Justin Wells, head of lifestyle interiors at Woods Bagot, shares with designMENA his thoughts on the importance of reinventing the hotel experience.
Dubai is staring down the next phase of its development. With the speed of project delivery and the frenetic ambitions of a rapidly growing city, this phase – perhaps two, five, or even 10 years from now – will see diversification and a more rigorous approach at all stages of planning, architecture, interior, and urban design.
Such demands of design rigour are not only technology-based investigations of representation, coordination, exactness, and complex profiling, but are also a contrasting artisan approach. Interior design ideation is visual and haptic, and the deep investigation of experience commands such design appreciations. Woods Bagot interiors works in a fastidious and research-based method of visual editing.
Often the studio has images all over it, such is the progress of design investigation. Images from the computer encourage the whole team’s participation in design inquiry. I consistently see the value of leaving images pinned up overnight and, with a fresh and renewed perspective on their validity, ‘editing’ – they are kept or removed accordingly.
No technology can replace the feeling of material in the hand, so Woods Bagot researches exhaustively to find the next valued material. Such demands require support and symbiosis with our highly valued suppliers.
Joining Woods Bagot has been a rewarding decision. As a multidisciplinary design practice with vast hospitality experience in the Middle East and around the globe, it has a demonstrable history of design and delivery. One of the exciting advantages of this offering is the roles architecture, interior design, and urban design can play in hospitality design. When these multiple disciplines are undertaken fully by Woods Bagot, the approach is holistic and immersive in thought-planning and design opportunity. We see such benefits for our clients when our architecture, interior design, and urban design teams are sitting around the same table.
In the coming years, all eyes will be focused on the Middle East through a lens of intrigue. We remain agile in the research of what’s next and are poised in its evolving thought-processes. The global traveller has expectations of quality, experience, and authenticity. These can often be competing factors of hotel design. Expo 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup will attract such a diversity of visitors. From now until that time, we are challenging ourselves and our clients to be progressive in terms of the offering and bold in the execution of design.
La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk, Dubai
No project is designed in a vacuum. Knowledge-sharing in the creative process is demanded at Woods Bagot and a testament to this is La Ville Hotel & Suites in City Walk, Dubai.
A key component in the pedestrianised precinct of a new urban design language, La Ville, part of the Autograph Collection by Marriott, is a six-storey, European-style development. Meandering in the urban realm, pedestrians can connect to all levels of the hotel. This connectedness originated in the early stages of planning. Such permeability invites discovery into the welcoming hotel lobby and beyond.
Jumeirah Al Naseem, Dubai
Another recent Woods Bagot-designed hotel that recently opened in the Middle East is the Jumeirah Al Naseem hotel adjacent the Burj Al Arab. This five-star luxury resort is a cornerstone of the master development of the Jumeirah Group’s Madinat Jumeirah, which also includes the Jumeirah Al Qasr and Jumeirah Mina A’Salam hotels.
A vastly different offering to the urban style of La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk, Jumeirah Al Naseem is a grand beachside resort reflecting the quintessential Dubai experience. One of its key features is the famous framed view of Burj Al Arab upon arrival, an achievement of planning expertise. The outdoor terraces and transitioning engage with food and beverage (F&B) operations and intertwine with the landscape and art follies, which can all be appreciated as one transcends vertically toward the higher-energy spaces of the pool and beach.
Ham Yard Hotel, London
Set in Soho in central London, the Ham Yard Hotel is a first in the UK for Firmdale Hotels. A cool respite from the urban fabric, the hotel extends beyond the bounds of the site and into the wider neighbourhood with an activated, energised, and connected public space.
The hotel blurs defined spaces and encourages social engagement in the public areas through active foyers, a basement theatre, event spaces, and bowling alleys. This design programme captures the attitude of Soho, incorporating effervescent urban style, and carefully threading this style within to evoke a spirited stay.