Look up the word ‘lobby’ and you see it is a space out of which one or more other rooms or corridors lead – it is typically near the main entrance. Another meaning is to influence on an issue, often political. Right, all luxury hotels have reception lobbies of one kind or another, but they vary from the intimate to the grandiose, to the move-along-there to the stay, rest awhile and enjoy our hospitality, as at The Peninsula Shanghai. There are lobbies that are forever memorable, say the antique-look of the recently re-done The Bristol, Vienna, and the striking modern art in InterContinental Hotel Osaka, part of Osaka Station’s 21st century redevelopment. And how about the photo-art, above, in Public, Chicago?
Lobbies in hotel terms say welcome, but they also serve a message of influence. The theatre they offer tells me what the hotel is like. Thinking of the lobby of Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, I am reminded, from experience, of Gregorian chants and 17th century Euro-Peruvian art. Head for the lobby at Constance Le Prince Maurice and I look through the open-sided lobby to swimming pool and Mauritian landscape beyond (there are also outstanding scenic views from the lobbies of Four Seasons Koh Samui; InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu; Park Hyatt Sydney; Vivanta by Taj Madikeri, Coorg, and many more resorts).
Shangri-La generally does soaring lobbies, with masses of space. At Shangri-La Makati, a full Filipina orchestra, one man plus 13 ladies, in evening dress, plays daily: at Peninsula Hong Kong musicians play semi-hidden, in a corner mezzanine gallery, a reminder of Rose Tremain’s brilliant ‘Music and Silence’, set in 17th century Denmark, where court musicians wait, in an underground cellar, to play when commanded from above. A giant white grand piano in the all-glass lobby of the unique ‘standing doughnut’ hotel, Sheraton Hotel Huzhou, waits for passers-by to try a tinkle on the keys. In Singapore, Raffles brings in local choirs, at Christmas time, to sing around the 20-foot Christmas tree.
Royal Monceau Raffles, in Paris, eschewed a traditional tree last year for a bespoke sculpture tree by Didier Faustino (and the hotel gave away miniatures, encased in gold-snowflake fish-bowls, to VIPs). You see the same people sitting, again and again, in that lobby: Parisian intelligentsia enjoying the day, and discussing the revival of Ségolène Royal as they have another espresso with one of Pierre Hermès’ celebrated macaroons. You can buy his macaroons, too, in the lobby of Ritz-Carlton Kyoto; the lobby there is intentionally dark and alluring, as is the shiny black-and-crystal lobby of Trump Toronto. Just occasionally a lobby is a scene to forget – hoteliers hold their heads in their hands when watching a video like that, below. Fortunately horror stories are rare, so back to generalisation. Question, which luxury hotel does NOT have a significant lobby these days, I wonder?