Conry, B.S. Arch ’99, M.Arch ’01, Creates Guest-Focused Design and Owner-Focused Results

The world of hospitality is built on relationships. As Marriott International’s senior vice president of global design for the United States and Canada, Kristen Conry treasures those relationships. She leads a team of nearly 100 architects, designers, and project managers who serve as ambassadors for Marriott and its 30 brands.

“People often do not realize that we do not own the vast majority of our hotels. First and foremost, we are a franchiser and management company. That’s true for Marriott and all the other major players in our industry. We have a community of thousands of owners who choose us as their partner, their “flag” as we say. Without our owners, we would not have 8,000+ incredible properties and experiences for our guests around the world. My team is deeply engaged in these relationships, working hand-in-hand for years with our owners and our network of consultants and vendors to bring these properties and experiences to life. Hospitality is a close-knit and very social industry, and the people in it keep it interesting and fun,” says Conry. 

Before entering the hospitality industry, she enjoyed the intensely personal and private nature of custom, high-end residential work along with the generous, experiential, and public nature of restaurant, bar, and nightclub work. 

“The world of hospitality is a microcosm where these multi-faceted spheres of life come together in a compelling way,” she explains. “It’s a place of happenings and connections but also privacy and retreat. And the top­ology itself is in a constant state of reinvention through changing guest needs and expectations, trends, cycles of renovations, and new brands for untapped markets. It’s a very dynamic industry.”

Marriott Lobby

Conry’s work encapsulates everything from luxury resorts to prototypical hotels, large convention centers to boutique gems, branded residences to yachts. For her, that makes the work uniquely satisfying. Whether the project is small or large, her team ensures that the guest-facing front-of-house spaces such as guestrooms, food and beverage outlets, event space, fitness centers, outdoor amenities, and more, as well as associate-facing back-of-house spaces are designed and executed for optimal operation and thoughtful and immersive experiences at every touchpoint.

Delivering those experiences involves balancing the priorities of the many stakeholders involved in each project to usher it from a conversation to a feasible deal to an executable project to an amazing guest experience and profitable business. Conry says she and her team thrive at that intersection of business and design.

“We are always seeking that sweet spot where owners want to build, guests want to stay, and that’s going to make money. We often cite our mission as ‘guest-focused design, owner-focused results,’” she says. 

Liz G. Fisher