Digital Architecture’s Game-Changing Potential

Minds were blown and imaginations ignited in last year’s opening keynote, Digi-Tecture: Create Immersive Interactive Experiences That Change as Fast as Guests’ Minds, with David Kepron, vice president, global design strategies, distinctive premium brands, Marriott International, and Amahl Hazelton, who oversees strategy & development, Urban Spaces, for Moment Factory. The pair shared amazing examples of indoor spaces and outdoor structures transformed by digital image mapping and AI experiences that are engaging guests in entirely new ways—and delivering high ROI.

Amahl Hazelton and David Kepron. Photo: PWP Studio

“Our spaces are programmable now,” Hazelton said. “The degree to which we want, and can, change the programming that’s going into our architecture and our spaces, allows us to create incredible stories.”

He demonstrated the power of those stories to bring people together with sensory-based experiences such as AURA, a nightly 20-minute multimedia spectacle inside the famously ornate Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Rated the city’s #1 experience on TripAdvisor for the 2-1/2 years since it debuted, AURA’s highlight reel alone (best enjoyed headset on, volume high) will drop your jaw.

Among the other case studies eliciting wows from attendees: A Singapore airport terminal’s “Theatre of Experience” wall that has travelers lingering in security, capturing video with their phones. A park in Quebec that jumped from 7,000 visitors per summer to 77,000 with the addition of multimedia storytelling stations and projection mapping. And in Montreal, the world’s first (and still the most) “connected” bridge.

Illuminated with a system of programmable LEDs in 2017, the city’s landmark Jacques-Cartier Bridge is now completely interactive—with the seasons, the city and its citizens. Lit each night in a seasonal hue, the bridge features an hourly show derived completely from weather, traffic and news data as well as tweets that mention Montreal, reflecting the energy and emotion of the city in real time.

It’s that interactive element, Kepron noted, that drives the long-term success of projects such as these. “When people participate in the making of a thing, they literally put their physical life energy into it,” he said. “It becomes uniquely relevant to them.” Which is why, he emphasized, it’s not really about technology, but what he calls technepathy.

His overriding takeaway for the hospitality placemakers in the room: “If you’re not using this amazing digital content with the express idea that it’s for driving engagement and relationship building—foundational, empathic connection because we all dream and are built for that—then it’s just technology. Interesting on its own, but ultimately, not that compelling.”

Digi-Tecture: Create Immersive Interactive Experiences That Change as Fast as Guests’ Minds, was sponsored by LG Business Solutions USA