The new W Dubai hotel on The Palm officially opened its doors on February 1, adding a new design destination to the city's existing hospitality offering.
International firm Design Worldwide Partnership (dwp)'s was appointed as interior designer on the project, taking over from original concept designers, United-Design Partnership. The firm completed the design of the hotel rooms, the all-day dining, spa, the main lobby, and entrances, in close collaboration with the owner, operator and architect, RMJM, working from the project’s schematic stage to completion.
"We took the unique attributes of the Arabic culture, as well as the location on The Palm, and melded them into a W experience," says Scott Whittacker, group creative director at dwp. "The exciting challenge and opportunity with this project was to create that quintessential W hotel feeling of 'rebellious, distinctive, luxury'; while drawing from Middle Eastern culture."
W Hotel's business model has consistently centred on creating properties that are dynamic, young, and "fun", tasking design consultants to "take risks and break boundaries".
The hotel begins with a distinct sense of arrival, featuring a perforated golden cocoon, lined with date-palm fronds, and multi-coloured rainbow ceramic tiles.
Upon entering the atrium lobby, references have been made to architecture commonly found across Arab countries, alluding to thick mud walls and minimal openings that allow guests from higher floors to look out onto the lobby area.
A cubic chandelier stretches out across the width of the atrium, where the lighting changes from day to night. Glass windows in the ceiling on the building let in natural light that also interacts with the lighting installation during the day.
Stone floors are softened with artisan carpets, inspired by the rugged geography of the Gulf coastline, and dotted with “fallen objects” reminiscent of the jewel-like windows above, which double-up as seating for guests.
“The main lobby is this wonderful voluminous atrium and that’s really about traditional Arabian villages that we all know from the years gone by, where it wasn’t perfect, it was meandering with adobe wall constructions and deep recesses,” says Justin Wells, director at dwp.
“When you look across the flooring of the same space in the lobby, you can start to see where the sand meets the sea. There is a thin divide in the flooring and there is this lovely interplay of the land versus the water, including a series of material changes, almost like a recessing of the tide.”
“It also has typical W moments as well where it seems that some of the windows have fallen out of the village [buildings] and are scattered across the floor. These present opportunities to sit on and to gather socially,” Wells describes.
The cubic theme found across the various seating elements and the lighting continues in the main bar area — called The Living Room — featuring a pavilion-like structure that appears to be melting in gold. The centrepiece of the bar — which is unique to the W Dubai — is a contemporary fireplace that "reflects the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the desert".
The Living Room is one of the epicentres of the W, transforming from day into night. The design concept is centred on looking at gold under a microscope, and creating a faceted form with a strong play on geometry, using negative and positive recesses.
In addition to the public areas, dwp also designed the Wow Suites, each one comprising a coloured wall running the length of the room, as well as a ‘catwalk’.
Another signature area of the hotel designed by dwp is the Away Spa, which upon first viewing could be a bar, or even a nightclub.
“The Away Spa is one of the signatures of a typical W, and dwp’s approach is really around creating something that celebrates the context. We are on the Gulf, so we drew a lot of inspiration around this beautiful light reflecting through the water bodies, almost like a kaleidoscopic effect, featuring blue tones and azure colours,” Wells explains.
“There is a lot of discovery in terms of the way the spaces are planned with cues and references back to the traditions of fishing and pearl diving within the space. But there is also a lot that is unknown upon first viewing so the light and the lighting effects can change at different times of the day,” he adds.
Wireless technology is also a key aspect of the design, from mood changing lighting to building controls. The W’s mobile app controls everything from the phones to check in and out, air conditioning, in-room entertainment, lighting, and even acts as room keys.
“There has been a great collaboration with other design firms and we love that, we love collaboration,” says Wells.
Global design firm RMJM designed the architecture of the hotel, while other firms including Keane Brands and Bishop Design worked on separate F&B outlets as well as some of the common areas of the hotel.