The ME Dubai is the final work of architect Zaha Hadid, a landmark accomplishment.
The posthumous legacy of one of the biggest names in the world of architecture, Zaha Hadid. Her only hotel. Her only creation in the Middle East. One of the great achievements of her prestigious London studio, designed for any location. Set to open at the end of this year, the new ME Dubai will
get people talking.
This building not only shows Hadid’s willingness to push the limits of architecture, but also her unwavering commitment to construction demands and quality. The Opus is destined to become an icon in a city home to hundreds of skyscrapers; where cranes form part of the skyline, and top architecture firms move at a staggering pace, many of them with their sights set on the big Emirati event of 2020: the World Expo Dubai.
But The Opus—the futuristic building that will house the ME Dubai hotel—won’t resemble any of these skyscrapers. The seemingly impossible curved lines reveal the singular talents of world-famous architect Zaha Hadid, who passed away suddenly in Miami in 2016. ‘When Zaha left us, all of the design work had been completed. Now that it's almost finished, I think she would have been very proud of the final result. We consider it one of the studio’s greatest creations’, explains Christos Passas, associate director of Zaha Hadid Architects. For more than a decade, Passas has been travelling to Dubai three or four times a year. As project manager, he has worked on site with the Iraqi-British architect on many occasions. Working closely in the London studio, they explored ideas, reviewed proposals, looked at designs and drew lines—and those famous curves. Along with other members of the studio, Passas is now designing a piece that she surely wouldn’t have agreed to: the Zaha Hahid Memorial, which will be located inside The Opus. ‘Why in this building? Not only because it’s the closest to her country of origin, but because we also consider it one of the masterpieces of the Zaha Hadid Architects studio’, says Passas.
This masterpiece measures roughly 100 metres in height. Its 18 floors will house ME Dubai’s 93 rooms and suites, and a similar number of apartments offering first-class services—60 of which are managed by Meliá Hotels International. The Opus will also boast 15 restaurants, a swimming pool, a gym and a large terrace, as well as a very spacious atrium that will be a hallmark of the hotel. The building is located in a business district, not far from the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, the hub of the region’s most vibrant city.
The project, managed by Omniyat, the leading real estate developer in the Middle East, stands out in particular for its imaginative and unique facade. Its silhouette, already familiar among architecture fans eager to see it in situ, is truly unique and demonstrates great technical complexity. It also features the masterful use of curved lines that are characteristic of Hadid’s work. She was dubbed ‘the Queen of the Curve’ for her bold and fluid designs, rejecting straight lines.
The Opus, formed out of two individual structures, was conceived as a single cube. The two spaces are joined by a base surrounded by a pathway that runs smoothly around its four sides, allowing for wide pedestrian circulation. ‘The ground floor was imagined as an open area, with a large atrium that serves to connect five floors, housing retail spaces, most of the restaurants and the other dining options. It’s the heart and soul of the hotel’, explains Jaume Campmany, Technical Director of the Middle East & North Africa for Meliá Hotels International. But for Campmany, like Passas, it’s the building’s geometry—the curved shape of the facade—that is the essence of its uniqueness.
This cube-shaped building has a surface area of almost 90,000 square metres, yet its most striking element is the free and open interior space: Hadid’s creative, curvilinear and bold void. And while the entire facade is flat, within this hollow all the glass panels are curved, and no two pieces are alike. Some have said it looks like an ice cube that’s melting into the desert. During the day, its reflective pixelated facade makes the outer cube visible, but at night, the building appears to dematerialise as thousands of LED lights fill the inner space. The architecture plays with contrasting dimensions: solid and empty; curvaceous and lineal; opaque and transparent; internal and external.
Made of glass manufactured in China and aluminium from Denmark, some of the assembled glazed panels weigh over 800 kilos. An asymmetrical installation designed for the hotel, Crest, is also made of aluminium, and was presented to the public at the London Design Festival in 2014.
