Eileen Jaffary, head of interior design at U+A Architects, writes about the studio’s latest project – St Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club.
Defining hospitality in the Middle East, and in Dubai particularly, is challenging as we are living in a city where a huge variety of hotels, from ultimate luxury to resorts to those aimed at the business traveller exist. So in order to give a unique identity to a hospitality project, it should belong to the city and reflect its local context, culture and environment.
The story behind St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club was to create a residence where guests who love polo, horses, ponies and green fields are truly welcomed and will feel at home.
Back in summer 2014, U+A was commissioned to design the St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club, which is located in Dubailand. From the very first meeting with our client – Al Habtoor Group – we came to know that it had a very specific vision in mind which we were then challenged to bring to life.
Mohammad Al Habtoor, who has travelled the world and who also bought top polo tournaments to the UAE, introduced to us his passion for the sport and his equal enthusiasm for Spanish architecture. We had to bring all the pieces of the story together to give a unique identity to the project. In addition, having St. Regis and Starwood as the operator, automatically brought up the level of customisation and exclusivity to match expectations and standards.
We envisioned the space as the estate of a polo player who has returned from a very long journey in the land of Andalusia, Spain, bringing all its exotic culture and flavour back to his home. From the sport’s saddles and mallets all the way to antique art pieces, we introduced essential accessories and elements to characterise the hotel while keeping a constant pattern to uniquely identify this mansion.
We introduced intricate geometric patterns throughout the hotel. We carefully selected every finish and materials for the upholstery, using colours and patterns to obtain the ultimate look and feel for each space.
The Starwood advisory team, headed by Paul McMillan, worked closely with our team and added a lot of layers of sophistication to the design.
As the green polo field surrounds the hotel, we put in high glass windows and doors to allow uninterrupted views for the visitors, no matter where they are.
The hotel has in total 126 keys plus 150 luxury villas in different categories named, designed and personalised to the St. Regis standard. It also features several F&B areas, including Terrazzo Andalusia, the main all-day dining venue, the Equine Library, Equestrian Lounge, The Grill Pit and Tapas Bar along with the two speciality restaurants, 800m2 of event space, including conference and meeting rooms and ballroom, as well as a polo-themed bar and spa.
One of the challenges we faced was to provide cost-effective solutions without jeopardising the quality of the design. Therefore, we tried to come up with the most economical and budget-friendly finishes and furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E).
This is one of the most common issues designers face nowadays, but it is the battle we should never stop fighting.
In the end, only one thing matters and that is the feedback the hotel receives from its visitors. Thankfully for all the parties involved in this project the feedback has been great from day one. It is every hospitality designer’s dream to create an exceptional interior for every project and as U+A’s interiors team we are always committed to achieving our client’s vision and expectations.