By Susie Perelman
In today’s world, it’s easy to never leave home. With the help of technology, we can sit on our sofa while communicating with family and friends, ordering food, purchasing cool new home products, redoing our wardrobes, and learning another language. However, it seems that now more than ever, when we do choose to step outside of our virtual lives, we crave community. It’s an event and lifestyle trend that retailers, event producers, restaurateurs and even hotels are picking up on; catering to our desires to connect with other human beings in real time and to experience life communally.
Consider trending apartment living. The newest and hippest developments now offer amenities that woo tenants to the lobby. Bakery Living in Pittsburgh, entices occupants to play a game of ping pong or pool, cook up some hamburgers on the community grills in the patio, join neighbors for a movie in the media room, or contribute wine for frequent happy hour gatherings. A huge living room space in the urban chic lobby provides communal seating, library shelves with games and books, and a cozy fireplace that invites new friends to linger. An indoor pool with retractable garage doors encourages spontaneous gatherings in any weather, and tenants know that they will always run into friends in the building’s gym, bike room, or dog washing station.
Hotels, too, are offering themed community experiences for their guests. Berlin’s “nhow” Hotel touts itself as Europe’s first hotel catering to music engagement. From the insanely cool check in area retrofitted as a hot pink guitar to elevator banks where guests select which elevator they want to enter based on the genre of music they wish to hear during their ride (with 360-degree video displays to enhance the surround sound!), music takes center stage.
A music manager is always on site. An exclusive guitar room-service allows guests to experiment with a variety of guitars, and a high end sound studio overlooking the Spree River provides access to recording booths, a lounge area, and mixing room. Guests meet each evening in the lobby to jam and collaborate musically. Artsy travelers who crave community are always at home in this innovative and fun space.
The event industry is increasingly catering to clients’ desire for togetherness rather than anonymity at big gatherings. Xylo Bands unify large audiences with pulsing choreographed wrist bands at concerts and festivals. Wham City Lights uses guests’ iphones to emit color bursts in unison, creating a visual metaphor of synchronicity at community at events.
And shared tables such as the one above designed by Mosaic, and family-style catering are on the rise again event at upscale events as a way of encouraging engagement.
Event planners increasingly develop concepts around interaction such as use of eye-catching sexy decor to stimulate discussion , performers who interact with guests/audiences by pouring drinks, and theatrical presentations to finish off innovative food preparations in front of guests. Blending of performance art with food services provides clients with unparalleled interactive experiences for their affairs.
The highly unusual and hugely successful Diner en blanc embodies the excitement and thrill of a large communal event. A Paris happening for many years, this annual dinner involves thousands of like-minded folks gathering en masse, dressed in white, for a communal dining experience. The location of the event is a secret until guests are notified just hours before the event, and attendance is granted with a strict regulation process that involves being referred by someone who previously attended the event. In 2012 this event was hosted for the first time in New York City with great success. Talk about craving community!
Event production company Gingerline, hosts similar events for the public in East London by creating pop up restaurant/interactive dining experiences filled with drama, bizarre theatrics and an element of surprise (again guests are only told where to go and when to be there hours before the event). Through Gingerline, strangers unite at a transformed venue where they share conversation, food, dancing and a collaborative once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Now Trending: Community! Technology gives us access to so much from the comfort of our homes, enticing many of us to spend more and more time by ourselves, immersed in our virtual lives. And yet, many feel more isolated than ever before. A growing desire for connection in an increasingly disconnected world has given the hospitality and event industries a new niche. Novel takes on experiential travel, living, and events create a sense of community by bringing strangers together in new and surprising ways. The industry is helping people create connections—which is what being human is all about.