One of the complexities of the building is the fact that a good number of rooms and suites face directly towards the inside of the cube, which has curved walls, and in which no two glass panels are alike. ‘Given the building’s special shape, we only have 93 rooms, and there are 68 different types’, says Stefan Viard, General Manager of the ME Dubai. ‘Seeing as it’s Zaha Hadid, practically everything is curved and sometimes design overrides functionality, so our role in the project also involves finding the right balance’, says Viard. Hadid, who was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, sought to strike a balance between the seemingly cold appearance of her buildings and the residential warmth that guests expect, even in a building as futuristic as The Opus. ‘We’ve strived for everything to be comfortable and for the guest to feel at ease. We’ve aimed for a combination of convenience
and modernity. We wanted to convey a cosy and friendly feeling of comfort that meets the needs of guests, while also offering something unexpected in the use of both material and shape, which is not always predictable’. Passas believes that ‘Zaha poured everything she knew about hotels into this project, counting on her industry experience and what she would have liked to find when she arrived at a hotel. I also think we’ve captured the ME spirit and we identify with the brand, creating spaces where people can interact and enjoy life in a place that ensures their privacy ’, adds Passas, who worked closely with the late architect.
The magnificent facade has a strong backing to help it become a new architectural icon in Dubai, in large part due to its intricate interior details. Virtually everything has come from the prestigious London-based studio: furniture, wardrobes, beds, decorative details and so on. They’ve worked with Porcelanosa Group to design the bathrooms—sleek and elegant, in black and white. And they’ve worked with their sister company Zaha Hadid Designs to develop a new line of sofas, named after The Opus and inspired by the hotel’s design.
While the facade is one of the most striking architectural features, the large atrium is the heart of daily life at the hotel. As for the building’s culinary offerings, the ME, as mentioned earlier, boasts 15 restaurants, including ROKA, a contemporary Japanese robatayaki restaurant. The ROKA restaurant chain was founded in London in 2004, by chef Rainer Becker. Hamish Brown, international executive chef for the ROKA restaurants since 2013, successfully heads a team that has created some of the most emblematic dishes of ROKA London, including yellowtail sashimi with truffle and yuzu dressing, as well as lamb chops with Korean spices. The restaurant’s interior will showcase the collaboration between Rainer Becker and the well-known designer Noriyoshi Muramatsu from Studio Glitt in Tokyo. The robata grill will be the focal point of the dining experience, featured at the centre of the restaurant, just like in ROKA restaurants in other cities.
The swimming pool, another important feature of the hotel, is situated not far from the dining area. ‘The pool is located on podium one, and let’s say it has a healthier concept than at other ME hotels’, explains Campmany. Its proximity to the hotel’s gym and other health and beauty areas sets it apart from concepts closer to beach clubs. ‘You could say the style is more “chill out” rather than beach club’, he says.
Like the rest of the ME hotels, the ME Dubai focuses on the cultural, lifestyle and luxury experiences offered to guests. During their stay, guests will be taken care of by an Aura Manager with knowledge of the city, in order to provide them with the most personalised service possible. It will also feature an ultra-luxurious ‘Suite ME’ that promises to become one of the most spectacular places to stay in the new city that never sleeps.
The Opus will become an iconof the city. It’s the Meliá group’s first hotel in theMiddle East.
The late architect Zaha Hadid designedboth the interior and exterior of the hotel: 93 rooms andsuites distributed over 19 floors and 98 residential apar tments.
The lobby, the lounge areas and the reception are decorated with fantastic furniture selected by Zaha, some of which she even designed herself. On the left, the atrium area, where much of the hotel’s activity and ser vices are concentrated.
60 of the building’s apar tments will be managed directlyby Meliá Hotels International. Becauseof its unique design, there are 68 differentkinds of rooms.
The Opus will have a clear focus oh Onn tehael th. l,etfhte gym area and its snack bar. The hotel will also have 15 restaurants. Below, the famousver tical café.
Above, the pool, next to the culinar y spaces ,and the gym. Below it treatment rooms in thespa, on podium one.