Modular Thinking: 9 Hours

Photography: Nacasa & Partners

Continuing our Modular Thinking series with a spotlight on 9 hours Capsule Hotels in Japan, who now operate four sites in Kyoto, Narita, Sendai & Shinjuku-North.

The clue is in the name, that in its most basic form a hotel stay should provide 1 hour to shower + 7 hours to sleep + 1 hour to rest = 9 hours.

Capsule hotels have been around for a while now. Not surprisingly, the Japanese were the first to embrace the idea and only recently did they start to pop-up in Europe. But the execution of design and function sets 9 Hours apart from most others (their website is also beautiful). Inside their buildings, clean lines and simple bilingual signage give each floor a feeling of openness and uniformity. There’s no clutter, and only four colours are used throughout the entire hotel. The effect is a modern space, where everything is laid out for you with a clear purpose and function.

The spaces are designed to lead the customer through the system as effortlessly as possible – from the point of checking in, to finding their assigned pod. The intention of the designers was to make spaces so simple that the customer would organically move from one step to the next, removing all non essentials from the hotel experience and offering only the most necessary – to take a wash and get a good night’s sleep.

Dressing gowns, high quality white towels and shower products are provided. Men and women even have separate shower and locker rooms as well as their own lift and sleeping room floors are also separated by gender. The sleeping pods are tiny but beautifully designed. Modular white plastic pods are stacked two high, lining one side of a long dark corridor - each omitting a faint orange glow. Inside, white moulded plastic and white linens give way to a simple black panel that controls the alarm clock – a light-based system by Panasonic, that allows you to wake up without any noise. Everything you need to get your 7 hours kip.

While recognising that there is a time and a place for luxury, full-service hotels, the people behind 9 Hours have proven that there is a definite market for a place that provides the basic essentials well. They make the comparison that someone might own a Rolex watch but also own a Swatch. Both tell the same time and both in their own way are enriching, which is testament to the power of design.

Yet another genius stroke from the Japanese.