Beneath its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, Marriott Hotels had a secret brewing. The company was tearing down the walls of the basement that once housed cobwebs and dusty filing cabinets, to create a 10,000 sq ft ‘innovation lab’. Now the subterranean space, known as ‘The Underground’ is an interactive space where company creatives and focus groups can mingle to determine the Marriott of the future.
Painted white to resemble a blank canvas, The Underground is not a traditional design space, but rather is meant to be fluid and ever-changing. In a press release, the company stated:
The Innovation Lab offers rapid prototyping with instant feedback capabilities, bird’s eye views from Internet-enabled cameras, and multiple avenues for customer participation.
There are mock-up rooms for visitors, who can come in and move the furniture around, assess the space and how they could improve it. The entire space is mobile helping both designers and guests truly understand what is the best configuration for a great hotel room. In the main innovation room, guests are confronted with an ‘open contribution’ wall where they can submit their opinions, and write what they like and dislike about the Marriott experience.
Karim Khalifa, the company’s Senior Vice President of Architecture & Construction explained:
This isn’t a space where sport coats are required or guests stand to the side while we speak. It is interactive and participatory. Marriott is dedicated to transforming the brand to make it relevant for a next generation of travelers – and we want these travelers to be a part of our transformative journey.