Empty office space is a sheet anchor on a city’s economy and Midtown Manhattan has been dragged down particularly hard, so the Copenhagen-based group Pink Cloud has come up with a new way to make vacant New York office buildings pay by turning them into temporary hotels. Winner of the 2013 Radical Innovations in Hospitality competition, the Midtown Pop-Up Hotel isn't a place, but a system that uses flat-pack modules to quickly convert vacant office space into hospitality centers.

Not only is an empty office a place where business isn't being conducted, it also means the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a day in rent, as well as the knock-on effect to other businesses. In the past five years, a combination of recession, outdated buildings and tenant migration have skyrocketed office vacancies in New York to an alarming high of about 22 percent. That works out to about 17 million square feet (158 ha) of empty space worth US$50 to $95 per square foot in midtown Manhattan.

Ironically, as businesses vacate offices, tourism in New York is booming, with a record 52 million visitors a year. Furthermore, many vacant offices are often a short walk from popular holiday destinations like Times Square, Broadway and Central Park. This is where Pink Cloud comes in. The group reasoned that with so many conveniently-placed offices being tenanted by nothing more than mice, why not square the circle and turn them into temporary hotels? Toward that end, the group plans to work with owners and leasing agencies to find buildings for revitalization.

The Pop-Up Hotel consists of pick-and-choose, similar-sized modules for flexibility and bespoke layouts. Each module is designed to fit through an elevator door and has the footprint of a standard US shipping pallet, so 36 boxes fit neatly on a flatbed lorry. For easy identification, delivery and assembly, the modules are computer- and color-coded. When unfolded, the modules make partitions, beds, sofas, chairs, basins, toilets, showers, tubs and other items, as well as a range of rooms from deluxe suites to hostel bunk rooms.

The layout of the hotel is easily customized to suit a wide variety of clients based on two room designs: Traditional hotel rooms and luxury hostels. Generally, the reception area would be at ground level, with extra lobby space used for a cafe and lounge. Spread through the building could be exercise rooms, spas, libraries, lounges and meeting spaces, with the building’s upper levels reserved for entertainment, such as nightclubs, performance areas, restaurants and bars.

When a building is selected for conversion, the modules would be shipped, with the computer codes controlling selection and tracking. Meanwhile, the Pop-Up Hotel website and app would be updated with the location of the hotel, viral marketing would begin, and reservations taken.

The opening of the Pop Up Hotel would be marked by parties and other attention-grabbing events because, being a sort of flash hotel, it will only run for four weeks and then move on to a new office building, while the operators and owners split the profits.

Though Pop-Up Hotels can be set up quickly, don’t expect to see one if you’re visiting New York soon. There are a number of problems with the idea. Obvious hurdles are health, building and fire codes, and zoning restrictions, as well as practical engineering, such as supplying plumbing, power, and data for the rooms. Also the inflatable pool in the concept art seems incredibly unlikely given the weight and flooding issues.

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