Mysk Al Mouj hotel by design firm Godwin Austen Johnson is inspired by Oman’s rich traditions and its rugged topography.
Designed around a contemporary interpretation of Arabic patterns, calligraphy and Omani culture, the Mysk Al Mouj is an internationally branded, flagship hotel under the Mysk brand by Shaza Hotels. The interior design of the hotel by Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) firm followed the brief to design a contemporary hotel that would appeal to both business travellers and leisure guests.
“The main development objective of the operator was to help in the activation of the central plaza district of Al Mouj in Muscat, and our approach was to create a highly attractive destination point in the heart of this contemporary mixed-use development,” says Elie Choucair, associate partner, GAJ. Lately, Oman has seen a flurry of activity in tourism, hospitality as well as cultural sectors, as the Gulf state continues to keep pace with its more commercially active neighbour, UAE.
A sense of location is the main inspiration running through the new property. “Through distilling the essence of the surroundings, we aimed to create a contemporary four-star hotel with a sense of belonging,” says Choucair. “We studied the sights, sounds, light and materials of the marina together with Muscat’s coastline, and referenced these elements throughout the interior design.”
Some of the subtle features draw upon the ornate jewellery worn by Omanis, handmade embroidery and traditional outfits. “These enduring traditions have been thoughtfully translated into a number of elements throughout, such as brightly-coloured floor coverings inspired by the patterns of local dress, and artwork on the walls featuring imposing forts and woven textiles,” shares Choucair. The design team reinterpreted the traditional aspects in a contemporary manner to produce public spaces that are not only a nod to the Omani way of life, but also able to engage visitors in the modern context.
The biggest challenge, perhaps, while designing for culturally-rich places like Oman is that it runs the risk of glorifying the design clichés associated with traditions and surroundings. But working with a client, who was open to experimenting with a new narrative, while staying true to the cultural context, the GAJ team chose a minimalist traditional approach. “The hotel operator was keen to stand out from the existing properties,” says Choucair. “They also wanted to explore ways in which traditional and contemporary elements could be juxtaposed. This is what guided the design approach.”
Picking a light palette with subtle overtones of local arabesque geometry to enhance the interior spaces, the design team acknowledges the culture of Oman in a contemporary fashion. “Using lighter hues helped to reflect light deep into the central spaces, while unifying the appearance of the corridors, walls, doors and signage, which are exposed to the arrival space,” says Choucair. The accent colours used throughout have been chosen from a selection of the aquamarine shades of the Indian Ocean and white sands.
The design team had to address site-specific challenges as well. Due to the tight and oddly-shaped site, two of the available three facades offered limited views. This led the design firm to focus on creating an exciting series of internal spaces that mimic the feeling of exploring the local ‘wadis’ – deep canyon like river beds carved out of soft stone. Like the natural features, the internal spaces funnel light deep into the building, which constantly varies in intensity as the sun’s position changes not just throughout the day, but also through different seasons.
“During the design development, most of the challenges were constructive creative opportunities for improvement,” says Choucair. “It was a positive learning process, considering that all materials needed to be sourced locally and all furniture manufactured in Oman.”
With all rooms facing the central space, the internal circulation appears to be always active as guests traverse horizontally through the open corridors and vertically through the scenic lifts, extending even to the all-day dining joint located at the base of the largest atrium. At certain sections, where the structure permits, the main facades have been rotated to maximise the sunrise and sunset views over the marina.
In the evening, after sunset, the sculptural atrium lights and secondary lighting sources create a warm glow, while highlighting the geometric detailing. “Acting as a focal point in the lobby atrium, the feature chandeliers were custom made as timeless pieces that are inspired by Omani jewellery and added perforated geometric panelling to the walls to create the illusion of light reflections,” says Choucair.
Working with a variety of materials such as brass, opal and semi-precious stones, the design team gave a modern twist to interior lighting, which is reminiscent of artistically crafted pieces of jewellery. “The approach for the lighting design was to express architectural elements and forms by night, which pays due consideration to the surrounding environment, the hotel’s proximity to the marina and its vistas,” explains Choucair.
For high traffic areas, the team used hard finishes and sturdy materials, as well as using double rub fabric and upholstery for durability. “Most of the furniture pieces have been manufactured locally and many of the fabrics, where possible, were selected from a local mill to help reduce the carbon footprint,” shares Choucair highlighting the cultural and geographical context of the project.