospitality industry draws on refuge and prospect

  • Some destination resorts use the design theory of refuge and prospect to welcome and inspire guests.

    Rendering by Bob Baldino
    At Cedarbrook, buildings are oriented toward a central courtyard and a restored wetland to create a sense of inner focus.

    Architecture has always stood for refuge: we seek shelter inside buildings while we yearn for the promise of prospect.

    Tiered levels of refuge and prospect not only intrigue us but also make us feel something magical and warm. When something is only partially revealed, it invites us to explore and discover what lies within. A hospitality destination entices us, often by offering panoramic views or a romantic enclosure.

    In 1975, the English geographer Jay Appleton proposed a theory of landscape and environmental aesthetics using the terms “prospect and refuge.”

    Prospect is a condition that allows us to view our surroundings unimpeded while refuge offers a place of concealment and retreat. More simply stated, refuge symbolizes enclosure and is often small and dark while prospect symbolizes openness and is expansive and bright.

    Willows Lodge
    Photo by Eduardo Calderon
    The entrance to the Willows Lodge is located well inside the site, creating a sense of enclosure.

    Since these concepts are opposites, they can exist juxtaposed or adjacent to each other. From the prospect, we can move to the protection afforded by refuge; from the refuge, we are called to the prospect.

    Designed by GGLO, select hospitality destinations illustrate how refuge and prospect welcome and inspire us. More than a home away from home or a relocated office, they create an indelible experience and memory that connects us to a place.

    The restorative nature of a refuge relieves the stresses of urban life. Physical prospects, such as a spellbinding view, may give way to psychological prospects manifested further in learning, introspection, or team building.

    The dynamics and contrast between the elements that support refuge with those of prospect enhance the experience and pleasure of each guest. In crafting a successful design, the project team must discover and explore the opportunities for refuge and prospect. The designer and the team members must thoroughly understand the inherent qualities of the land along with the intentions of the client.

    Prospect for the taking

    Sometimes one of the inherent qualities of a site is a prominent, desirable view. Embracing that view can become a key orientation. All sharing a compelling exterior prospect, The Inn at Langley, Friday Harbor House, and Heron Beach Inn on Ludlow Bay, focus on the surrounding water and mountains or islands.

    Friday Harbor House
    Photo by Stewart Hopkins
    Friday Harbor House has elements that mimic urban Japanese architecture.

    Facing north, numerous balconies at the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island reach out over expansive views of the water, Camano Island and Cascade Mountains. The height of the bluff affords natural protection for the inn. In essence, the task became orienting the rooms toward the view and getting the building out of the way so guests could enjoy the natural splendor.

    Each room offers its own personal sanctuary with 180 degree views and jetted tubs that face the fireplace from one direction to protect and the Saratoga Passage from another to elicit prospect.

    While the ocean can suggest danger, water features can offer a sense of comfort. A geometrically-shaped entrance path frames the water feature and offers a shield from uninvited intrusion, emphasizing the refuge of the inn. By setting the building back from the street bustle of Langley, a refuge was born. A lovely kitchen garden, open to the public, welcomes passersby.

    A small inn on San Juan Island, Friday Harbor House offers the glorious prospect of the view of the marina, harbor and the islands beyond. This view from the interior refuge to the exterior prospect is essential.

    Water features
    Photo by Eduardo Calderon
    Water features and sculptures add surprise and introspection to several courtyards at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville.

    Ensuring the rite of refuge on a snug site in an urban setting was more challenging. The building envelope was extended to the property line in a way that mimics urban Japanese architecture: the inn surrounds the interior courtyard.

    Each room features a fireplace with a seating area, elegantly appointed wood furnishings, jetted tubs and expansive windows. The inn offers an intimate setting for either romance or corporate brainstorming.

    To get to the Heron Beach Inn, one must board a ferry, cross the Hood Canal Bridge, and drive to the end of a peninsula that extends into Ludlow Bay. The refuge in your passage to Port Ludlow prevails as you reach the inn on this half-mile stretch of beach.

    The prospect is prolific: the 360 degree view has no rear side. Verandas and decks surround the 37-room inn to take in the views of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, Mt. Baker and Ludlow Bay.

    Revealing prospect, brilliant sunlight illuminates and casts shadows throughout the inn. Playing on the fantasy of another era, the interior design of Heron Beach Inn draws from the history of the region to more completely lapse into its refuge.

