Designer's choice

CID asks nine designers to name their favourite space

The Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel.

The Guggenheim Museum, New York

“It was hard for me to select one space that I would consider as my favourite but having recently made a trip to New York, I was totally inspired by the Guggenheim Museum.

The fact that an art gallery need not be conventional in terms of interior space was extremely liberating. I was particularly inspired by the flow of the space and saw the exhibition as a journey.

I had seen the museum in numerous magazines and it always amazed me, but seeing it in person gave it a new dimension. The simplicity of the concept and the form of the interior and exterior blended so well.

It was bold yet elegant. The scale was also manageable, which gave the space a sense of intimacy. The concept of walking around in a spiral, uninterrupted, was unique and innovative.

The light that filtered into the space was very conducive to viewing art. The ability to view people across the atrium was also very satisfying. The museum’s simple design was engaging and a great canvas to house inspirational artwork and exhibitions.”

Kristina Zanic, founding partner, design worldwide partnership

Oslo Opera House

“My favourite design project is the Oslo Opera House, which is situated in the old part of Oslo, overlooking the Oslo Fjord. The designer was the Norwegian firm Snoehetta.

The project was completed in 2008, ahead of schedule and NOK 300 million (AED 192 million) under budget. What has contributed in placing this particular project at the top of my list is the simplicity of the design and the materials, which are, nonetheless, so elegant and timeless.

Also, having lived in Dubai for nine years, I value projects that are completed ahead of schedule and below budget! Also, with this project, I believe that the government has initiated a transformation of
Bjoervika, which was formerly a run-down harbour area.”

Ellen Bishop, managing partner, Bishop Design Associates

Seekoo Hotel, Bordeaux

“I don’t know why, but architecture makes a greater impact on me than interior design. A pure interior is like a woman without jewellery! There is a small hotel in Bordeaux called the Seekoo.

You are in the middle of a rather run-down area and all of a sudden you are looking at an ice sculpture made entirely out of Corian.

It is completely white, in the midst of all these buildings that are a little decrepit and a little run-down. It is owned by an independent, rather than a big hotel group, and they created the façade out of Corian to make sure that if anyone tried to graffiti over it, it would be immediately washable.

I am more impressed by the little jewels than by the big flashy projects. I think a lot more creativity is put into smaller, more designer hotels, and they act as a real inspiration for me.”

Isabelle Miaja, director, Miaja Design Group

Crystal Court, Atlantis The Palm

“I am probably biased, but the hotel lobby, also named Crystal Court, at the Atlantis The Palm is hard to beat. It is both ‘fantasy come true’ and the most spectacular, ‘wow’ space in Dubai.

The space was designed as the heart of the resort. As the power of quartz crystal gave the ancient Atlantis its energy, it gave the design team at Wilson Associates its design inspiration.

World-renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly, was commissioned to create the colossal 9m crystal to symbolise the energy source of Atlantis. His choice of a multi-coloured tower of blown glass meshed seamlessly with the finishes.

It is no doubt the star of the Crystal Court. It sits on a solid marble fountain, accompanied by cascading shells and framed by eight fish columns. The custom murals, by Albino Gonzales, also helped us reveal the story of Atlantis to each visitor.

Everything in the space is a labour of love from many talented individuals. The seven years on this project was not work; it was a dream come true!”

May Poon, senior project manager, Wilson Associates

Hammershoi’s Home

“In an interview published in the magazine Hjemmet (The Home) in 1909, the painter Vilhelm Hammershøi stated: “If only people would open their eyes to the fact that a few good things in a room give it a far more beautiful and finer quality than many mediocre things… that every genuine object, even if it is of cheap materials, is better and handsomer than imitation expensive objects”.

Hammershoi’s commitment to fewer objects of finer quality is apparent in the interiors of his own home at Strandgade 30, which served as the subject of numerous paintings that he did throughout his life.

These paintings represent an interior world formed by the shallow articulation of wall surfaces, the careful positioning of picture frames and objects, the considered placement of furniture and rugs, and the substantive light that is characteristic of Copenhagen.

In The Old Cabinet Sofa [Strandgade 30], Hammershøi relied on a subdued colour palette to disclose the transformational nature of the soft sunlight that washes across the “few good things” in the room.

Strandgade 30, or rather Hammershøi’s meditations on the spaces within the building, immediately came to mind when asked to name a favourite interior.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote that Hammershøi’s work provided an opportunity to speak about what is important and essential in art. I would propose that the paintings also invite consideration of interior design’s potential contributions to a future in which many mediocre things are replaced by fewer things of finer quality.”

Kevin Mitchell, vice provost and associate professor, College of Architecture, Art and Design, AUS

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

“The church was built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It remained the largest church ever built until St Peter’s Basilica was constructed in Rome a thousand years later.

It was proclaimed a mosque soon after the conquest of the city by the Byzantines in 1453, until 1935 when Atatürk, recognising its world-historical significance, had it proclaimed a museum, which it remains.

Hagia Sophia is awe-inspiring. It is incredible to think that the whole thing was built in six years.For more than a thousand years, the hall was the largest enclosed space in the world.

I have travelled extensively and I am well acquainted with the awe-inspiring elegance of holy spaces. But the difference with Hagia Sophia is that its openness extends in all directions under a dome so vast that you half expect to encounter the shimmer of stars above.”

Sayeli Uysal Ayaydin, associate, HBA International

The Sistine Chapel

“Rome has been the epicentre of art and design for centuries, and the Sistine Chapel has to be one of my all-time favourite interiors. The sheer magnitude of creative genius is an ode to the creative profession.

The interior of the chapel was created by a combination of Renaissance greats such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Bernini, and it is a pure, artistic, visionary design.

The combination of materials creates an authentic design language. The design revolves around the prolific use of art and sculpture in a variety of surreal locations, that, when viewed, leave one in awe of the imagination within the creator’s mind, as well as the impeccable craftsmanship of the artisans – in modern terms, the perfect marriage of designer and contractor.”

Alfred Johnson

Beach Blanket Babylon, Shoreditch, London

“If Alice was French, this would be her wonderland! Walking
into Beach Blanket Babylon (BBB) is like falling through a rabbit hole and landing in a fantasy world.

Specifically, a fantasy world set on the outskirts of Paris, sometime around the turn of the 18th century. The oversized clock with antique iron hands; the metallic floor lights cast in the shape of giant lilies; the large convex mirrors distorting reality – parts of this bar/restaurant could’ve been plucked straight from the surreal imagination of Lewis Carroll.

In stark contrast, other elements are ultra-orthodox period French. In theory, it sounds like a confused mess. In reality, it’s brilliant. So, why do I love this space so much? Three reasons. First, aesthetically.

As well as the immediate ‘wow’ factor, BBB has endless quirky design elements that kept me interested for hours. Second, it achieves the seemingly impossible. BBB is located in a converted Victorian warehouse in a dingy corner of London’s unfashionable East End.

Only something very special could lure the in-crowd from the established West End haunts. Third, it’s art without an artist. While Jonathan Clark did the architecture, the interiors were styled by the owners themselves!

Pallavi Dean, associate, GAJ

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