Sleeping In: The World’s Slowest Hotel

Hulking on the edge of the trendy Eastern Docklands in Amsterdam, the Lloyd Hotel is a storied mammoth. It was first an emigrant hotel for moneyed travelers before they set sail for the Americas (after a stint in the adjacent Quarantine building for a thorough scrubbing down); when the Germans occupied, it was converted into a prison for members of the resistance; in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the artists came. The building, a repository of three generations of European history, reopened in 2004 as a hotel once again, and Cultural Embassy. For the past two years, it has also been the site of a massive slowing down.

The Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam

Slow Lloyd is a collaborative research project between the hotel/Cultural Embassy and Carolyn Strauss’ slowLab, the de facto pioneer in the slow design movement. This week, Strauss and Co. are releasing their project archives for the first time, revealing a massive accumulation of the six principles of slow design in thought, practice and action.

Since 2010, Strauss has worked with students and professionals across a spectrum of disciplines—including designers, architects, artists, educational specialists, city activists, environmental technologists, and social innovation experts—to answer the probing question: What would it mean for the Lloyd to be a slow hotel?

Existing in these archives are surprising, unexpected, and innovative answers.

Strauss says, “We ask[ed] designers to look at themselves in a highly rigorous way and ask, what does it mean to be a designer, artist or architect? What does it mean to be more participatory?”

Handkercheif by Nienke Voorintholt for the Lloyd Hotel
Contributors were challenged to embrace the co prefix in co-designer, and to consider the space not merely as a transitory hotel for tourists and outsiders, but as organism within the local ecology. Applying the principles of slow design to the Lloyd meant taking all of the building’s stakeholders into account: the squatters and young families living around it, the workers providing services within it, the guests passing through it, the history of what it was, and the future of what it will become.

All very heady. “There’s no cut and dried way to say this is slow and this is not,” Strauss says. “Slow design is about problem solving through a lot of investigation and patience. It’s a conversation within oneself and among other people.” At its essence, slow design is also about the evolution of an object or space, rooted in the natal object or space that bore it. In the case of a hotel, that could be expressed in pockmarks on the wall or food caked into terra cotta plates, both slowing experiments conceived in the Slow Lloyd Hotel.

Printed map pillowcase designed by Thor ter Kulve

Designer Thor ter Kulve spent the first 10 years of his life in the Oostelijke Havengebied. When he returned as student of Slow Lloyd, he was curious whether the spaces where he played as a child are still used by kids today. He made a map for children of Lloyd guests to find these spaces of play in the immediate neighborhood and perhaps to meet local children. Ter Kulve printed the map on a pillowcase, so that the child can sleep with her/his memories. Fabric markers are provided to annotate the map with his/her discoveries.

Another example is designer Marijke Annema’s project, 'Lekker Vies' (which translates loosely as 'deliciously’ or ‘nicely dirty'). It’s a collection of cleaning tools designed to caress the surfaces that they’re cleaning, a way of getting intimately nitty-gritty with every nook, cranny and crevice in the room. Slowly.

Sensual and measured, slow design within the Lloyd is deliberately de-accelerated transience.

Can the same be said of the Holiday Inn?

View slowLab’s archives here. Rooms, individually rated from one star to five, can be booked here.

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