Case study: Sofitel continues expansion in Dubai

Sofitel Luxury Hotels opens Sofitel Dubai Downtown with an interior that honours the Op Art movement. 

Sofitel Luxury Hotels is a multinational operator with branches all over the world. Just in Dubai, there is already a handful with the Sofitel Dubai Downtown being the latest to open.

Between the client and consultant team, there was a desire to create a luxury hotel that maintained a strong design identity. The vision behind the hotel was to magnify the five senses starting with the lobby and reaching up to the spa. The interior space measures over 35,000m2 and includes 350 guest rooms including 76 suites, three restaurants, three bars, one cafe, 14 meeting rooms and one conference hall, as well as a spa and gym.

Working on the Sofitel was a supreme team consisting of Sofitel Hotels, Wilson Associates and ALEC FITOUT.

“When we were awarded the project, the client had also selected Sofitel as the operator at the same [time],” explains May Poon, design director, Wilson Associates. “They were chosen because the client wanted a luxury product. We then worked closely with the Sofitel design manager, Isabelle Maffre to develop the concept.”

Poon further adds: “The overall concept was to be an iconic contemporary French design, with unique and memorable colour schemes. It was to be inspired by French art and in particular, the work by the father of Op art, Victor Vasarely. His work was a catalyst to our approach not only to graphics [and] colours, but also to spatial and three-dimensional design.”

Upon entering the hotel, one is immediately welcomed by the crisp lobby complete with abstract flooring designs, while the feature chandelier, which was delivered by Lasvist and contains over 1.4 million pieces of crystal, creates an enveloping design that appears to keep folding into itself. The lobby is marvellous in its contemporary approach while the sheer luxury of fine materials is awe-inducing.

While the materials used throughout are unique to each section, bamboo timber was a base material according to Damien Kelly, the design manager at ALEC FITOUT.
As Kelly notes, the bamboo timber in the guestrooms helps to create a breezy and light ambiance while the touch of lime green offers a fresh contrast.

In the guestrooms especially, pops of colour were applied through textiles and abstract carpet designs.

Kelly says: “The bamboo offers a light [and] airy feel while presenting a more natural effect through the grain of the wood. Other materials include acrylics and crystal white stone offering a very minimal and clean finishing.

“Crystal chandeliers have added a sense of sophistication to the circulation areas and the ambitious carpet designs have added a touch of modern flair.”

Sofitel Dubai Downtown boasts a number of outstanding design features including contemporary sculptural light fixtures that can be admired in the public spaces, three-dimensional architectural wall panels in the guestrooms and the graphics that are incorporated into the stone floors and carpeting.
The wide material palette offered various challenges to the design team. According to Kelly, due to bamboo’s inherent properties, matching grains and the colour of panels needed to be closely monitored and managed. Additionally, ALEC FITOUT maintained a hawk’s eye on the manufacturing of the carpets, chandeliers and acrylic screens.

Kelly says: “ALEC FITOUT participated in the coordination and development of the carpet schemes closely with Wilson Associates to ensure the desired end-product was achieved. This was a timely process, but worthwhile when achieving the final product.

“[We also] arranged and coordinated chandelier mock ups to demonstrate to the client the appearance on crystal and LED selection, to enable the client to understand the products and the possibilities. These demonstrations provided an insight to assist in decision making. The feature chandelier in the lobby area, which is encompassed in an elliptical leather ceiling, contains over 1.4 million pieces of crystal.”

During all the stages of the project, ALEC FITOUT worked closely with Wilson Associates and together, they determined the best end-product for the client. The fitout contractor proposed alternative local finishing while ensuring the maintenance of quality, specification and aesthetic.
The major suppliers that helped bring the Sofitel Dubai Downtown come together include: Al Ain Marble, Dar al Zakrafa and Ulster Carpets, while the chandeliers and feature lighting was supplied by Lasvit.

As previously mentioned, the guest rooms contain a mix of bamboo timber and lime green hues, while the bathrooms maintain a slightly more open design that can allow for transparency. The carpets throughout the hotel feature looping aesthetics, and compliment the design on the acrylic wall panels in the bedrooms and hallways.

As with all luxury hotels, Sofitel Dubai Downtown also offers a number of break-out public spaces such as La Patisserie and So SPA. La Patisserie follows a strict brown, white and orange colour palette and alludes to the decor’s homage to French culture. So SPA, on the other hand, is minimal and clean in its aesthetics while exposing its natural material range.

“There is not another Sofitel with this design concept and it is a conscious decision from Sofitel that it wants its guests to have a different experience when they visit each of its property,” says Poon.
She adds: “The common threads between all of [Sofitel’s] properties are the level of luxury, the French touch and the memorable designs.”

While Wilson Associates was responsible for the conceptual art package, all the hung art that can be found throughout the hotel was completed by Bob Pour from Al Quoz’s Cornellian Gallery.

Kelly adds: “The client wanted to develop a world class luxury hotel, so there was pressure to ensure their vision and the design intent was realised. To date, all the project stakeholders are pleased with the outcome and the overall quality of finish in the hotel. Expo 2020 expectations did not have a major influence on the project; however, the Sofitel Dubai Downtown is well positioned to take advantage of any additional business and leisure travellers to Dubai between now and 2020.”

Klaus Assmann the general manager at Sofitel Dubai Downtown further cemented Kelly’s notions by adding that the principal of the brand is to offer top of the line services, gourmet experiences and exceed guest’s expectations. He adds: “Also, the concept of Sofitel is to create a link with the country where the hotels are located. In this spirit we are no different than any Sofitel around the world.”

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