Mushroom Hunters, Dilijan: A Concept Hotel that can shape The Destination

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read “mushroom”? Amsterdam, perhaps? Magic, hallucinations, mind games, creativity…? Well, to be honest, this article has nothing to do with that. Well, probably except for the creativity part, and it’s definitely worth your time.

 

 

Although it is not Amsterdam we explore today, it is surely a place in its own right. Dilijan – a resort town in the southwest of Armenia with a decades-long legacy as a wellness resort and a thriving industrial center during the Soviet era.

The legend has it that Dilijan was a popular royal summer resort during the Armenian Kingdom and also happened to be a passage for the historical Silk Road. 

The region is known for its rich landscape and biodiversity, easily spotted with the naked eye: a truly distinctive natural habitat with deep woody canyons, steep rocks, and forests. A dreamy tourist destination, don’t you agree?

When it comes to reimagining the existing tourist offering, that insight is not enough. We – modern-day conceptualists – can be described as hybrid creatures blending an archaeologist and a futurist in search of a compelling story. So obviously, one can’t just be satisfied with such evident material. The mountain, the forest, the fresh air – is that it? What else can there be? With these exact questions in mind, we kicked off a project to develop a boutique hotel concept on a property in Dilijan.

 

EVERYTHING STARTS WITH A FIELD TRIP

First things first: planning a field visit – packing rain boots and raincoats, dressing in layers as (we grew up in Armenia) we know how Dilijan can be – sudden rain, humidity, mud, sun, sun, then rain again. With the right clothing and an open mind to explore, we reached the location soon to become the premises of one of the most conceptual hotels in Dilijan, in Armenia, and – sorry but not sorry – in the world. The location was marvelous – hidden from the crowded routes, facing the mighty mountains in all their splendor.

The client’s aspiration was to make a smart investment into a piece of land they owned in Dilijan with an ambition to bring a fresh perspective that would stand out.

SCRAPING EXISTING HOTEL ECOSYSTEM

Market research showed that despite rising numbers in hospitality and real estate developments, Dilijan’s objective qualities – nature, organic produce, and fresh air – are utilized only literally, and not creatively observed to become authentically unique icons of this destination.

The area has a long-standing record as a wellness destination, especially during the Soviet Union period. Unfortunately, the political collapse in turn collapsed the local ecosystem as well, although it couldn’t destroy the objective desire to enjoy nature as an undeniable local asset. Although the longevity economy is on the rise, that did not prevail among our client’s interests. So, we thought:

CONCEPT BUILDING PROCESS

Today, many researches explore how experiences that makes us feel happier potentially enhance our immune systems. Out of this belief, we started to build the hotel’s concept, which conceptualized Dilijan’s existing narrative of wellness and relaxation, yet from a surprisingly new angle. We spotlighted the mindset as a reminder that this life – this chance to be here among stars and trees and mountains and rivers and people – is a kind of miracle and spark of hope.

The region is known for its rich landscape and biodiversity, easily spotted with the naked eye: a truly distinctive natural habitat with deep woody canyons, steep rocks, and forests. A dreamy tourist destination, don’t you agree?

When it comes to reimagining the existing tourist offering, that insight is not enough. We – modern-day conceptualists – can be described as hybrid creatures blending an archaeologist and a futurist in search of a compelling story. So obviously, one can’t just be satisfied with such evident material. The mountain, the forest, the fresh air – is that it? What else can there be? With these exact questions in mind, we kicked off a project to develop a boutique hotel concept on a property in Dilijan.

 

EVERYTHING STARTS WITH A FIELD TRIP

First things first: planning a field visit – packing rain boots and raincoats, dressing in layers as (we grew up in Armenia) we know how Dilijan can be – sudden rain, humidity, mud, sun, sun, then rain again. With the right clothing and an open mind to explore, we reached the location soon to become the premises of one of the most conceptual hotels in Dilijan, in Armenia, and – sorry but not sorry – in the world. The location was marvelous – hidden from the crowded routes, facing the mighty mountains in all their splendor.

LOCAL LANDSCAPE AS ECONOMICS AND CREATIVE RESOURCES

The forested terrain of Dilijan is so rich and the constant rain nurturing it should come with benefits. And those benefits are the gifts of the forests that the local population has relied on for centuries – mushrooms, berries, greens right from mother nature.

MUSHROOMS ENTER THE GAME, THE MUSHROOM APPROACH

Have you ever thought of mushrooms? Yes, exactly – mushrooms. Aren’t they fascinating – the shapes, the taste, the mystery, the possible uses… An unexplored and economically untapped local resource that has been there for centuries, in every kitchen, yet has not been glorified until today. All humans on earth hunted mushrooms for centuries right after the rain, which interestingly proves the fact that things unseen can take a moment to be revealed, only to those who dare to hunt them – put on the boots and get into the unknown.

 At a glance, it may seem like a creative little game we played here by calling this hotel Mushroom Hunters. As you know, the boutique hotel category just calls for you to be innovative, creative, and think outside all boxes possible. Yet, no matter how intriguing that may sound, granting us the needed artistic freedom, the authentic connection to the land proved to be economically viable and long-lasting.

We coined a term: Mushroom Approach, which guided us through the entire experience chain creation for the hotel, allowing us to talk the same (mushroom) language within the team.

Our approach refers to mushrooms as the promise they offer to reimagine our relationship with the planet and that good things sometimes happen overnight.

As one of the outcomes of this approach, we found a way to plug into the trending global Mushroom Culture – a new way of thinking about everything.

CRAFTING THE VISUAL AESTHETICS AND DESIGN STRATEGY 

Usually, new developments tend to consume the area or replicate existing narratives, bringing nothing special into the game. We wished to set a benchmark for a truly local terrain and nature-inspired iconic project that will contribute to building a strong destination brand for Dilijan. Our vision was guided by biophilic design thinking that would highlight Dilijan’s natural landscape and local lore, paying homage to the important role of its forests and mountains: both in terms of inspiration and livelihood – in a word: Mushroom Approach.

ARCHITECTURE

Smooth integration into the existing terrain by respecting the height, honoring the legacy of Dilijan’s urban architecture.

EXPERIENCE CHAIN 

Designing the full circle of interactions and experiences, working on the look, the smell, the sound, the tactile sensations – all guide the concept towards livability and efficiency.

 

This was the thinking behind the Mushroom Hunters Hotel in Dilijan. We believe that the global narrative is changing and viable ideas come first. Not just creative sparks or spur-of- the-moment inspirations, but those that are carefully analyzed and checked for viability after the creative mind wandering is accomplished. We look forward to seeing the realization of this concept in real life and to spend our next ideation session on-site.

Next time you’re planning a vacation or a short getaway, get ready for some “hunting”!

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