USA Today’s - October 2014

The Sci-Fi-Hotel: Where Geeks Check In…

The Sci-Fi-Hotel: Where Geeks Check In…

While the denizens of Dragon Con wait patiently for the minds of the hospitality industry to catch up with that of Gene Roddenberry, Andy Davies is actually doing something about it.

The plans for Davies’ Sci-Fi Hotel do not feature amenities such as holosuites or replicators (not yet, anyway), but this visionary developer says the project itself — in development since 2011 — is a nanobot shy of shovel-readiness.

“The time is now,” he says. The location? Still up in the air, but Davies hopes to have the answer soon. “I’ve looked into a number of potential places — existing hotels for sale, ground-up opportunities and remodels — and I am confident that we will find exactly what we’re looking for.”

High on Davies’ list: New York and Seattle, though other cities — Hollywood, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Diego — are on his radar. “I looked in detail at some Anaheim opportunities even before the news broke that Disney had acquired the Star Wars franchise. When it comes to demand drivers, those markets are certainly strong. I see a very good fit for a hotel that is part of the experience.”

It’s an experience that the Portland, Ore.-based Skylab Architecture will be instrumental in crafting. The award-winning firm does not lack for posh clients; it counts Nike and the W Hotel Seattle among them. And its pop-culture stock rose considerably when one of its residential projects was chosen to serve as the Cullen house in the “Twilight” film franchise.

Skylab’s founder and principal architect, Jeff Kovel, AIA, named the firm as a nod to space exploration and science fiction. “I love both the creative optimism often seen in futurism and the textures of the environments.” That makes it a nice fit for a hotel built on the genre’s fertile ground. He and Davies have been partnering on projects for some 15 years.

“I’m a big Stanley Kubrick fan,” says Kovel. “So, of course, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was my first thought.” He describes the property’s design plans as bold and responsive, but says there will be dramatic differences depending on whether the build is ground-up or a renovation. “In either case, we can achieve an immersive, futuristic environment …. Guests should feel as if they have left the current period and are traveling in an alternate paradigm.”

How about an alien womb, for starters?

There was no bar in “Alien” (though doubtless poor Ripley could have used a drink back on the Nostromo), but that didn’t keep the xenomorph concept from gestating in Davies’ fertile mind. The late Swiss artist H.R. Giger, designer of these spectacular, ever-evolving creatures from the films, was a major influence on Davies’ own career. In fact, Davies and his wife, Amy, visited the H.R. Giger Bar in Gruyères on their honeymoon.

The more he thought about it, the more determined Davies became to have it as part of the Sci-Fi Hotel experience. After fruitful discussions, Giger’s team got onboard.

Unlike others who had contacted them in the past, notes Les Barany, longtime agent, curator and friend of the artist, “Andy did his homework first by studying the feasibility of reproducing [the Giger Bar] at other locations before he called. After we met him, we all agreed that it would fit very naturally into his plans.”

In fact, Davies hopes to bring the bar as a stand-alone venue to the U.S., as well, a tribute to the artist’s memory. Giger exhibitions have been held in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain and Finland museums over the past decade, though none in the U.S. A permanent installation like the Giger Bar, says Barany, would have a “Field of Dreams” element to it.

“Wherever it will be built, they will come,” he says, “Giger’s fan base, everyone who has seen the ‘Alien’ films and even the people who have never heard of him. My job is to make sure it will not be an exclusive place, but welcoming to all.”

“Being enveloped in one of his designs is just incredible, the ultimate in immersive art,” says Davies, who presented Giger with a book of photographs he took in Gruyères upon their first meeting. He lapses momentarily into a place those most eager for the hotel’s opening can relate to: fandom. “He thoroughly enjoyed it; it made my day!”

The Comic Con faithful have already reached out in droves, of course. “I know they’ll be there ….” he says fondly.

“Young gamers drive an incredible market, as do moviegoers and TV/fiction fan bases, but some of the most exciting targets for me [are] Boomers, Gen-xers, Millennials…. These demographics cover a vast age and wealth range.

Amazing looks, he says, won’t be enough. “If that isn’t followed up with a flawless stay, a seamless guest experience, it would be just another themed hotel.” While science fiction will be celebrated, Davies says the property will be a place for work and play, meetings and socializing.

He hopes to build something people could never stay in before. “It is inspired by everything I love about science fiction, everything that’s amazing on screen and in our imaginations. Sci-Fi Hotel is a very cool, comfortable spaceship just looking for a place to land.”

Fans of “Blade Runner,” another of Davies’ favorites, have suggested Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building — a prime location in the film — as a possible home. “It’s a lovely fit!” he agrees. He’s even been tinkering with the idea of how to simulate one of those aforementioned “Star Trek” replicators. A robot bartender he discovered not long ago may prove a decent starting point.

“Now all I need is to make [Captain Picard’s famed] ‘tea, Earl Grey, hot,’ and I’m moving in the right direction!”

Photo courtesy of Andy Davies