BETH CAMPBELL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, WILSON ASSOCIATES
With more than 25 years’ experience in global design, Beth Campbell is a formidable leader with an exceptional ability to navigate extremely complex scenarios. Can Faik talks to the new CEO about the firm’s current projects and her plans for the future…
Wilson Associates seeks to redefine the creative industry by inspiring, enriching, and engaging the human experience. For nearly 50 years, the dynamic talent and collaborative spirit have inspired and created some of the world’s most iconic, avant-garde spaces, among them the Conrad Koh Samui; The Venetian Las Vegas; Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve; and the Armani Hotel Dubai. Wilson Associates has a strong international footprint, with more than 300 team members and design hubs in 10 cities: Bangkok, Dallas, Dubai, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.
Tell me about your role at Wilson Associates
I am both honoured and excited to have joined the ranks of the Wilson Associates family. Wilson has such a strong reputation in the design world, built upon a strong legacy of incredible design solutions around the globe. Compounding our Board’s desire to have a designer lead the team, I will be focused on reinforcing the global culture while bolstering our client relationships to foster deeper avenues to express the established design + innovation passion.
At our core we are designers. We will build upon our existing strengths to curate design solutions that foster engagement; creating built environments that truly appreciate our guests’ needs and the ever-growing demands on their time. Our purpose and work will be centered on clients and great design.
What five words would you use to describe Wilson Associates?
Engaging, Experiential, Inspiring, Courageous, Global.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
I have had the great fortune to work with some amazing clients over my architectural career. With these relationships I have been able to express my passion for design excellence around the globe. With my extreme desire to learn and grow, I have built a skill set of global business, design and executive coaching that have served me very well in honing my craft. Bringing to bear my passion for design, my appreciation for global cultures, and my in-depth industry knowledge will allow us to continue to build on the legacy of Wilson Associates.
What makes Wilson Associates different to other design companies?
Wilson Associates’ strong legacy can be summed up on one word — PEOPLE. The founder’s focus was on the talent, the clients, our partners and our communities. We are reinvigorating this focus and ensuring all passion and energy is put into bolstering our connections in all we do.
How and why did you get into the architecture/interior design industry?
When I was 8 years old, I knew for sure. My parents – as with all parents in the ’70s – spent Saturday nights at friends’ houses for card club or a cocktail party. Of course, the kids were shuttled along and promptly placed in the yard or basement to play (mid-west / east coasters get it – we all had finished basements tricked out as a game room). Every night when I would come home from the night’s events I would wait for my parents to fall asleep and would then draw the host’s house – and promptly redraw it, with a better layout. A few months into this pattern I came home to find a drafting table with T-Square and table lamp. My dad had one requirement: “please just wait until your mother is asleep, we don’t want her worrying you’re not getting enough sleep!”
About a year later my father arranged for me to stop by a local architect’s offices on the way home from school. Turns out he studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and had an abundance of FLW books. All of which I worked my way through over the coming months. I was hooked.
Have you noticed any trends in hotel design?
It is truly an interesting time to be a designer. Not only are we designing amazing spaces, we’re creating experiences that are engaging as well. Engagement is key, not only for guests, but for our clients, the designers, and everyone involved. Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. We want to be involved with something connected to our heart.
The smartphone has changed the way designers approach public and private space. Everybody expects frictionless engagement. Amazon trained us to be part of the intersection of tech and personal engagement. Time is a commodity. Intriguingly, though, one thing that isn’t changing is the need for a concierge or greeter. High touch is still very much a valid service philosophy, but guests now want to have it on their terms.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Wilson Associates stand out from the rest?
Wilson has a great signature brand in hospitality, but there are still opportunities to work on complementary atelier brands such as Blueplate Studios (Wilson’s F&B focused studio) and Atelier Tristan Auer (its Paris-based, boutique and lifestyle luxury property focused studio). That also makes it easier to give talent more scope for growth and evolution. We need to look at brands and sub- brands within the Wilson family to allow the company to work in different ways. Blueplate Studios, for example, is a holistic offer. They can get advice for chefs from Paris and help consult on uniforms, in addition to designing the space.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
There are so many drivers today in our global economy, and just as many for our industry. We are watching demographic shifts, clean technologies, over-tourism and rapid innovation disrupt global development activities. We see that Asia Pacific and the Middle East will continue to lead the development and project growth models for the foreseeable future.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
Lobbies won’t likely change drastically, but certain elements are evolving. Front desks (in hotels that have them) will be different and more streamlined. Opulent luxury will be more about high touch and high engagement. Luxury won’t be about travertine, necessarily. Instead, it will be about situationally appropriate elements such as gracious lighting, wide-open spaces at a beach hotel or sconces in small spaces.
That’s the essence of the design trend I see: more flexibility of choice – how you choose to engage, different people, different ages; spaces that ebb and flow all day.
In your opinion, which will be the top trends for 2019?
It is an amazing time to be a designer. There are so many influencers to our design solutions, and we foresee the following to be the key areas where the deepest impact will be felt.
- Technology – data and analytics are creating highly informed buyers, savvy businesses and distinct advantages toward building products and methods. Rapid innovation and Artificial Intelligence will drive deep changes to how end users experience our spaces.
- Well Buildings – the intersection of human health and real estate are creating a dynamic approach to how we curate the built environment. The opportunity can be found in the creation of spaces that actively contribute to human health, performance and well-being by blending innovation in technology, health, science and design. These build upon the common practices of sustainable design; we are now venturing into arenas of enhanced health FROM the built environments we experience.
- Frictionless Expectations – The ‘Amazon Effect’ has dramatically changed the way we shop. However, the Amazon Effect has spilled over into many areas of our lives, to the point that many people expect to find little to no friction in their daily interactions. Whether buying dish soap, ordering room service at a hotel, or buying a new car, we all want ease, speed and quality in every aspect of our experiences.
Let’s finish with the issue of work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I believe that we should be focused on ‘work life integration’ rather than work life balance. The word balance implies there is a distinct answer that is right; when in fact, like pistons, the obligations and opportunities in life are constantly in motion. With this precept in mind, the appropriate answer to health, wellbeing and success at work can be found in recognising that there are seasons when you must work more and seasons when you need to focus more on your personal being. Curating and owning your energy and focus expenditure is the key to success.
To truly strike this integration with success, you must surround yourself with people whom you trust to benefit the overall system at work and people who support your mission – at work and at home. As I feel I am always a work in progress, I would rate my efforts at a B+ over the past few months. I am currently working to bolster my supporting team and work while continuing to infuse energy towards my personal life.