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Architecture + Branding: Hampton by Hilton reinterprets known built aesthetic as the brand expands globally

1-A road well travelled

Emphasizing premier service within the limited-service mid-price range of hotels, Hilton Worldwide’s Hampton brand has managed to pare itself an enviable position in a crowded marketplace. For the novice or seasoned traveller, Hampton’s immediately recognizable aesthetic makes it almost effortless to identify, connect and form a bond with the brand when far from home.

Founded in 1983, the Hampton brand, along with the Embassy Suites Hotels and Doubletree Hotels brands, was acquired by Hilton Worldwide in 1999 from then owner, Promus Hotel Corporation (source: wikipedia.org). Since then, the Hampton brand has grown larger within the Hilton group. Serving almost as an umbrella brand, the Hampton name has spread to comprise Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn “Hometown”, Hampton Hotels, and Hampton by Hilton.

Although the majority of the over 1,800 Hampton branded properties are located in the United States, there are locations in
Canada and Mexico, and a steadily increasing presence in European countries including Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as in Latin Americans countries such as Ecuador and Costa Rica.

2-Galvanizing an identity

Championing superior service that is genuine, one of the hallmarks of Hampton is to meet and exceed the requests of every single guest. In fact, it was so committed to the endeavour, that in 1989, it became the first national hotel chain to offer an unconditional satisfaction guarantee (source: wikipedia.org).

Gaining a reputation for exceptional service is impressive, but nonetheless, guests are still required to make their way into a Hampton to experience such stellar treatment.

Hampton Inn, King Street East, Kitchener, Ontario (source: maps.google.ca)

Consequently, the Hampton brand has strongly promoted and has been a steward of an exterior aesthetic that has bred familiarity, consistency and has become synonymous with the brand. Benefiting from a distinctive and unique silhouette, Hampton brand properties primarily revolve around the central theme of arrival with a quickly discernible, keenly identifiable guest focused entry experience.

3-Aggrandizing Arrivals

The arrival being foremost at Hampton, the prototypical standard was designed to accommodate the widest variety of sites proposing both side-loaded and end-loaded entrance options (source: hamptonfranchise.com).

Hampton Inn, End loaded entrance, Service road south along Highway 40, Montreal, Quebec (source: maps.google.ca)

Generous parking, easy to navigate circulation patterns, soft and hard landscaping, tasteful site lighting, material variety and texture; a comprehensive design effort is expended to make the arrival process as warm and welcoming as possible.

A well-defined, prominent porte cochere typically frames the arrival, providing a covered focal area, sheltering guests from the elements. The main entrance juts out from the body of the building, slipping under the near edge of the porte cochere, seemingly stretching out to welcome guests and thus drawing out the arrival process from the outside to the inside of the hotel.

Hampton Inn, Partial front elevation with porte cochere and extended front entrance, Route 31, Clay, New York

Additionally, softer somewhat pale colours, sourced from a palette of warm, neutral earth tones washes the arrival and reception process in a comforting and relaxing aura.

The main floor level acts as a base element to anchor the building to the site, providing a sense of heft and sturdiness. In most cases, the base is clad in a more durable, lower maintenance and abuse resistant material such as brick or stone, complementary to the lighter materials such as stucco or EIFS, used at the guest floor levels above.

KS Bank, Front elevation showcasing use of base and complementary materials, Brightleaf Blvd, Smithfield, North Carolina

The alternate material and divergent aesthetic at the main floor also tends to telegraph the activity inside. From the exterior, the larger window openings, or lack thereof contrasted with the guestroom windows above, makes it is discernible that the spaces behind hold a divergent use and activity.

Although the base may at times subjugated to adhere to the prescribed footprint of the guestroom floors above, the base still retains a greater geometric flexibility than that afforded to floors above grade. Almost universally, hotel footprints are dictated by the room type mix and room adjacency, resulting in some natural articulation in the floor profile and building elevations. However, the base or podium may stretch and contort with further articulation to encompass supplemental spaces for additional guest amenities such as an indoor pool, or building other functions.

Hampton Inn, Rear elevation with mechanical room projection at base level, Route 31, Clay, New York

Nonetheless, whether the building geometry is maintained from bottom to top, the base is generally noticeably distinct, with a horizontal beltline visually separating the base from the upper floors. This distinguishable beltline allows from the guest floors to spring upwards from this point, allowing some flexibility in the final volume of the building and floor levels, without compromising established brand elements.

