G.A Design’s Managing Director, Terry McGinnity
Can Faik talks to G.A Design Managing Director Terry McGinnity about his experience at all levels of construction and design – and how that has earned him a reputation around the world as a creative
leader within the field of hospitality…
GA Design is a leading interior and architectural design practice specialising in hospitality design worldwide. Over three decades they have worked closely with a wide variety of hotel operators, developers and architects on a range of five star new construction, renovation and design & build projects.
Its London studio is a community of designers who bring creativity and talent to the drawing board. This expertise, combined with the unique hotel background of the principals, enables G.A Design to produce innovative designs of the highest quality. These are designs that enrich and provide value to their client partners, both in terms of awards, room rates and operations
Tell me about your role at G.A Design?
I’m the Managing Director of G.A Design and head up a fantastic team of designers. I’m based in the London flagship office but we also have satellite offices in Budapest, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai that I work closely with.
What five words would you use to describe G.A Design?
Innovative, Elegant, Thoughtful, Bespoke, Happy.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
Over 25 years now. I arrived in England in the midst of the 1990 recession and there was no work for architects at all. I had already been working as an Architect in Australia and, among other things, had been in charge of the interiors department of the Company I was working for at the time. The last project I had worked on before leaving Australia was a Hotel scheme and when the possibility of interiors work in Hotels came by I grabbed it with both hands. It was a rare opportunity in a very quiet market.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
The last 20 years have seen some enormous shifts in Hotel Design and the perception of hotels. The breaking of the “standard moulds” of the big chains, the rise of the Boutique Hotel, Lifestyle Hotels etc. The current trend reinforces this cycle, a move towards more personal experiences, more bespoke solutions; Hotels as “part” of your life, not just a destination.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
Public spaces are crucial. These are the first impressions on a guest and the beginning of their hotel experience. We aim to take our guests on a journey so we have to ensure that every part of that journey delivers.
When Public Spaces are overlooked it can leave the guest feeling disconnected from the hotel and so no matter how much time has been spent on the guestroom, the overall quality of design will be lost.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does G.A Design stand out from the rest?
I come from an architectural background and that sense of logic and spatial awareness has permeated into the way we design. We believe very strongly that the “bones of the building” have to be correct in order to get the best out of a project. All the best designs, even the most fanciful, should come from reason.
I think we’re also a very happy and open firm. I know that doesn’t say anything about our design but it speaks a lot about our spirit and attitude and I think that does translate in the way we work and design.
How is the current economic climate affecting the hotel design market? And has G.A Design felt the effects?
We’ve generally been quite fortunate. Over the years we have formed good relationships with many of the major hotel brands and have several loyal clients which has prevented us being hit too hard however we have definitely seen an increase in projects that don’t get past the initial stages or are put on hold due to investment issues along the way.
Being based in London which hotels are you currently working on?
We are currently working on some great renovation projects including The Cadogan Hotel and Durley House Hotel. Both hotels are in buildings which used to be very grand residences and so there is plenty of character to work with and it makes bringing them up to date really interesting and a good challenge
What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?
That fashion changes but quality of design doesn’t. If you stay true to your ideals and pursue the best solutions purely because they are right and correct for the project; that will last.
How would you define your ‘Hotel Style’?
We work hard to ensure that we don’t have a “house style” as we pride ourselves on approaching each project as unique, preferring to work together with the Client in order to realise their vision whilst ensuring that there is a strong narrative that runs through the design at all times.
The most important elements for us are ensuring that whatever the “style” is, the designs are timeless in addition to creating hotels that feel authentic and take the guests on a journey.
What does design mean to you?
Design to me is not just the process of solving a problem but looking for ways to elevate that solution to something unique; something that will enhance an experience beyond the norm. The combination of logic and creativity.
What has been your favourite project to date?
It is very hard to single out one particular project as many are special for different reasons.
As with everything it is often the ones that don’t get built that are favourites in terms of design. They hold an almost mythic quality because they haven’t been compromised, in terms of design, by the building process.
What’s next for you?
We have some fantastic projects underway, from the new W in Shanghai to a very special hotel project in Tokyo. At the same time we are looking at expanding into some product design and art projects.
What would be your dream hotel project?
I enjoy the challenges of all our projects so I don’t think I actually have a dream project. If I was being greedy I’d probably say one where the phrase “value engineering” wasn’t spoken. That said, I have often seen some better solutions produced under V.E pressure…not always I would hasten to add.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
The experience of using a hotel is becoming more individual, more bespoke. The hotel becomes a part of your life. It will be “tailored” to you. I believe however, because of this, designs will fragment more. They will look to surprise a guest. Even within larger groups I can see a move towards creative clashes where different hotels in the same group will interpret the same philosophy in different ways. This allows them not only to reinforce their own “individual” status but also to be more tailored to their own perceived user.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
Every year on holiday my wife and I discuss this. We always resolve a good way forward and every year we fail spectacularly.