Interior designer Paul Hecker explains how GIA Dubai is bringing ‘ la dolce vita’ to the New Fashion Avenue.
Interior designer Paul Hecker explains how GIA Dubai is bringing ‘la dolce vita’ to the New Fashion Avenue
I t’s the ultimate indulgence: the comfort, beauty and romance of authentic Italian cuisine. GIA Dubai is setting the stage for celebrating this timeless concept for embracing good living, with the contemporary design of Australia-based designer Paul Hecker of Hecker Guthrie, and modern Italian cuisine by Executive Chef, Tuscany’s own Tommaso Gonfiantini.
Located at the New Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall, its contemporary interiors – like its Italian fashion counterparts – boast references to classic, retro and modern styles that create an aura both of timelessness and of immersion in the pulse of the city.
“The aim of this space is to feel welcomed – like they are welcome to stay if they should choose – and that it is an extension of the traditional (home) dining experience. It reflects the Italian experience and the pure passion that goes into the cuisine and its years of complexity; we wanted to embody that in a way that also spoke to the region’s history of geometry and materiality,” says Hecker.
“The modern design, balanced with the authentic Italian influence that’s visible through the menu – is the perfect representation of today’s ‘La Dolce Vita.’ By adding the Italian team into the mix, the dining experience is elevated into a personal Italian affair while the casual feel is maintained,” he continues.
This approach reflects the philosophy of Hecker’s award-winning firm. “Our philosophy as a studio comes from a core desire to make the world a more beautiful, well-crafted, connected, considered and soul-filled place. We want to imbue a sensibility in all our projects, and a warmth that extends beyond materiality and texture but is centred around place-making at the core. Our design team is a curated collection of designers from a number of backgrounds, both culturally and professionally, and this only adds to the rigour around each of our projects. We are constantly questioning and exploring, as well as connected to the spaces and design-thinkers and muses around us,” says Hecker.
The studio’s past projects helped frame the vision for the Dubai venue. “We continued the design journey with the client and established an ongoing relationship by taking the key elements of the original GIA (situated in Jakarta, Indonesia) and translated that to the new location to create a more casual atmosphere that serves the clientele in The Dubai Mall,” says Hecker.
“Other key projects that Hecker Guthrie completed internationally were The Principal, which is located in Hong Kong – and an interstate project, Vasse Felix, which is located in country Western Australia. Both of these projects demonstrated that distance is not a concern when designing,” he continues.
Despite the clear vision, the project was not without challenges. “With any international project, the challenge of culture, aesthetics and availability of product is always a challenge,” explains Hecker. “But it is also an opportunity: to grow our knowledge of another region and their practices; and to grow and become better designers.”
“It reflects the Italian experience and the pure passion that goes into the cuisine and its years of complexity…” - Paul Hecker
The result is an Italian escape. While listening to the venue’s special Italian playlist, guests enjoy a design that references Italy in the 1950s with a comprehensive 21st-century makeover that features an ‘architecture within architecture’ concept. The simplicity of the monochromatic design contrasts with accents in warm Mediterranean hues.
The fully integrated design includes Murano-inspired dividing glass screens set around the kitchen, creating a dramatic glow box that also provides guests with a view of what their chefs are creating. The restaurant’s bar is set within a white frame with geometrical concrete patterns, adding urban expression to its light and airy space.
In addition, Hecker did his best to include local artisans. “With all of our projects, we want to emphasis this element of craft. The more global our worlds are becoming, the less connected we are with the source of our products and the craftspeople who labour over them. Our approach for GIA was to engage as many artisans within the region as possible, as a celebration of culture and identity,” he says.
The lighting is a key contributor to the aesthetic, creating a dramatic overhead canopy. The statement light pieces, accompanied by low-level mood lights, seamlessly take the venue from day to night.
“It’s always important to bring all elements together in all of our projects. We see the space as a whole, and each piece should embody a connecting relationship between them – in height and materiality, creating a sinuous flow across all elements,” says Hecker.
The cosmopolitan space flows effortlessly from the welcoming interior to a stunning al fresco terrace with unparalleled views of the Dubai fountain. The venue also features an intimate private dining room for those looking to celebrate special occasions away from the spotlight in a more exclusive setting.
Perhaps inspired by the Italian vision of embracing the beauty of life’s chaotic momentum, Hecker waxes poetic about the future of his firm: “We want to be constantly inspired, and inspiring (hopefully) – but mainly to always remain curious.”