4-Edge definition

Sprouting from the podium level, guest suite floor levels can be stacked as layers while remaining legibly distinct from the base. Thus, a multiplicity of floors can be accommodated within the branded framework, making the design flexible and adaptable, yet recognizable.

The use of pilasters, which originate close to, or below the ground plane, extend through to all floor levels aiding to ground the building, effectively anchoring it to the site with vertical corners stretching the full height of the building. The architectural element vividly punctuating the entrance, pilasters provide further relief and depth in the façade. Favouring narrow linear floor plans with central corridors, pilasters are employed to clearly delineate the building ends. Consequently, they are also utilized to break up the bulk horizontally in extended length guestroom floor footprints.

Hampton Inn, Front elevation and porte cochere, Route 31, Clay, New York

Projecting upwards, the pilasters seamlessly combine and merge into elongated flattened arches near the roof level, adding character and alleviating some of the potentially bland expanses within the building elevations. The pilasters and arches adds another level of surface change beyond the floor articulation, creates massive shadow boxes, frames portions of the elevations, and defines hard edges within the facades.

Hampton Inn, End elevation demonstrating pilasters and arches with shadow lines, Route 31, Clay, New York

Altering the depth perception, creating rhythm and balance, framing material transitions, compartmentalizing the elevations, serving to book end the edges, the judicious use of the pilasters and arches results in an aesthetic that is architecturally distinctive and instantly familiar.

Mars grocery store, Facade making use of pilasters, stepped parapets and cornices, Aberdeen, Maryland

In addition to the vertical edges, horizontal edges are also created through the use of parapets and cornices. Although parapets may also serve a practical function, such as screening mechanical rooftop and HVAC equipment, as well as mechanical penthouses and elevator overruns, Hampton has integrated massive parapets into the general aesthetic. Capped by protruding ornamental cornices, the overall result is a hard, well-defined, horizontal edge terminating the building against the sky.

Hampton Inn, Front elevation, Exeter Road, London, Ontario

The massively tall parapets, with the highest typically equivalent to an additional floor height, are stepped in height, again creating rhythm while giving primacy to that which frames the main entrance, bringing attention and focus back to the main arrival point. Not surprisingly, the highest parapet lends itself practically to further identify the property from a distance affording prominent placement for signature brand signage.

5-A degree of localization

As Hampton has built up an enviable reputation amongst competitors and guests alike, it has also amassed a portfolio of similarly styled standardized hotels that speak with one unified design and architectural identity. Suburban locations inherently better suited to newer stand-alone hotels, densely urbanized sites may require further finessing and localization, or wholesale re-imagination of some of the brand marks.

Notwithstanding the preponderance of hotels exhibiting the full slate of signature architectural brand elements; deep pilasters, stepped parapets, heavily ornamental cornices and pale earth tones, Hamptons also exist in less prototypical states. Given particular site and market realities, some reasonable compromises may achievable.

Although the brand has a vested predisposition to maximize the equity within the established aesthetic, under the right circumstances, it is not an absolute prerequisite. Indeed, in some markets beyond North America, the familiar Hampton has been overhauled and heavily reinterpreted.

Marketed under the “Hampton by Hilton” name, established brand elements have been distilled and reworked. The focus remains on the entrance, complete with a covered arrival point, yet the look and feel lacks some of the warmth. The base component remains apparent, set apart with a different colour, material and openings. The earth tones have been substituted with bolder colours. The pilasters have been replaced by thin fins projecting from the façade grafted onto a floorplan devoid of natural articulation. The hard edges, both horizontal and vertical, have been made crisper and unambiguous.


As the Hampton brand spreads further into new territories, the push to increase brand awareness with European and Latin American guests, especially those previously exposed to the distinctively styled North American architectural identity, could result in some brand confusion. Thus, despite all the built architectural equity, supplemental efforts are likely required to untangle the ingrained mental model and win over guests, old and new alike, one memorable arrival at a time.

All brands and trademarks are property of their respective owners.


About marc lortie

marc lortie is an Architectural Designer (Technologist) currently based in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada). marc has several years of experience working in Canada and the USA on various projects, including commercial shopping centres, big-box stores, industrial plants, educational facilities, warehouses, storage facilities, intermodal facilities, hotels, offices, and residential developments. marc is a graduate of Carleton University, Algonquin College and La Cite Collegiale.


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