There are lot of "pod" hotel concepts around. It's one of those things that every young design/architectural practice likes to have a go at for its portfolio. The use-cases for these things are obvious, airports, train stations, exhibition halls, shopping malls, even temporary hostels or emergency shelter. Economic conditions notwithstanding it's a simple fact that we are traveling more and that the time spent waiting around in terminals is getting longer and more unpleasant. The promise of privacy and proper sleep is compelling. One architectural practice that has honed its pod concept into a refined, practical and importantly a patentable reality over a the years is Arch Group of Moscow. The high level of interest shown in the company's first working installation means that it looks like this tenacity will pay off.
We first covered the Sleepbox concept in March 2010, but last month Arch Group designers Alexay and Mikhail achieved their first working installation at Moscow's Sherematyevo airport. The single two-bunk-bed box is constructed in a rather fetching ash veneer over MDF and as can be seen from the images the construction is pretty solid with good seals on the door and windows suggesting at least the possibility of a quiet interior. Interior fittings are simple but of a high quality. Mass production of the units could be realized in metal or more likely GRP.
The box measures 2.5 m (98") x 1.6m (63") by 2.5 m (98") or 3 m (118") high and is available in one, two or three bunk configurations. The original concept called for an automated clean linen system much like the towel rollers in public toilets but for the moment normal slip covers are being used. The unit is provided with electricity for lights and laptop/phone charging though of course additional goodies could be incorporated such as touch screens, TV's, Wi-Fi, alarm, intercom, safe or even automated payment stations.
Reaction to the installation has apparently been extremely positive and a roll-out of multiple units in the airport is planned. Additionally a central Moscow hostel for student travelers is in the works for 2012.
The Sleepbox concept has been skilfully developed into a serious and well designed product whose time may well have come. It's the sort of idea that once general acceptance is achieved, very rapid deployment will occur. There are of course questions about security and the uses to which some members of the public may put the units to but these need to be addressed on a location by location basis and sensible solutions should always be possible. There is no doubt that the Sleepbox concept fulfills a need of many modern social contexts and could have a significant impact. Should you feel an entrepreneurial urge to start your own "flash-hotel" units can be ordered now starting at €7,000 (approximately US$9,500 at the time of writing) with a two month lead time.