AHEC reveals designs for Sofitel The Palm Dubai

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Located on the iconic Palm Jumeirah, the hotel boasts 361 island chic inspired guest rooms and suites, as well as 182 fully serviced apartments.

Nestled within the tranquil groves of the Palm Jumeirah, the resort is encapsulated by a private 500-meter stretch of pearlescent beach, enabling guests to indulge in breathtaking sea views overlooking the shores of the East Crescent. Totaling more than 100,000 square meters, Sofitel The Palm Dubai’s distinct French luxury offering is embraced by rich and iconic elements of Polynesian culture and civilisation. With an abundance of stunning organic architecture and lush vertical gardens, the resort reflects a timeless spirit and tropical allure.

The hotel offers 361 guest rooms and suites, as well as 182 serviced residences, ideal for lengthier stays and boasts a multitude of food and beverage outlets, night life destinations, spa treatments, a ballroom and four conference rooms.

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Design Philosophy

In an attempt to take luxury back to basics, the Sofitel The Palm Dubai has been modeled on a Polynesian village, fresh with green foliage, cabana-style fittings, and flowing water features that greet guests as soon as they step inside. The lush, green, vibrant environment is the brainchild of Mahnaz Liaghat, CEO, Mahnaz International Design & Planning and formerly the design director of Mirk, who has paid particular attention to the island theme. The lobby itself is set below a traditional, natural wood cabana, complete with tranquil water elements that complement guest relaxation areas.

A special feature of the ground floor is a ‘living wall’ vertical garden planted by renowned botanist Patrick Blanc. The garden seemingly stretches for miles before the eyes as guests’ first venture into the hotel, and provides a wonderful ‘outdoors indoors’ experience. The Koru, a traditional fern symbolising the embodiment of new life, accentuates the special vertical garden. Its spiraling tendrils add movement and life to the botanical feature. In addition, corridors and smaller spaces have been specially designed to evoke the fresh feeling of a green village, with plenty of American ash, bamboo and earthy-toned surroundings. Taking a stroll through the hotel is in fact like walking through the woods, with dappled sunlight peeking through the treetops.

According to Mahnaz, the client intended the resort to be a place of rediscovery and enchantment. As such, the design draws upon the style of the French Polynesian islands through a modern interpretation and translation of culture. Iconic symbols support the overarching design concept that gives the resort its unique and memorable identity. These symbols have been incorporated throughout the design to unify the feel and tone of the individual spaces. The positive message each carries with it reinforces the overall purpose of the resort itself.

“Our challenge was how to make a six story building feel like a Polynesian resort. More importantly, we wanted to showcase a new way of defining ‘luxury’ through the experience the resort provided. In keeping with the ‘less is more’ ethos, we have designed the resort incorporating natural (first-generation) materials such as stone, wood, water and nature, and combined this with subliminal design cues, in other words the fourth dimension, that influences our subconscious mind to make a space feel great and complete,” said Mahnaz.

Polynesian themes

Wherever guests wander, they are accompanied by traditional Polynesian motifs. Intricate details of the Koru, Gecko, Tiki, Turtle, Butterfly, and Tiare flower can be spotted on doors, walls, and floors; all of which symbolize peace, freedom, energy, connection, life, and new beginnings. A tiki comes in many forms, offering protection from evil spirits and its traits can take the form of what one wants the tiki to express. It is thus only fitting that the main entrance to the hotel features the tiki symbol on the massive wooden doors. According to Mahnaz, the wooden ceiling of the entranceway is similar to what is found inside the lobby, offering guests an invitation to explore.

A space can be a simple transition, a passage to a paradise just beyond. As such, the lobby of the Sofitel The Palm Dubai carries the guest through to the resort outside, where personal rediscovery awaits. The ceiling is designed as a cabana and features the extensive use of American ash to reinforce the experience. In addition, simple and pure water features and vertical walls of floral plants surround the two sides of the lobby, immersing one in a lush green and vibrant environment found in traditional Polynesian villages. To emphasize the experience, lights bounce off the dynamic wood on the ceiling and combine with the green wall to give a truly spiritual meaning to this memorable space. Further, natural materials like water, stone, and wood, and the contrast of captured dark and light shadows and shades symbolize a journey through villages and passages to new experiences.

Mahnaz adds: “The reed ceiling and a path draw you towards a ‘Wall of History’ that has been designed to recall aspects of a traditional Polynesian village and their infusion within a modern setting. The wall visually explains the meaning behind the symbols used within the design, and as you walk through the rest of the resort, you begin to feel the connection to the tradition and culture. In addition, vertical plantings and the sharp contrast of light and dark escaping from the edges through the retail corridor create a soft and pleasant connection. The awning-like ceiling is designed to resemble a walk through alleys between villages.”

Other noteworthy elements in the hotel include the checkout counter with its sculpted American ash wood trunks – a departure ticket to remember, according to Mahnaz. The lift lobby, which acts as a transition between the different Polynesian islands, combines wood and reeds and indirect light to bring memories back as if one were walking through nature. Throughout the corridors, the subtle mixture of light and shadows and shades bouncing off wood and stone symbolises the journey through villages and passages to new experiences. In addition, the impressive ballroom celebrates life and its richness through the use of American ash in its ceiling, which has been designed to represent bottom of a canoe in the ball room. The canoe, which is integral to Polynesian culture, represents the progress along life’s journey and is a symbol of changing life, travel, and adventure.

Natural Living

Subtle design, natural raw materials and attention to detail combine perfectly in each room and residence at the Sofitel The Palm Dubai. Its rooms and residences have been designed to provide a relaxed environment that focus on the beauty and simplicity of nature. For this reason, furniture and fixtures have been carved out of natural dark woods, predominantly stained American ash, raw stone and pale onyx. Indirect lighting in all living spaces evoke standing under trees in a forest, with the sunlight dappling through hundreds of leaves, making guests feel as though they’re really in a Polynesian village.

Explaining the decision to use American ash, Mahnaz says: “Originally we specified reconstituted African walnut in an attempt to stay within the original budget. However, the client was keen on an exotic wood, which at the time did not match well with the design aesthetics of the project. As a result, we selected American walnut and created the initial mock up rooms. However, the quantity of walnut required for this project meant that it would have taken over five years to source. American ash, with its open grain finish and coarse uniform texture, was the next best alternative that was readily available, in line with the budget, and could satisfy the design requirements of the project. Looking at the resort today, I am proud that it stands as a unique product that is a testimony of the complete design.”

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