Areen hospitality creates the design of the Swissôtel Makkah, inspired by contemporary design and Islamic culture
When the hotel opens, the Swissôtel Makkah will be the brand’s largest hotel to date, and its first in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The brief called for over 1,500 contemporary guest rooms and suites, with many rooms for triple occupancy. The large number of guests required suitable dining options; the hotel will open with three restaurants and one tea lounge, with two further restaurants in the design phase.
A part of the Abraj Al Bait complex, the Swissôtel Makkah, which opens in the summer this year, is a contemporary five-star venue which is located in close proximity to the holy Masjid Al Haram, overlooking the Ka’aba and the Grand Mosque, with its modern design complementing the values of the contemporary Arabian culture.
With a selection of various facilities, the grand hotel is part of a new urban complex development.
Andrew Linwood, head of the Areen hospitality division, said it brings together the specialist skills of its designers to create bespoke interiors for all aspects of the hospitality industry including hotels, bars, restaurants, serviced apartments and VIP lounges.
Having been in the region for three decades, the firm won the project based on its past relations with clients.
“We have been working in the region for nearly 30 years and therefore have long, established relations with contractors and developers who like our work, our ethos and know they will have a high quality project delivered on time and on budget.
“We had in fact originally designed the tower as an apartment building before the owner decided to convert it to a hotel,” said Linwood.
The brief given to the design team was to create a five-star hotel that could cope with the huge numbers of pilgrims arriving in Makkah during Haj.
“The challenges of designing and procuring the FF&E for almost 1,600 rooms, including many of triple occupancy, and restaurants with almost 2,500 seats, were unique. When open, the Swissôtel will be Saudi Arabia’s largest hotel, boasting two of the largest restaurants in the world,” he added.
The inspiration for the hotel’s interiors had to be tweaked from its usual formula. Linwood said Swissôtel is generally a “cutting-edge contemporary brand” and the aspirations for this hotel were certainly no different.
He explained however, that due to the sensitive location, and the expected diversity of the clientele, it was agreed a timeless, more universally appealing style would take priority, while maintaining a contemporary feel.
“The design was significantly inspired by the location’s Islamic heritage and culture but it was also important that all guests felt comfortable in their surroundings,” said Linwood.
The design team at Areen had to face certain challenges as well.
“The main challenge was to ensure that all elements of the hotel had to be robust enough to handle 3,000–4,000 guests at peak times, and configured to allow this number of guests to have a five-star experience,” he said.
Broad circulation routes were introduced with areas that allowed continuous control of crowds. This was particularly important at the approach to the restaurants, where large numbers of guests who want to break
their fast would be gathering simultaneously.
Cultural aspects had to be taken into consideration including the orientation of bathrooms, and the facilities for families to perform their ablutions simultaneously within the constraints of standard washroom sizes.
“In addition to these design related challenges, our budget and timescales were extremely tight and our designs had to be value-engineered more than once,” Linwood added.
He said that given the challenges the firm faced on the project, including a tight budget and quick turn around, he felt the team was able to balance the needs of the owner with the requirements of the operator.
“We’ve created a sensitive yet contemporary interior that will work for guests and staff alike. It responds to the brief of creating a five-star experience for such a large number of guests.”
Areen Hospitality is currently working on a broad portfolio of projects and has worked for hotel and hospitality brands all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa.
It has delivered prestigious interiors across the commercial, hospitality, residential, retail, healthcare, aviation and cultural sectors.
In combining design with procurement and installation, Areen’s USP is that it can deliver the entire project, from initial conceptual discussions to the arranging of flowers for an opening ceremony, cutting out unnecessary supply chains and avoiding delays and budget overspends.
Areen is currently working on a Hilton in Freetown, Sierra Leone and on Sheraton Hotels in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and Zagreb, Croatia.
“The market is also growing a great deal in Central Asia and India where we’re keen to expand our operations,” added Linwood.