one-on-one with the hospitality leader (5): viabledesign meets Luca Davide Gebhard (architect, stuttgart/milan)

November 19, 2021

During a coffee & cake meeting in his new Milan home, I have the pleasure to discuss the consequences of the pandemic with the award-winning international architect Luca Davide Gebhard. His fresh perspective, derived from his extensive experiences in architecture and design are not only remarkable for itself but also a great lesson when it comes to sustainability and future-readiness.

Portrait of Luca Davide Gebhard

About Luca Davide Gebhard

Born in Stuttgart and grewing up between Stuttgart and Milan, Luca Davide Gebhard com- bines the best between two worlds: German engineering and Italian design expertise. Having studied architecture at the University of Stuttgart, Luca has gained a deep expertise around luxury living, buildings (new and remodeling), interior and high end design with clients in Saudi Arabia, China, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France. His client satisfaction rate speaks for itself. Luca Davide’s design studio is the Wipo gold medal winner for seagull design project and is publishing its projects in international architectural magazines.

Luca, thank you for having me this afternoon. I learnt that you moved into your new home during the pandemic. What was your motivation for finding a new home and was it difficult for you to move during the pandemic?

Luca Davide Gebhard: Thank you, Detlef, it is a pleasure to have you with us. Do you feel our home? I personally love to travel around the world and get to know other cultures. But at the same time I also need to have a stable harbor, such as my home, to come back. This unique sensation of coming back home is in fact the engine for the creation of our new home, and having had the opportunity to use the floor above us was a big opportunity for us as a family. Moving during the pandemic was hazardous and a real challenge because nobody knew with certainty if the move was finally going to happen. But in the end, we managed it with a funny feeling of being little thieves in the night.

How did you as an architect in Milan cope with the pandemic and how were the reactions on the client side, both from a private and business client perspective? I am curious to learn more.

Luca Davide Gebhard: I mainly work internationally. While my domestic work in Italy and Germany pretty much paused at the beginning of the pandemic, I started to focus more on working with my inter- national clients. But also working with them was not always easy, as in their local ecoystems (e.g. supplier, state government) a lot of things were slowing down as well. My private clients took it relatively „easy“. Nobody has imagined that this extreme period would last so long. For architects the pandemic offers a big chance and represents a future opportunity. Because peo- ple have been spending way more time in their homes, they started to realize that a restyling is necessary. But not only restyling because of the pandemic was triggered, but also relocation became a hot topic among my clients. Also office space and hotels need to be pandemic-ready.

Can you share a unique experience you made during the pandemic? And what did you learn personally in times of COVID-19?

Luca Davide Gebhard: I am always walking with curious open eyes through life and I discover so many opportunities to learn. This kind of reflection is crucial. I also regard the pandemic as something that can happen again, so my advice is to adapt in the best possible way to external effects. My high- light during the pandemic was that I had the unique chance to enjoy my family on a day-to- day basis to the maximum. Now my older son left home to study in Munich: of course architecture (note of the author: a big smile is on Luca's face).

Luca Davide Gebhard Office
How do you see hotel projects change over the next years? What will be more important and what less?

Luca Davide Gebhard: The „back home“ feeling needs to be improved and guests need to be back in the center of attention, instead of just being numbers. A hotel is a real home for a traveler and it needs to be equipped with homy details in order to create a long lasting experience of the guests.

In what ways do long term social trends influence your daily work? I am mainly thinking about social trends like “digitalization”, “security” and “health”, which received a strong drive during the pandemic.

Luca Davide Gebhard: I am someone who works with intuition and as I mentioned earlier, I am very good in observing what is happing in the ecoystems. My advice is to start from nature: very, very simple.

What is your advice for hotel developers these days? Why should they rethink their tradi- tional way of planning?

Luca Davide Gebhard: I advise them to take a closer look at nature. Nature is the best architect, the best teacher and, the best host.

staircase in Luca Davide Gebhard home, own construction
The whole hospitality industry is facing a huge overcapacity in terms of rooms and facilities (conference rooms, ball rooms). What is your recommendation as an architect and designer to work with these overcapacities?

Luca Davide Gebhard: We need to be open to establish a new thinking. Flexibility to transform is a major driving force for the years to come. We need more holistic concepts with a unique adaptiveness.

I cannot wait to welcome you as a speaker and workshop leader at the hospitality leader- ship conference in Abu Dhabi (February 1-4, 2022). What can participants expect from you as a speaker and workshop leader?

Luca Davide Gebhard: My messaging for Abu Dhabi is “simplicity and nature”. Be curious, be there!

Do you have a question for me as well, dear Luca?

Luca Davide Gehard: Dear Detlef, as you are a well-traveled and experienced traveler. Can you share a suggestion for architects what they should always keep in mind?

Detlef Schmidt: Since 2004 I have been working together with architects on hospitality projects. What I value most in their work is something that can also be their biggest thread: creativity. Sometimes it just goes “over the top”. My advice is to work closely aligned with all stakeholders. Unique results can only be reached these days when all parties involved agree on a very professional communication to balance expectations and creativity. We need to learn from each other, no matter if you are the operator, the investor, the potential guest, or the architect. What makes the difference is the glue that connects us and holds every project together. Therefore, my advice is very simple: You have to communicate!

Thanks a lot for taking the time for this intense interview and discussion, dear Luca. I am looking forward to our future interaction and hopefully we can meet for the German Christmas Market in Milan on the 1st advent.