    Prospect in the making

    Inn at Langley
    Photo by Eduardo Calderon
    A single-story street façade obscures the dramatic four-story shoreline frontage of the Inn at Langley.

    When working with sites that do not have a dramatic outward vista, the architect must look inward to create the sense of prospect. At the Willows Lodge and Washington Mutual’s leadership center at Cedarbrook, the prospect comes from natural elements, like wetlands, and from the inherent properties and history of the region.

    As a celebration of the senses, Willows Lodge in Woodinville offers a refuge for a romantic weekend or a corporate retreat.

    Nestled on five acres in the Sammamish River Valley, the low-lying site did not afford distant views. The guest’s experience begins with a long entry drive before arriving at the substantial stone and timber porte cochere, visually anchored by an ancient cedar snag. Woven among the four buildings are a series of distinct courtyards that break down the scale of the buildings and site, providing a created foreground.

    Willows Lodge lobby
    Photo by B Zeldis
    Willows Lodge features a 26-foot-tall lobby and lounge that is flooded with natural light from massive windows.

    In this nested hierarchy of refuge and prospect, exterior features like deep eaves, floor-to-ceiling windows, and terraces and balconies suggest places of concealment while simultaneously conveying broad views of the surrounding landscape.

    Such features convey that the interior is also a refuge while offering generous prospect. Reflecting its location among several wineries, the timber entry doors are made from the planks of oak wine barrels that have reddened during the aging process. A dramatic lobby and lounge is flooded with natural light from massive windows that extend up to the 26-foot-high ceiling.

    Each of the 88 rooms boasts many amenities so that guests never have to leave the room: luxurious beds, deep soaking tubs, stone fireplaces, private patio and decks, and technically-advanced systems for music, video and Internet access. A library, meeting and special events facilities, and a fitness center and full spa are also available.

    A stroll through the three courtyard gardens reveal prospect: hidden artwork in unexpected places. The bronze killer whale sculpture in a stone garden folly delights the senses.

    Rendering by Anita Lehmann
    A sense of refuge is created at Cedarbrook by a series of footbridges.

    Cedarbrook, Washington Mutual’s leadership center, currently under construction in SeaTac, will include 110 guest rooms and a 16,000-square-foot conference facility for leadership training and team building. Faced again with a large, low-lying site in need of environmental repair, GGLO sought to create a pastoral oasis within sight of the airport.

    The presence of water, in the name of the facility and in the large wetland on the site, became a metaphorical and physical touchstone for the design. Members of the Washington Mutual leadership team will be arriving from all over the country. Their crossing over vast expanses of the continent to get to Cedarbrook will be continued on site as they cross over a series of bridges and water features.

    Heron Beach Inn
    Photo by Stewart Hopkins
    From a peninsula in Ludlow Bay, the Heron Beach Inn offers panoramic vistas from the Cascades to the Olympics.

    A sense of removal from the context is introduced just inside the site boundary by the imposition of a small bridge at the beginning of a long, winding drive. The rumble of the tires of a vehicle as it crosses the bridge signals to the occupant that something has been left behind, and something else is yet to be discovered. Once out of their car or shuttle, guests will walk across additional bridges as they negotiate their way among the campus of buildings.

    Having established a sense of refuge, the siting and design of the buildings enhances the inner focus, with public spaces oriented toward a central courtyard and the restored wetland beyond.

    Friday Harbor House marina view
    Photo by Stewart Hopkins
    Friday Harbor House offers views of the marina, harbor and islands beyond.

    Buildings are tucked into the gentle slope, and roof forms focus the eye downward. This sanctuary for learning is further accentuated by view sculpting of the perimeter, paths for strolling, gardens, and native landscaping. Once freed from outer distractions, guests can journey to other disciplines and places to explore leadership and innovation.

    Each hospitality destination carries forward its own unique character, history and natural attributes — carefully crafted from the dual nature of refuge and prospect into a dwelling with its own sense of place. Our experience away from our natural home not only connects us to where we are, but also reminds us of who we are.

    While the building becomes the refuge, the prospect is not always apparent. Listening closely to the client, we can help them find the prospect hidden within.

    Jim Moore, AIA, is a principal at GGLO. Dyan Pfitzenmeier is a writer and marketing consultant.

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