300 Seconds with Yasmine Mahmoudieh NOW talks to a leader in innovative and sustainable hotel design

300 Seconds with Yasmine Mahmoudieh
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Yasmine Mahmoudieh is an awarded architect, interior designer and tech entrepreneur with a passion for travel and creating something new, sustainable and long lasting. She is in the forefront of the trail on what the future of innovative and sustainable hotel design should look like – a comfortable, creative, multi-sensory and versatile ambiance with beautiful narratives in surfaces, furniture and lighting; and using authentic materials with minimal carbon footprints and innovative, easy to use and often invisible technology … and beyond. 

Her designs are totally harmonized into its space by integrating local culture, heritage and history in her projects, and using technology to give it a new interpretation.   She works with scents and sounds to create a more memorable interaction with the space for a multi-sensory experience that takes the whole ambiance further.   

One word that describes you?  

A visionary!

Which is your favourite part of your job and which part do you enjoy the least?  

The creative process but also seeing it unfold. I find it very exciting to create something in my mind that I can see in our 3 dimensional world. I do not like to take care of all technical details, but have a great team to do so. 

What is your personal indulgence?  

I love travelling and getting to know countries through my work rather than being a tourist. I enjoy meeting other creatives that come from the ArtOr digital media, music, scent and other multi sensory design areas. I also like to be at the leading edge of discovering new sustainable and aesthetically pleasing materials.

Before Covid-19, climate change activism sparked the support of millions worldwide, unified in their demand for urgent action and reduced carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.  Has Covid-19 lessened the urgency? How are you making a difference? 

I think Covid-19 made everyone more aware of how beautiful nature is and how it could take a breath during the total lockdown across the globe. People were sending messages about Venice where water in the canals were clearer and animal life returned, and about China where cloudy polluted skies had cleared in some areas. I hope that this was not just a temporary illusion of appreciation of our natural environment but a wake up call that we need to protect our planet, or we will have more severe effects that will ultimately extinct us. I am trying all I can in my practice to not only foster awareness but come up with new ideas and products that make our projects more sustainable. 

What are your thoughts on carbon offsetting and your actions? 

We are working with our French partners in Vietnam on sustainable hospitality projects and we are introducing eco lodges with sustainable interiors. We also research material companies that use production methods with less CO2. We have already found and started working with a fantastic tile company from Israel that consciously reduces the energy used in the manufacturing process, thereby emitting less GHG emissions, and they aim to establish a supply chain that ensures carbon offsetting in the future. 

Given that the current economic crisis was triggered by a public-health crisis, what changes can we expect to the travel industry that will persists long into the future?

We already see that many mass market hotels are struggling and I do believe that part of the hospitality sector will be hurt the most. I do not like the ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ and inclusive resorts where people go to destinations and don’t even mix with the local community. I think that there will be more traveller demand for individuality and privacy and they will want proof that a hotel is contributing to limit its carbon footprint. I also believe that many of the younger generations who are going to feel the effect of climate change more than anyone else, will want to see more responsibility, accountability and transparency. 

How are you giving back to local communities and how are they benefitting from this? 

The integration with the local community is part of the success of our hotel projects. We always encourage the use of local materials and try to involve local artists and craftsmen to support the local community. 

In your travels, would you support hotels and tourism companies that do little to nothing for the good of communities and the environment?  How do we make hotels more accountable around sustainability? 

No, I do not. I think that there needs to be stricter rules and regulations in the tourism sector regarding this so hotels that do not fulfil them should simply not open. Creating good examples of hotels that are truly sustainable and successful, where there is appreciation of the harmony between product and hotel guest, can have a ripple effect. 

A great reset is anticipated post Covid-19.  What 3 changes must happen NOW to get people to change attitudes and behaviour?  

It must be NOW that the awareness of the urgency needs to be conveyed and a clear plan needs to be constructed with a timeline. In my field of architecture and design, we need to implement sustainability design considerations to adhere to guidelines and frameworks of companies like EarthCheck.  We need to be accountable and transparent, and we need to convince our owners that “it must be NOW”. 

 Can we have wellbeing without sustainability (defined as wellbeing for our world, for people and planet)? 

No we cannot have wellbeing if ‘Mother Nature’ is being destroyed by our species. We are part of nature and we go back to nature. We have to respect and conserve the beauty given to all of us collectively.  For me, the fact that the beauty of our earth is for free is a big present. 

Should governments make sustainability mandatory? 

Absolutely. If governments were more strict, we would have less loopholes. I do think that it should be on the agenda for hotels to fulfil certain sustainability standards.

What is your personal favorite place to stay that’s trying hard to be accountable and transparent around sustainability with no greenwash allowed? 

I have been at the WhitePod hotel with my family and we all loved it. And also The Brando in French Polynesia. Both are also amazing locations. 

What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership? 

I hope I can contribute to make the world a more beautiful and sustainable place through my design and architecture work.  I teach at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon and share my experience with students to create awareness of the importance of our environment, how they should be supporting the sustainability movement and apply it wherever they end up working. 

I have a tech company that is a marketplace for educational activities for children. For hotels across the world, we’d like to roll out an offline version called mykidsy playground with only sustainable and recycled materials used to design furniture for toddlers up to teenagers to enable hotels to teach children sustainability in these playgrounds. My goal is to reach 100 million children in my lifetime that will have a better life by learning life skills and contributing to less carbon footprint on our planet. 

Who is your greatest influence?   Best advice you have been given?  

I had a very philosophical professor at UCLA who was also one of my mentors in life. He told me “Don’t do something different if it’s not better” and to innovate something that would enhance the lives of people. I am interested in purposeful design that solves problems and inspires.

Your best advice to the young generations concerned about their future?

If you can believe it, you can see it! Be a visionary and your dreams will come true if you truly believe in them. The sky’s the limit!  Make changes now and be aware about protecting our planet. Educate yourself and do not compromise as this would be self harm in the long term. 

Any regrets? 

No, I do believe that our lives unfold in perfect order, but we need to see certain signs that make us grow on a constant basis. 

Do you care about sustainability? Please leave a reply here.