The Radisson Blu Kuwait gets fresh makeover and wows the region for its foundational bond to its nautical location
Having first been built in 1980, the Radisson Blu Hotel Kuwait maintains historic significance for being the hotelier’s first location in the Middle East. Located directly on the Kuwaiti coast bordering the Arabian Gulf, the Radisson Blu Hotel has certainly had its triumphs and tribulations.
In 1990 Saddam Hussein led a military invasion into Kuwait, and started what would later be known as the Iraq-Kuwait war. During the war, the hotel was bombed leaving only the infrastructure and foundation behind.
Speaking of the Radisson Blu’s first reconstruction, general manager Philippe Pellaud explains: “In 1992, I was here for the reconstruction and the reopening. It was [rebuilt] maintaining the original architecture of the time.”
The hotel would stay open until 2010, when the owner and hotel management would decide it was time for an overall upgrade.
The Radisson Blu Hotel Kuwait went through a three year renovation period for approximately KD 15million under the guidance of architecture and contracting firm SSH International and Scandinavian interior design studio Christian Lundwall Associates.
“The basic configuration, because the structure has been kept, has been reinforced and strengthened in some ways. We have fewer rooms to make space for more suites because there is demand for that in the market.
The ballroom is larger with higher ceilings, and of course, [the Sky Lounge] is new. The Sky Lounge has been added [to the hotel’s structure and layout]. And for the interior almost everything is new,” notes Pellaud.
The redesign now provides a five-star contemporary interior, with the introduction of the Sky Lounge, a glass-encased rooftop social space that offers panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf.
Pellaud comments: “From an architectural point of view, the hotel fits very well with the coastline environment. We have some new competitors, but our building stands out. It complements the neighbourhood very well…It is unique by itself. I am very pleased to see this new shape finished.”
In addition to the Sky Lounge, the hotel now boasts 191 guest rooms which include six junior suites, 16 executive suites, six deluxe suites one admiral suite and one presidential suite.
Among the three floors that provide rooms, guests can enjoy an eclectic mix of three styles including: Naturally Cool, And Relax and NY Mansion House.
Naturally Cool rooms embody Scandinavian design and are located on the first floor. They consist of a modern design that entails soft blues and neutral tones. And Relax belongs to the second floor, creating a calming environment that uses carved wooden accents and romantic tones of fuchsia. And finally, NY Mansion House covers the third floor which combines bright blues with metal detailing and modern design.
Christian Lundwall, owner, Cristian Lundwall Associates explains: “The rooms [alternating between themes] is a typical Radisson thing to do…Naturally Cool is very quite good because it’s very hot in Kuwait and you wake up fresh in that room. But normally, Radisson likes to have different room styles in their hotels.”
The three themes come together to create an interesting mix between Kuwaiti tastes and Scandinavian culture.
Lundwall further explains that Scandinavian design involves “simple designs that are straight forward, not with any elaborate twists on it. Very clean and nice, [it’s] a bit like Japanese design.”
He continues: “We [try] to be very international, but you can see we are Scandinavian, and we are proud of it. Of course, in the Middle East, we can have the shiny white marble in the lobby [of the Radisson] and nice ceilings and colours that add something to it. In the reception area [there is] quite elaborate stainless steel work done in a traditional pattern.”
The lobby of the Radisson Blu posed a difficult challenge for the management and design team, as Pellaud put it. He notes that the lobby is essentially a long, wide corridor, and the best option they had in the reconstruction was to divide it into numerous spaces and create different seating environments.
Pellaud explains: “As you can see when you walk in, it’s quite a long lobby. The designer did very well. I thought, how can you make a lobby out of this? But I thought he did very well breaking the space with different seating areas…With this design, the reception has been pushed back with a curved facade behind made of stainless steel rings. It makes for some screening, as well as some openness.
“We also have the satellite reception which is common in the company, where you are breaking the barrier between the employee and the guest. You see the small check in counter, which you can walk around – it gives a very good feeling. Also, the cafe, the lounge and the Chinese Restaurant- those locations were there already, but they still work. The flow is good.”
Other decorative elements that help make the lobby stand out include the original Fritz Hansen Egg chairs, the bespoke artwork which consists of pieces from the original 1980’s Radisson as well as new art pieces specified particularly for the project’s redesign.
The hotel boasts a number of memorable features in addition to the lobby including the Peacock Restaurant, a white grand piano which sits just opposite a soothing waterfall feature, and two of the world’s most inspiring boats situated right at the dock.
The Radisson Blu Hotel Kuwait is not only gaining recognition for its impressive boat shape facade, it’s also gaining widespread attention for having two large wooden ships. The smaller one entertains guests as a restaurant, while the other one holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest wooden ship in the world.
“The story is,” Pellaud starts, “the big one did not exist during the war, but the small one sailed to Kuwait from India and was transformed into a restaurant in 1982. So when [the hotel was bombed in conflict] there was intense heat and smoke, but the boat was not hit. So people they ran from the hotel, but they could not run toward the sea because the coast was on fire, but toward the land.”
He adds: “As we have seen from having those boats, we are privileged to have an owner who had the vision to commission those boats since 1982. They show that we’re combining the old with the new.”
Lundwall, who has designed a number of Radisson Blus around the world exclaims: “To be very honest, at this moment, [Radisson Blu Kuwait] is the very best. I don’t say this very often, but it came out very nice and I’m very happy with it.
I’m really happy with the guest room portions, the corridors…And the bathrooms are nicely done. They are not done very commonly, but they are well executed. And the new rooftop lounge is a great aspect. It’s been a great plus – all in all, I think we’ve done a very good job.”