John Hogan was concerned that he’d developed a nickname. After nearly 25 years at Marriott, Hogan had been responsible for the full-service hotels in the Americas for Marriott, Delta, Renaissance, and Ritz Carlton. But it was the last 14 years working with the Ritz Carlton brand that he thought may have earned him his moniker: The Luxury Guy. “In a big organization, you don’t want to be known as the guy who only does one thing,” Hogan says.
When Marriott acquired the Starwood brand in 2015, Hogan saw the opportunity to apply his experience to a wider breadth of hotels—so wide, in fact, that it encompasses the largest hotel chain in the world. As vice president of design and project management for the Marriott, Sheraton, Delta, Gaylord, and nearly 25 other brands, Hogan is tasked with, among other responsibilities, repositioning the Marriott and Sheraton brands while continuing to oversee a number of mammoth projects.
Hogan says that the transition from working with a small number of luxury hotels to overseeing a team that is responsible for two of three top money earners at Marriott wasn’t without a learning curve. “It’s easier to move the needle when you have less than 100 hotels,” Hogan says. “You can impact the brand’s reputation very quickly with a handful of hotels.” But Marriott and Sheraton comprise hundreds and hundreds of locations worldwide, and Hogan says that the long game takes some acclimation. “It’s the difference between turning a jet ski and turning an aircraft carrier.”
One of the first steps of that long game was working to distinguish the Marriott and Sheraton brands, both now under Marriott ownership. “The swim lanes are rather narrow now,” Hogan says, and working to better define the two brands is one of his highest priorities. That starts from the ground up: a Marriott guest room features a hard-surface floor, whereas a Sheraton or Delta hotel almost always means carpet.
Decisions about flooring might be cut-and-dry, but Hogan say that every decision after that becomes much more complicated. Each Marriott hotel or portfolio of hotels is treated as a unique and location-specific project, whereas the Sheraton and Delta floorplans need to be able to be readily implemented and not overly embellished. Hogan finds the design process for each Marriott project extremely rewarding, but also has enjoyed the challenge of finding a universally applicable design that can work virtually anywhere for the Sheraton and Delta brands.
The Marriott and Sheraton redesigns are primarily renovation projects, which Hogan says present their own share of challenges. “It’s a whole new level of dual intrigue in doing a renovation, because you don’t know what you’re getting when you open up that wall,” Hogan says. “You have to be more creative and thoughtful when you are designing the room, because it’s an operating hotel. You have to consider how’s it going to affect the guests.”
As renovations continue, Hogan also has his eye on design and construction for three gargantuan projects that have all begun under his watch: the Houston Marriott Marquee, the Chicago Marriott Marquee, and the Gaylord Rockies.
Houston Marriott Marquee
The Marriott Marquee in Houston features 1,000 guest rooms in the city’s downtown convention district. The hotel, which opened December 26, 2016, had a hard, fixed deadline: it was to serve as the NFL headquarters for the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston. That meant that the hotel had to be ready in January 2017 for the NFL employees who arrive a month before the big game to begin preparations. Luckily, Hogan’s project manager was up to this challenging task. “You can imagine the scrutiny that individual was taking to ensure that we were able to deliver the hotel to our guests’ expectations,” Hogan says of the project manager. “He was working closely with the owner to make sure what was delivered met the expectations on time.”
Chicago Marriott Marquee
1,000 miles away, in Chicago, Hogan was overseeing construction of another massive Marriott Marquee near Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, the largest convention center in North America. The hotel was built by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in Chicago, and Hogan helped to ensure that the design of the hotel met the needs of the modern Marriott guest experience while also serving the considerable size considerations of the project. The hotel broke ground on July 28, 2015 and opened on September 10, 2017. “If you can imagine a 1,200-room hotel with 100,000 square feet of functional space, starting and finishing from a blank piece of ground to a complete hotel in just over two years is nothing short of a miracle,” Hogan says. “The quality that we got from Clark Construction was outstanding.”
The hotel features two ballrooms, each with a wall comprised of 30-foot windows that look out onto a park on the site’s north side. Hogan says that natural light is a brand requirement that Marriott takes seriously because it’s important to their guests. The 40-story hotel also features functional space on the 33rd floor that can convert to an outdoor covered event space with a view of Chicago’s skyline to the north and Lake Michigan to the east.
The Gaylord Rockies
The Gaylord Rockies, located in Aurora, CO, was in the design phase when Marriott acquired the brand in 2015. With Marriott’s involvement, the project changed architects and interior designers (to HKS and Looney & Associates, respectively) to tackle Gaylord’s thematic approach to its brand. The hotel will open in December 2018 and will feature 1,500 rooms and a staggering 500,000 feet of functional space. Like the Gaylord Texan or Gaylord Palms, the Gaylord Rockies works to define the guest’s geographic expectations before they even step foot outside the hotel. The hotel includes an atrium directly facing the Rocky Mountains and includes an indoor water park, among countless other amenities, making it a one-stop destination. The sheer scope is staggering, covering roughly 48 acres, and Hogan is confident the design elements will feel region-specific in all the ways that have come to define the Gaylord brand.
Hogan moved away from the field of luxury hotels and has overseen projects that are daunting in both size and difficulty. But changing roles allowed him to learn the a key lesson: effecting change is like steering an aircraft carrier. Learning to steer slowly has been instrumental to his success, he says. “It’s knowing that the result comes in the long run, not the short one.”
For 16 years, we at Fairmont Designs have been creating products that stir the imagination and bring life to your hospitality furnishing dreams. Our team embraces your design themes and helps transform concept to reality. With our professional design and international marketing expertise, we’re uniquely qualified to be your total design resource