Bella cucina!

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.”

Paul Hecker

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