Form + func­tion

Amar Sabeh el Leil, ar­chi­tect at Paris-based Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio, re­veals the se­crets to de­sign­ing FORM, the re­gion’s first de­sign con­cept ho­tel.

Identity - - NEWS - TEXT: JOANNE MOLINA

Amar Sabeh el Leil of Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio re­veals the se­crets to de­sign­ing FORM, the re­gion’s first de­sign con­cept ho­tel

Travel is like a fine fra­grance – re­gard­less of its in­gre­di­ents, no-one ever ex­pe­ri­ences it in the same fash­ion. Em­brac­ing this wis­dom, the newly cre­ated Smar­to­tels’ FORM Ho­tel flag­ship in Dubai boasts an in­no­va­tive vi­sion of con­tem­po­rary hos­pi­tal­ity that will con­tinue to bring the re­gion global ac­co­lades, with an aes­thetic cre­ated by the award-win­ning Paris-based Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio.

Lo­cated in the up-and-com­ing neigh­bour­hood of Al Jadaf Cul­tural Vil­lage, the 136-room FORM Ho­tel Dubai fea­tures a strong vis­ual art and de­sign nar­ra­tive, and places an em­pha­sis on well­be­ing, wel­com­ing the hy­per-con­nected, hy­brid novel trav­eller.

“We view our cus­tomers based on the way they con­sume and not based on their de­mo­graphic (age, in­come bracket, na­tion­al­ity, etc.). We value: (1) the hy­per-con­nected – those that make pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions on­line; (2) the ‘ hy­brids’ – those that trade up in cer­tain ar­eas and trade down in oth­ers (for ex­am­ple, they would be happy to pur­chase an ex­pen­sive hand­bag, but they don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to stay in a lux­ury ho­tel); and (3) the bar­gain-hunters, for we live in a world of aus­ter­ity where re­straint is fun – we are al­ways look­ing for a good deal, value is key! Fur­ther, de­sign, well­be­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties are at the core of our ethos. Over­all, we seek the like-minded trav­ellers that have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for travel, value and com­fort,” says Tarek M. Daouk, Founder and Man­ag­ing Part­ner of Smar­to­tels.

“Dubai is one of the most dy­namic cities in the world; this project is an an­swer to the new chal­lenges cre­ated by this dy­namism and by new ways of trav­el­ling. The ho­tel em­bod­ies a new type of jour­ney which pro­vides full flex­i­bil­ity and free­dom to the trav­eller thanks to the dif­fer­ent spa­ces and at­mos­pheres,” says Amar Sabeh el Leil, part­ner at Paris-based Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio.

Smar­to­tels chose Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio to work on its flag­ship ho­tel pri­mar­ily be­cause of its ap­proach to de­sign think­ing.

“The phi­los­o­phy of Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio is based on the col­lec­tive con­cep­tion. From the very be­gin­ning, the prac­tice has be­lieved in the virtues of ex­change, cross­ing ideas, com­mon ef­fort, shared knowl­edge and en­thu­si­asm. This ap­proach is nour­ished by our nu­mer­ous achieve­ments made over the last years all around the world and es­pe­cially in the Mid­dle East, and by con­stant at­ten­tion to the qual­ity of pub­lic spa­ces and new uses. Our French ar­chi­tec­ture prac­tice is based in Paris, Shang­hai and Venice, sup­port­ing the de­vel­op­ment of our projects world­wide, and in­cludes 150 ar­chi­tects, urban plan­ners and in­te­rior de­sign­ers of 25 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, led by 12 part­ner ar­chi­tects,” ex­plains el Leil.

“We pre­fer to use the idea of ‘ap­proach’ rather than ‘style’; we be­lieve that each project has its own con­text and a unique an­swer. We like to say that we build a unique pro­to­type. The re­gion – and es­pe­cially Dubai – re­flects moder­nity, youth and dy­namism. The French ap­proach is seen in the fact that we link ar­chi­tec­ture to in­te­rior de­sign with a strong sense of con­ti­nu­ity and ‘art de vivre’,” he con­tin­ues.

