For some reason, people can’t get to grips with Civilian as Civilian. We get called Citizen a lot. Which isn’t bad, per se. But it lacks the layered irony of Civilian. And in terms of zeitgeisty publishing, Citizen K in Paris has the use of the name covered. See also: citizenM. Not Citizen M. Or even citizen M. It’s citizenM – no matter how many times Word autocorrects, removes the upper case M and then puts an angry red line under it when you force it to comply. It is the Dutch hotel chain, with a rigorous style guide, that has stripped down what being a hotel means to create “affordable luxury for the people.”
Affordable luxury is, as far as we’re concerned, an oxymoron, unless you’re talking about free time. Which is, of course, a luxury and, by its very nature, free. But we digress…
Affordable luxury is, as far as we’re concerned, an oxymoron
The citizenM product launched 10 years ago in the Netherlands, and it’s now spread from Amsterdam to Glasgow, London, Paris and Rotterdam, with two properties in New York and another in Taipei. The roll-out continues … We visited the Glasgow property recently to compare it to other similar millennial/business concepts. It’s a little like Hyatt’s Andaz, but lite in terms of price (weekday rates are from around £50, Saturday nights go north of £100 by some distance). It acknowledges what you don’t really need for a stay in a hotel: minibar; £10 jars of nuts; someone to carry your bag and give you evils when you don’t tip, even though everyone stopped carrying cash about five years ago. And what you really want (somewhere to work), and what makes you feel taken advantage of (anything other than free wifi).
The experience starts with an automated check-in using banks of touch screens in the lobby. You activate your own key cards, add breakfast if you haven’t paid in advance for it and decide you want it, and you go on your way. The process is accompanied by staff who are unnervingly cheerful and enthusiastic. We don’t know anywhere else outside of a theme park in the US with staff this upbeat. Either the recruitment and training is superlative, or they have loved ones being held hostage by the management and are performing for their lives under surveillance.
Half of the core Civilian team is from Glasgow, and we’re the first to admit that it is desperately in need of better hotels. While ugly as sin from outside, citizenM is a great option if you’re on board with the concept. This isn’t somewhere to go for a romantic weekend away, but for sleeping, working and overall functionality it’s a done deal. The bedrooms are tiny, and you’d go quite insane if you were here for more than two or three nights, but citizenM assumes its guests aren’t spending that much time in their rooms.
The bathrooms are strange purple pods with bants on the bathroom products: “Shower/shampoo for citizens who embrace the day, wrestle with the light of dawn or who are jetlagged into thinking its morning even though its midnight.” Imagine if Virgin Trains had shower rooms in First class, and then roll your eyes appropriately. They also remind us, in their frosted sci-fi way, of the arrival vessel of the child-killing aliens in Torchwood: Children of Earth. The most crucial thing we noticed about the bedrooms at citizenM Glasgow is the quality of the beds. Seriously luxe. Genuinely superb. They’ve clearly invested heavily in this area – only the Four Seasons has a more comfortable product. We also like the ship’s cabin style of the layout of the bed, hemmed in on three sides with the window on one. The style is reminiscent of the racing car bed we always wanted when we were nine years old.
They’ve clearly invested heavily in this area – only the Four Seasons has a more comfortable product
One of the things that sells the citizenM Glasgow most is the copious amount of interiors photography online, across social media. Almost all of the furniture comes from the contemporary design wonderland of the Vitra Campus. There’s a ton of Verner Panton treasure, including the Living Tower, which you can climb inside and enjoy on four different levels. All of this punctuates vast spaces full of hot desking opportunity, all within a short walk of the café and your fourth latte of the day. The common rooms are furnished smartly with retro design objects that sketch out the citizenM universe: vintage model aeroplanes; old radio sets; briefcases; rotary telephones; microscopes; Anglepoises and, yes, old battered typewriters. Someday in the future hotels will fill their wall alcoves with Kindles, iPads and Macbooks et al.
The citizenM empire has been ingeniously and thoroughly art directed. We loved the carpets in the hallways, which are photoprints of Glasgow seen from the sky. The observations about how someone uses hotel spaces is reassuring and should be standard, but isn’t: We liked the free on-demand movies, the electronic window blinds in the bedrooms and the global plug systems. The only thing we didn’t like so much was the pork sausage at breakfast, which was lacking (opinion was, in fact, split over this – half the team thought it was okay, half thought it revolting). A shame, as the rest of the spread was as pleasingly Glaswegian as you could hope for, with potato scones, haggis, black pudding and porage. And that’s where the citizenM concept really works – it’s clearly a standardised product that’s been workshopped to death in the Netherlands, but it’s also about giving a sense of place. And when you travel, surely that’s crucial? Otherwise you may as well as just live on McDonalds and Starbucks. C
citizenM Glasgow, 60 Renfrew Street, Glasgow G2 3BW UK