Eclectic style or copy-cats?

A look at the interiors of the Yas Hotel.

Dubai is in no way slowing down its construction boom, with a new list by TopHotelProjects.com showing Dubai ranks first in the world with the most hotel projects. With 97 hotels and 35,154 rooms in the pipeline, the emirate is seconded by Abu Dhabi, with 66 hotels and 21,572 rooms to be built.

Stefano Manuelli, architect, Jestico+Whiles, said Dubai is slowly emerging from a rut of generic design. “Traditional Arabic themes used to be applied to hotels, but now themes are becoming more styled and eclectic.”

“We’re moving away from how things were 10-15 years ago; everything was heavy and Arabesque,” said Joe Hepworth, general manager, Indigo Living. He said a reason for this could be big international hotel operators opening in the region in greater numbers, with brand standards having to be replicated.

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“On the negative side, some of the local flavour is lost and things are more homogenised. However, certain properties are retaining the region’s character which is important,” he added.

Dubai-based hospitality design consultant, Martin Wojnowski said the hotel interior design industry is suffering from a kind of post traumatic stress disorder.

He said: “Our industry is slowly emerging from the stress of recession. We are crawling like a turtle carrying an Airbus A380 on its back.”

Wojnowski said the financial crash affected the interior design industry financially and emotionally and limited the ability to think outside the box. Designers are now required to work within very strict budgetary guidelines. A lot of effort goes into sourcing finishes or FF&E according to price and lead time rather than artistic appeal.

“We are free to specify a lighting feature made by a company in Venice but chances are it will not be procured. A client’s project manager will find and install a cheaper plastic alternative. Such action is now commonly referred to as value engineering,” said Wojnowski.

Hepworth agreed and said value engineering is a challenge. “It’s become a dirty word, synonymous with taking a Porsche level design and implementing it with Skoda level furniture,” he added.

Designers are now called to specify items that are affordable and will not be substituted. “For the sake of the scheme, let the designer make the selections; not the project manager and definitely not the site engineer,” Wojnowski added.

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