Re­birth of lux­ury

WA In­ter­na­tional’s De­sign Di­rec­tor Claire Craig re­veals how the Re­nais­sance Down­town Ho­tel, Dubai of­fers a new vi­sion of con­tem­po­rary hos­pi­tal­ity de­sign.


It takes courage to gen­tly chal­lenge the sta­tus quo. With her sig­na­ture sense of beauty, grace and cu­rios­ity, Claire Craig cre­ated a de­sign for Dubai’s new Re­nais­sance Down­town Ho­tel that sur­passes even the most jaded jet-set­ter’s ex­pec­ta­tions.

The Mar­riot-owned prop­erty, cre­ated within an ex­ist­ing of­fice tower in Dubai’s Busi­ness Bay dis­trict, fea­tures 298 guest rooms and 65 suites, each with views of the Burj Khalifa or Dubai Wa­ter Canal.

From the dy­namic art in­stal­la­tion of Dubai’s cityscape that com­mands guests’ at­ten­tion as they ar­rive, to the pho­tog­ra­phy in each room and Pablo Pi­casso’s famed camel sketch that’s been reimag­ined into a play­ful 3D iron rod sculp­ture, the ho­tel was de­signed to de­liver an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

“True to our phi­los­o­phy, we ap­proached this project with the idea of creat­ing more than only unique in­te­ri­ors – but rather than ref­er­enc­ing the land­scapes of Dubai, which is of­ten a com­mon theme, we chose to ref­er­ence Dubai’s man-made built en­vi­ron­ment. Our con­cept for the pub­lic ar­eas and gue­strooms was the evo­lu­tion of a sky­line from con­crete and glass, and of the nat­u­ral el­e­ments of Dubai, sand and wa­ter,” says Craig.

“The Re­nais­sance is a good ex­am­ple of how the no­tion that in or­der to de­sign a ‘lux­ury’ ho­tel we must spec­ify ex­otic woods and rare mar­bles, is no longer rel­e­vant. Its sim­ple con­crete back­ground pro­vided the per­fect can­vas on which to fea­ture and in­vest in time­less, mod­ern clas­sic fur­ni­ture, light­ing and art,” she con­tin­ues.

Pol­ished con­crete walls and floors are the main fea­tures that con­nect the gue­strooms and pub­lic ar­eas. The gue­strooms av­er­age an in­cred­i­ble 60 m2 in area and all have im­pres­sive heights. An open plan con­cept from the bath­room to the bed­room area fur­ther em­pha­sises the won­der­ful amount of space.

“With a back­ground colour pal­ette of tonal pale greys through­out, we pur­posely con­trolled any ad­di­tional jar­ring colours. Gold and black – ref­er­enc­ing the city’s gold souks and oil history – are our only ac­cent colours. This se­duc­tive colour scheme ex­udes warmth but also pro­vides a per­fect back­drop for our cus­tom-de­signed light­ing,

Claire Craig

sculp­ture and mod­ern fur­ni­ture pieces. This ho­tel’s ideal guest is some­one who will ap­pre­ci­ate a re­laxed cool grey min­i­mal in­te­rior, ad­mires mod­ern clas­sic fur­ni­ture, and wants great res­tau­rant and bar venues, says Craig.

For the gue­strooms, Pi­casso’s camel sketch re-in­ter­pre­ta­tion was trans­formed into the in­dige­nous one-humped lo­cal. For the suites Pi­casso’s flamingo sketch was trans­formed into a 3D iron rod sculp­ture. The flamingo ref­er­ence is from the site of the Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary at Ras Al Khor, si­t­u­ated fur­ther along the Dubai Canal. All of the sculp­tures were made lo­cally in Dubai, while the var­i­ous iron rod pots found through­out the lobby and in the con­tem­po­rary Ja­panese res­tau­rant, Mo­ri­moto, were de­signed by WA In­ter­na­tional and made lo­cally.

Dubai-based pho­tog­ra­pher Ni­co­las Du­mont was com­mis­sioned for the large camel images in all the gue­strooms, and Dubai-based artist Nasr Warour was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate the unique Ruler’s por­traits, which are printed on clear acrylic. Yet an­other tal­ent from the city, artist Jef­far Khaldi, was com­mis­sioned for the Sophia Loren paint­ing on the rear wall of the Basta.

Se­lected fur­ni­ture and light­ing in­cludes: Em­brace chairs by Carl Hansen; Cra­dle chairs from Moroso; out­door so­fas by Unopiu; bar stools from Emeco; and lobby chan­de­lier by Lasvit. An­other play­ful el­e­ment: 12 of Fabio Novem­bre’s Nemo chairs from Dri­ade are on the Ter­race of the Bhar brasserie and by the pool.

Craig’s de­sign in­spi­ra­tions for the ho­tel’s restau­rants – in­clud­ing the pre­miere Mo­ri­moto in the UAE – were all site-spe­cific. She worked with chef David My­ers on Basta, Bleu Blanc and Poppy to re­alise his vi­sion for each of the themed in­te­ri­ors. Their con­cept for Mo­ri­moto was to cap­ture the essence of chef Mo­ri­moto’s home coun­try, Ja­pan. Fin­ishes in­clude warm teak woods, black stone walls and black leather chairs. A pre­served Ja­panese pine tree en­cased in a glass box ex­tends through both lev­els, and over­sized pen­dant lights ref­er­enc­ing Ja­panese fire­works hang through­out the dou­ble-height space.

The over­all de­sign re­flects Craig’s per­sonal vi­sion, which has con­stantly been honed over the decades she’s been liv­ing in Dubai and trav­el­ling abroad.

“This ho­tel’s ideal guest is some­one who will ap­pre­ci­ate a re­laxed cool grey min­i­mal in­te­rior, ad­mires mod­ern clas­sic fur­ni­ture and wants great res­tau­rant and bar venues.”

“I love to travel, and I travel quite a bit with our work, both to see new sites and to in­spect cus­tomde­signed pieces made out­side the re­gion. I will be vis­it­ing the beau­ti­ful city of Prague in a cou­ple of weeks to in­spect chan­de­liers we’re hav­ing made for a large ball­room in Bahrain. A cou­ple of weeks ago I was in Liwa look­ing at a site bor­der­ing the ma­jes­tic empty quar­ter. We are lucky in Dubai to be so cen­trally placed be­tween the Mid­dle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Not only are these ex­otic re­gions just a short dis­tance away to visit, but again we are ex­tremely for­tu­nate in Dubai to have a mul­ti­tude of na­tion­al­i­ties with their own cul­tural back­grounds from which to form our cre­ative de­sign teams.” Given Craig’s ad­mirable wan­der­lust, it’s no sur­prise she’s man­aged to cre­ate such a nu­anced vi­sion for the con­tem­po­rary stay.

In­door/out­door pool

Claire Craig

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