Friday, February 15, 2013

4 Questions with Carly Cannell

Carly, founder of the two-time finalist design firm weetu, talks to us about the importance of revitalizing local economies by making the most out of what we already have on Earth. 

2007, Runner-up: MoMotel by Carly Cannell, Kevin Estrada and Linda Wallack 
2010, Honorable Mention: Trespass by Carly Cannell, Kevin Estrada, Carmen Cervantes and Daniel Knobloch

[In photo on the left: Carly Cannell and Kevin Estrada]

Reading about your proposals for MoMotel and Trespass, you seem to be very focused on reimagining and improving on existing hospitality concepts, rather than creating an extreme forms of lodging. Could you explain your motivation behind this?

Oddly enough, it almost seems more extreme to provide a unique experience for the average budget traveler. weetu is motivated to provide innovative hospitality concepts to the mass population, not just an elite few. For both concepts, we aimed for high impact within an American landscape by reusing what already exists, and re-imagining how the hospitality experience can by transformed through design, localization, reuse, sustainable thinking and entertainment. Our design solutions solve urban planning, architecture, and real estate challenges with this combination of reality and vision.

MoMotel: I wish MoMotel were up and running because it solves all problems I run into at other motels. Which cities do you see this model working the most successfully? Why?

I wish it was up and running too! The idea was born from an amalgamation of torturous business trip accommodations. MoMotel, a concept that transforms existing roadside motels, was envisioned along historic or busy routes at perimeters of working cities. To capture both air and road warriors, we intended to target locations reached by budget airlines like Southwest. Regional context and local culture is inherent to the success of MoMotel in both design and experience, so it's beneficial to target regions with a story to tell.

Trespass: The application of adaptive reuse is so relevant to the problems we’re facing today. What challenges do you have to overcome to make this concept a reality?

Adaptive reuse is relevant, but it's not enough. As an industry, we have to shift how we approach design. It's often easier to start from scratch than to solve existing problems. The trend of "dying malls" and empty big box stores is worsening. Trespass is a component-based hospitality concept that resuscitates those empty shells to invigorate the community and provide a sense of place... a destination.  Trespass needs a community to respond to, to revitalize its economy by engaging local business and resources. In many locations, it's probably too late. The biggest challenge would be to find the right investors.

Having done so incredibly well at Radical Innovation twice, what do the prizes mean to you? Any plans for a third shot at the competition?

Within the first weeks of opening our doors, weetu created and submitted our MoMotel concept. It was great recognition and an excellent experience to come to HD to present our ideas and to compete with huge, established entities. Two years later, we entered again with 'Trespass'.  We've no plans this year, but we'd love to try our hand at a 3/3 record.

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