On July 1, the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort opened the destination’s second on-site, fully themed accommodation – the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel. The new premium venue features an impressive lobby, themed rooms and unique perks. Lily-Ann Bedder, Creative for Hotels and Accommodation at Merlin Magic Making, explains how the team have used the LEGO Castle theme to create a memorable guest experience.
What was the original brief for the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel?
The LEGOLAND Castle Hotel has been longer than three years in the making from the very first idea to the finished hotel. The brief was to create a new and truly unique hotel experience for our guests that was different than the fantastic LEGOLAND Hotel, which is also located at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort.
What is the initial brainstorming session like for such a project?
Our first concept session took place at Merlin Magic Making, the creative hub for Merlin. We first started the project by looking at the LEGO Castle toys, and building them together as a team so we could fully understand the toy inside and out. We then began coming up with ideas, starting with what you would expect to see inside a LEGO Castle, but also looking at what our guests wouldn’t be expecting – those ideas are where we can really make the hotel magical.
How did you come up with, and decide on, the Grand Tournament story as a basis?
The main storyline has changed various times during the design development. The Grand Tournament story fitted perfectly with what we wanted to achieve with the overall design and atmosphere of the hotel – it’s fun, exciting and it’s all about grand celebrations. When we design any hotel, the atmosphere we want to create is just as important as the theme.
How do you decide which aspects will be upscaled bricks and which will be brick-built models?
The design goes through various stages where we begin to figure out what elements work best as either LEGO brick-built or upscaled pieces. To create a unique LEGO experience we use lots of different upscaled elements from the toy. We know that our guests will instantly recognise those LEGO pieces and bricks that they own at home, it creates a magical feeling that you are actually walking into a life-size LEGO Castle. The LEGO brick-built models are very special to our hotels, we have a very skilled and talented team that design and build all of our LEGO models. We decide what will give a really amazing ‘wow’ from our guests whether that be from a LEGO brick build stained glass mosaic to a cheeky LEGO jester hiding out in the king’s treasure.
The LEGO Castle range has been around for a very long time, it’s seen lots of different styles, characters and story themes. When designing this hotel we based the core design on the latest Castle range, we wanted to give our little guests the chance to stay in a real life version of the LEGO Castle that they play with every day. We do have nods to the previous themes running throughout the hotel, including the notable shields and minifigures from the previous playsets – after all, everybody is invited to the Grand Tournament.
How do you balance creating an immersive theme, in an area such as the lobby, while incorporating the necessary, functional aspects?
The overall experience is always at the core of what we do, we ensure that the hotel is completely practical and functional as a hotel to our guests but that we also offer a completely unique themed experience that you can’t get anywhere else. We focus on taking standard elements of a hotel such as the public toilets or the lift and then making them extraordinary and memorable for our guests. Nobody is expecting to see a clucking LEGO chicken in your average public loo.
What is important about including the hidden secrets and easter eggs in the hotel bedrooms?
We hide lots of hidden gems throughout the hotel but we also like to continue this into our bedrooms. It’s extremely important because we are making a hotel designed purely for kids. Everything in this hotel, including the rooms, has been designed with children’s creativity in mind. The hidden elements and interactivity within the rooms are there for the kids to fully explore and get lost in the storytelling. Whether they are training to be the bravest knight in the tournament or the most skilled potion-making wizard, we make sure that the children’s imagination is the only limit.
Overall, what impression do you hope to give guests staying at the Castle Hotel?
With the two different themes, Knights and Wizards, there’s something for everybody to take away from this hotel. We constantly want to keep our guests guessing what unexpected surprise lies just around the corner and that they have the most memorable LEGOLAND Castle Hotel experience ever.