“In a few words…. Kiss the future” – Cristiano Pistis
Cristiano Pistis joined NH Hotel Group as Senior Director in 2016, managing the Italian team of Project, Construction, Maintenance & Engineering based in Milan. The LIV Awards jury member, who managed over 50 projects in the last few years, is sharing his experience and challenges to work in Design for Hospitality.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where are you from?
I was born in Sardinia (Italy) a small and beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. After finishing high school, I moved to Turin to study Architecture at the Polytechnic. This University gave me a strong background in Architecture without losing a special focus on technology and the relationship between conceptualization and execution. Architecture, but in general everything related to construction or transformation, has always been a big passion of mine.
My father worked in the same industry and I still remember myself, when I was 10 years old, lost in new empty buildings on construction, curious about the coordination of the works and the different professionals involved. It was quite dangerous, but it was there that I started learning.
What has inspired you to work in the Design field?
I have always been a strong dreamer with a marked attitude to building. The two things mixed up made me an early designer. The idea that, through the design process, we could make things better is something that always excites me and keeps me awake and young-brained.
Finally, I truly believe that design can be, not always but often, one of the disciplines that can improve life making it better and giving meaning to the space around us.
What does your current position as Senior Director, Building Engineering & Maintenance – Southern Europe for NH group involve?
It is a journey across different challenges and adventures on different levels. My department is responsible for all the Refurbishments and the New Openings in Italy. Even if the basic unit of the hotels is the room, with almost similar needs and services to be provided, each project is different from the others.
Essentially, we act as a Project Management Office coordinating all the phases starting from the preliminary estimations to the closing of the works and the handover. We use external designers for almost all the projects and with them, we develop technical designs to be awarded and then executed. We are responsible for the entire process in full collaboration with Hotels and the help of the GMs and their teams.
One of the important things is to work as a unique team with the other departments to deeply understand the needs and characteristics of each hotel and each project. A great briefing means a strong project. This is where we start.
Can you tell us more about the upcoming properties for NH Group in Southern Europe?
Even during this pandemic crisis, there are several interesting new openings that are coming in the next years. We are working on new Hotels in Milan, Rome, Cagliari, Venice and Murano and the surprises are not yet finished.
If you had to choose just one of your projects, which project would it be and why?
Wow… Difficult question! The projects we developed during the last 5 years are like kids. I love them all. The most challenging is also the most beloved.
For sure, I would list here the new openings in France, the NHOW Marseille, the NH Collection Marseille, and the NH Toulouse. But then all the refurbishment and new openings we managed in Italy. Really a difficult choice. I remember meetings, site inspections, people I met, flights, sandwiches, and the brand-new room’s peculiar smell.
Although I also remember mistakes that must not be repeated and details that I wanted to do differently. From each project, I learned new lessons.
What do you feel is the most challenging part of working in Hospitality Design today?
Even if the times are harder than ever and we are facing a never experienced situation, the question for designers is always the same. How to interpret the future ways to use the spaces and the new tendency that will be actual in the next five or 10 years at least? How to conceptualize a project which can last more than one season? This is always the main challenge, and I’m not only talking about aesthetical topics but also about durability and operational needs in the product/hotel life.
Outside of the design world, do you mind sharing your other passions?
Very standard ones… Technology, sea, music, etc. In my private life, I am a flaneur, curious about everything.
Last, do you have any tips for aspiring Hospitality Architects/Interior Designers?
First, to be filled with a lot of passion. Then to study a lot and observe how people interact with and/or in public spaces. Finally, even if it can be quite expensive, to have life experiences, having late drinks in bars, dancing all night long, working in lobbies, sleeping in as many different hotels and rooms as possible, taking notes of any tiny, weird detail.
In a few words…. Kiss the future