Finding inner peace in the outside world


The importance of outdoor spaces in a post-pandemic world


People crave the outdoors and love to travel. And although the pandemic put the brakes on travel in 2020, the hospitality industry is quickly rebounding. As many hotels reopen with new health and safety procedures in place, there is a need to rethink how we design hotel spaces. There also is an opportunity for new and existing properties to incorporate practices to meet healthy building standards as outlined in the International WELL Building Institute as well as strengthen a hotel’s marketing capabilities.

Unique outdoor amenities can add value to a hotel, creating a destination for out-of-town visitors and the local community. In March 2021, Forbes claimed 2021 to be the “Year of the Yard” as more homeowners plan to improve their outdoor spaces. A 2021 Trend Report stated, “Outdoor Living Space is more valuable than ever before” with 90% of Americans agreeing that their outdoor living space is more valuable than ever, with 78% making outside upgrades during COVID-19. As a hotelier, the optimum way to accomplish this is creating serene courtyards, vibrant rooftops, and bringing nature to the interior of the hotel. The modern hotel guest also is demanding memorable experiences during their stay. Creating healthy exterior spaces helps craft these guest experiences.

A courtyard is an enclosure adjacent to a building or within the building. It can be prominent or hidden, fully enclosed or open. It can be the perfect place for gathering or socializing for an event. Hidden at the dual-brand Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites in Greenville, SC, Auro Hotels created a hidden urban oasis that can be a peaceful courtyard or an active event space. The outdoor lounge includes several relaxed seating options, fire pits, a pool, and a BBQ area. It’s a wonderful place to rest, relax, and recharge for the next adventure. Outdoor spaces often create surprise when not seen from the street, causing a sense of intrigue, and they can promote the health of the hotel guests. Courtyards help market a hotel as a meeting space for small groups, such as pre-function wine and cheese, or for larger events like family reunions and weddings.

If your hotel footprint is challenged for an outdoor space or courtyard, go vertical! Juniper is a restaurant and bar located at the top of the AC by Marriott in Greenville and designed by ASD|SKY. This is the epitome of a great rooftop environment. There are different zones to accommodate many types of gatherings than can be open to outside, covered, or inside. Venues within the rooftop include a secret cocktail garden, greenhouse space and fire box. Equinox roof systems, shades, and firepits allow for year-round usability of the space. Giving the illusion of bringing the outside in with movable doors and windows is healthy and appealing to guests.

Hotels are embracing biophilic design in the post-pandemic world by including landscaping, natural materials, abundant daylighting, water features, and fresh air. Not incidentally, biophilia is the human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature, and good biophilic design appeals to all senses.

From the upbeat music in the elevator to the firepits on the roof, a hotel should entice all senses creating a memorable experience. Sights, sounds, smells, textures, and taste can all evoke emotionally charged memories. Having different finishes on the floor can help us navigate spaces. Changing from carpet to tile easily transitions the user to another space. Vision allows us to see brightness, contrast, shape, color, distance, etc. The mountain or river views in the distance can be a draw for guests while enjoying a rooftop space. Scenes are often created by using sound and lighting. Have you ever been in a space when the lights dim and the music gets louder? Last but certainly not least, smell and taste go hand in hand. Do you remember the aroma of your grandmother’s kitchen? That is one of those emotionally charged memories often duplicated in outdoor hotel spaces.

Hotel design entails creating great guest experiences. The guest wants to feel that the hotel is healthy and designed to protect their health, safety, and welfare. If this has been achieved through wonderfully experiential exterior spaces that celebrate the natural environment, guests are willing to invest more in this experience. They will also recommend your hotel to their peers and book their next events in your courtyard or rooftop terrace.

When is a rooftop terrace appropriate?


  1. The building use warrants a public space on the roof to serve the inhabitants of the building or for a public use.
  2. The view is worth enjoying. Mountains, oceans, rivers, and urban skylines create exciting backdrops to rooftop terraces.
  3. The budget will support a rooftop terrace. They add considerable cost to the budget but help create a healthier environment adding fresh air and sunlight.
  4. The building maintains active uses on the street level such as lobbies, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, and meeting spaces.
  5. Rooftop terraces often pull activity and energy from the street presence. The rooftop terrace is a revenue generator. With appropriate signage and branding, rooftop terraces can accommodate various-sized groups.
erica kennedy

Erica Kennedy is Principal, Hospitality Studio with Charlotte, NC-based ODA Architecture, a firm that provides architectural expertise developing office spaces, hotels and hospitality projects, lifestyle storage facilities, mixed-use developments, and multi-family and interior spaces.


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