Your shopping bag is empty
When traveling to a new place, we may remember what we ate or the sights we saw, but one thing that never leaves us is the connections we make. After all, a place wouldn’t be a place without the people who make it sing. It’s the people we meet along the way, our global community, that have the ability to open our minds and shift our perspectives.
No one understands this quite like Josh Wyatt, CEO of CultureWorks Group, Neuehouse, and Fotografiska. As an avid traveler turned notable hotelier and global community builder, Wyatt’s career is a testament to building spaces and platforms that marry the ideas of creativity and community. Here, we talk to Wyatt about how his own travels have transformed the spaces he creates for others, and how he uses design to foster communities near and far.
Travel has brought me some of my most indelible, personality defining moments in my life. When on the road as a traveller, virtually everything is unknown and new. Thus the process of exploring, learning, adapting and being open to new paradigms has developed my emotional and intellectual personality beyond measure and has allowed me to excel creatively over the past few decades.
Creativity often flourishes when an individual or group feels supported, confident and free to take risks. To create this safe space, a support network is needed. Community is the definition of support and nurturing whereby a group comes together to collaborate on an idea, vision or shared purpose. When a community is strong, creativity blossoms. I would venture to say that without community, creativity would wither. As we come together in community, creativity is propelled that much stronger.
A secret passion of mine is dance. As such, places and cultures that highlight the free spirit of dance have always drawn me in. I lived for a time in Madrid where Flamenco music and dance still flourishes to this day. The color, movement and passion of that particular music and dance, coupled with the flow of the language, has always inspired me. To balance this sense of movement and color, I also like to remember more quiet cultures, ones that are introspective. My time in Bhutan, where the people and nature move with a quiet sense of serenity, also has inspired me greatly. Life is about balance and the bright and muted tones. So it gives me great joy to think both about the explosive color and passion in one moment, and the quiet solitude in another time frame.
The mix of research prior to a trip, which serves as an educational moment, combined with being open to serendipitous “go with the flow” moments once in a new place, has always delivered wonderful results for me. It is important to have some background before arriving to a new place, but also to be free to explore. Once I have arrived at a new place, I find it deeply important to sit in a café or bar for a few hours and just listen and watch what people do and how they interact. The art of observation can bring many profound learnings and lead to introductions into a new community or culture.
A great hospitality venue, whether it be a hotel, restaurant, café or club, makes people feel welcome and supported. I suppose “nurture” is the key way to consider great hospitality. With great nurturing through hospitality, a local venue can be the centre of community. Hotels or restaurants have served as the backdrop for life memories across the world and it is the role of these venues to provide the foundation, or anchor, to their local culture.
Ironically, space is just space until people fill it. You can have the most elegantly designed space imaginable, but it is an echo chamber until warm hospitality fills the room. The people and their laughter, joy, passion, tears, and emotion is what fosters community within a space. The great designers realize this truth, and usually design spaces to allow people to generate great emotion and warmth, and from that everything flows to a strong community and purpose.
Mindfulness has many meanings depending on where one is in the world. But for me the consistent tone around mindfulness is one of quiet contemplation. I apply this sense of quiet when I am on the road in a plane or train, I rarely try to drive. Over the years as I have designed various hotels, restaurants and now member clubs, I have tried to create various areas in a building where one can escape to think, read, nap or just be alone. These private areas, whether it be a separate room or even just a nook within a large public space, are absolutely essential to creative thought and mental well being.
25 years ago I was an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence and lived with a family where the two brothers were into music. At the time—and this was before EDM and big name DJs—these brothers would play vinyl at all hours and talk incessantly about music. I had almost no background or appreciation for many of the genres they listened to. But we became very close. Fast forward 25 years later, and both of them are significant music industry people who travel around the world playing or managing DJs. I run into them in various cities around the globe and we always have a lovely reunion. It gives me great joy to think that through travel, and having an open mind, I was able to expand my horizons as well as develop deep, long lasting international friendships.
Mindful hospitality is the art of fostering a platform for people whereby they feel they can be their true selves.