Epicure (Indonesia)


Denniston’s Principal Designer Jean-michel Gathy shares his musings on the philosophi­es of design and its role in hospitalit­y.


“Making a beautiful hotel is about orchestrat­ing a dance between the landscape, the architectu­re and the interiors. There’s this wonderful chemistry when it finally works,” says the renowned design visionary Jean-michel Gathy, Principal Designer of Denniston, which he founded in 1983. Global citizens would be familiar with his work on iconic hotels such as The St. Regis Lhasa Resort in Tibet, Chedi Andermatt in Switzerlan­d, Aman Venice, and the iconic rooftop and pool at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. His ingenuous touch in these properties and more have lent them internatio­nal fame as venues of monumental proportion­s.

It’s about comfort

His design musings start from one basic premise – comfort. It’s the word he uses to qualify a good hotel, and the process begins with the environmen­t. The location, social norms and the underlying culture in each destinatio­n trigger the design instincts that lead Jean-michel to create spaces that he defines as a success. “If it’s not comfortabl­e, it’s not a good hotel. It can be gorgeous but if it’s not comfortabl­e, it’s not well-designed. When you design a hotel, it’s a home away from home. You want to feel comfortabl­e. But you never question why it’s nice.

You like the place, but you don’t know why. Actually it’s because the architect addressed all the components that fulfil your feelings and sensations. Noise, light control, spacing — everything is important,” says Jean-michel.

He elaborated that he designs from the heart and evokes a style that is charismati­c and selfless. “It’s not an ego trip like the architects who design for themselves. I design elements which are a compositio­n of dramatic effect; I create large and dramatic space, in opposition to intimate areas, so the space is always dynamic. Secondly, I design for the sensation you get out of it. I want every space in the hotel to be comfortabl­e and for my clients to come back and say, I like this space. Sometimes they don’t know why they like it, but if they walk in and feel good, I know I’ve succeeded.”

Beyond the emotive response to a space, Jean-michel also believes a successful design is about service, space and time, which together bring about exclusivit­y. “You must feel that you are ‘the one’. It flatters the ego. You also need to feel there’s lots of space — the foot of the bed isn’t two feet from the window; the loo is separate to the bathroom. However, you can use the best materials in the world, and it can look gorgeous. But if the experience isn’t pleasant; if you are not made to feel that your time there is valuable and important; no one will come back.”

His passion for his craft is relentless, spurred by a vitality that fuels project after project. “Every day, I comment on drawings and redesign things. I work 18 hours a day. I’m an absolute maniac — I never stop. I love what I do,” asserts Jean-michel.

The new face of hospitalit­y

With the pandemic affecting the global hospitalit­y industry, the new norm for travellers and the way they experience their hotel stays will be vastly different, yet expectatio­ns for a luxe experience will no doubt remain high, with the need for a prestigiou­s experience that is also pristine and meticulous in hygiene. “Following the pandemic, it is important that architects and designers stay health sensitive in all aspects of design. We may start seeing new materials being used for interior features such as doorbells, key controls in the rooms, and seats, as well as better air-conditioni­ng filters, and different treatments for the water in the swimming pools,” says Jean-michel.

“Future designs will involve things like antimicrob­ial surfacing for everything from lobbies, to side tables, to the restaurant back-of-house, self-check-in kiosks and limits on how many people can ride in an elevator. Basic rooms will give way to more studios and suites with kitchens and laundry to reduce housekeepi­ng and room service interactio­ns. Within five years, I predict that all these things will be standard in the hotel industry, especially at the highest end,” he shares.

Celebratin­g culture at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo

His latest design for Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi makes a statement with its blend of Japanese traditions and European aesthetics. Tokyo is a city of contrasts; its vibrant nightlife and anime obsessions juxtaposed against its strict work culture and business etiquette. Otemachi continues the contrast with a skyline of high-rise glass façade buildings next to the traditiona­l Imperial Place surrounded by the lush forest.

I design elements which are a compositio­n of dramatic effect; I create large and dramatic space, in opposition to intimate areas, so the space is always dynamic.

Located on the top six floors of a 39-storey tower adjacent to the Imperial Palace, the hotel features 193 guest rooms and suites, a spa, a 20m pool on the highest floor and four F&B concepts. Guests stepping through the hotel entrance and into the lobby immediatel­y get a dramatic sense of Japanese aesthetics, with an entryway resembling a traditiona­l Japanese redorange lacquer box with solid timber panels.

Jean-michel says: “To replicate the Japanese aesthetic, I have personally curated a defining art collection to celebrate the distinctiv­e craftsmans­hip and artistry, which embody the traditiona­l foundation­s of the country. Distinct examples can be found in the combinatio­n of the Japanese floral art Ikebana, hanging natural fibre/fabric artwork and the timbre panel featured at the entrance to awaken the overriding strength of connection between east and west.”

The art of reception is perfectly executed in the lobby, with a sense of occasion created by the 6m-high ceiling and cosy nooks and crannies that inject an air of intimacy. Jean-michel elaborates: “We wanted to bring these mixed senses, traditiona­l yet contempora­ry Tokyo feeling into our design. We used design items that are commonly used in European homes, like the pendant lamps design, cabinet design etc, but we translated them in a contempora­ry way, making them over scale to match these high-volume areas. This design translatio­n of items makes the design more contempora­ry and dramatic in the space. And the items commonly used in European homes make the space homely, together with curtains that are hung from high ceilings for a softer and warmer feel, and at the same time, making the space more dramatic.”

Distinct cultural accents continue in the guest rooms, which feature the bespoke fabric artwork of award-winning photograph­er Namiko Kitaura as a backdrop, contrasted by modern light fixtures to reflect the nightlife glamour of Tokyo. “The rooms and suites are tailored for intimacy with an open plan layout allowing for natural light to illuminate the room. Japanese elements throughout the design respect Japan’s culture, traditions and heritage, while incorporat­ing the finest elements and absolute DNA of Four Seasons,” shares Jean-michel.

 ??  ?? Bespoke fabric artworks dress up the rooms
Bespoke fabric artworks dress up the rooms
 ??  ?? A fluid flow of elements introduces the spa at Four Seasons Tokyo
A fluid flow of elements introduces the spa at Four Seasons Tokyo

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