AR­CHI­TEC­TURE

M Style - - Contents - Text: VICKY VILCHES

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.

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