These tenets can be seen in the ho­tel’s de­sign: “It’s al­ways very chal­leng­ing to de­sign a flag­ship prop­erty and cre­ate a new ho­tel that is pro­vid­ing a real al­ter­na­tive to the usual ‘stan­dard’ ho­tel. [Our new ho­tel] is lo­cated in Al Jaddaf area, in the Cul­tural Vil­lage, which is ded­i­cated to vis­ual, per­form­ing and lit­er­ary arts and is in close prox­im­ity to some of Dubai’s most fa­mous land­marks and busi­ness ar­eas. The de­sign is a meet­ing point be­tween our phi­los­o­phy and the con­text and evo­lu­tion of the new trav­eller’s needs.”

One of the most im­por­tant el­e­ments of the de­sign is the qual­ity of con­struc­tion. Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio has been work­ing with DCC (Dubai Con­tract­ing Com­pany) for sev­eral years on projects that in­clude Ahmed Sed­diqi & Sons’ head­quar­ters on Sheikh Zayed Road, as well as other pres­ti­gious res­i­den­tial projects which are cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion.

“The key to achiev­ing a great de­sign is to start with a clear brief and al­ways work with a very strong sense of con­fi­dence and trust,” says el Leil. “A ho­tel should be a place that pro­vides dif­fer­ent am­biances and ex­pe­ri­ences to trav­ellers, around the clock.”

One of the stu­dio’s first steps was to de­sign the ho­tel spa­ces us­ing a com­mit­ment to deluxe ma­te­ri­al­ity. “We chose to use few ma­te­ri­als, and the colour we used is the ac­tual colour of the ma­te­ri­als. The main ma­te­ri­als used here are white plas­ter, light stone and wal­nut wood, which cre­ate a bright and warm at­mos­phere. The ‘ im­ma­te­rial’ de­sign, such as the acous­tic part of the de­sign, is also very im­por­tant. Every sin­gle space has been de­signed with a dif­fer­ent acous­tic ap­proach.”

Coloura­tion and light also cre­ate dif­fer­ent vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ences and moods. “The pub­lic spa­ces such as the lobby and the restau­rant are de­signed with large open­ings that con­nect the ho­tel spa­ces to the city. The ran­dom guest room open­ings pro­vide var­i­ous at­mos­pheres de­pend­ing of the time and day, and there’s a large and unique view on the city of Dubai from every sin­gle room,” he says.

“The white and pure façades con­trast with the coloured and time­less in­te­rior spa­ces. The play of light and shadow is a very in­spir­ing de­sign theme in a city like Dubai, and we have worked hard in or­der to max­imise the soft shad­ows. The façade is treated with printed glass in or­der to bring in smooth, en­joy­able day­light and cre­ate a pos­i­tive mood in the room.”

His favourite spa­ces in the ho­tel: the guest rooms. “All the guest rooms were de­signed with spe­cific re­quire­ments, while all the fur­ni­ture was cus­tom-made for the ho­tel and al­lows full flex­i­bil­ity; a sense of free­dom. It al­lows what we call ‘ New No­madism’: trav­ellers can ex­pe­ri­ence the ho­tel with a lot of free­dom and en­joy dif­fer­ent types of mod­u­lar spa­ces and sur­round­ings. We be­lieve that the suc­cess­ful in­te­gra­tion of tech­nol­ogy into con­tem­po­rary hos­pi­tal­ity should be [the re­sult of] fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing ser­vice qual­ity and cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The ho­tel boasts five es­sen­tial built-in of­fers: a cus­tom-crafted lux­ury bed; a walk-in high-pres­sure rain shower; com­pli­men­tary high-speed WiFi; a 49-inch HDTV with Google Chrome­cast; and a com­pli­men­tary, scrump­tious and bal­anced break­fast. Guests are also of­fered myr­iad other ser­vices – rang­ing from pri­vate yoga ses­sions, de­signer py­ja­mas and sneaker clean­ing kits to cu­rated art and foodie tours – that aim to en­sure no two stays are ever the same.

el Leil’s ad­vice for young de­sign­ers to­day re­flects the way he works through­out the world: “Look and un­der­stand the chang­ing world, be cre­ative and sin­cere.” We can’t wait to make our first reser­va­tion.

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