Creating a luxury landscape

Designing a hotel resort landscape worthy of a five-star rating means responding to a number of diverse requirements. COD finds out how The Westin Dubai fared.

It was important for the hotel to have a grand entrance
It was important for the hotel to have a grand entrance

Designing a hotel resort landscape worthy of a five-star rating means responding to a number of diverse requirements. COD finds out how The Westin Dubai fared.

Dubai has no shortage of luxury hotels, but still more keep cropping up. And although expansion plans are expected to continue to bring in plenty of visitors, competition is still keen between the top-tier hotels to attract guests.

While a variety of factors weigh in to determine a guest's impression, it's often the design of the hotel that determines whether a location becomes one of the Emirate's biggest successes.

One of the most high profile openings this year was that of The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina located on the Jumeriah coastline.


When designing a five star hotel, every inch of space must be used to get that necessary 'wow' factor.

Opened in May, the five-star hotel resort has attracted much attention from both local residents as well as visitors to the region.

When designing a five star hotel, every inch of space must be used to get that necessary 'wow' factor - the building must be striking, the interior stunning, and the exterior both impressive in its own right and complementary to the rest of the building.

The landscape design of The Westin has two main elements: the entry/front garden, and the beach area encompassing the terrace garden, spa garden, private gardens, VIP garden, and the pool area which features an organic shaped pool.

The brief for the design was simple, says Heiko Heinig, chief landscape architect of Dubai-based Orient Irrigation Services, which designed the outdoor space.

Develop a design for a five star hotel that makes the most of the sea view and beach frontage, that integrates as much as possible the existing facilities, that spatially complements the hotel function and amenities, and that blends in with architectural lines and organic/free form shaped pool.

"The spatial layout was strongly directed by the outdoor functions and amenities in keeping with the hotel requirements," explains Heinig. "The main spine - transposed as a footpath - lines and directs the movement from one facet to another.

The design idea is a progression of the strong clean geometric lines of the terrace garden to the organic layout of the pool garden/VIP area and is bound by the beach promenade."

As with all five star hotels, the entrance to the hotel was particularly important. The Westin features a tiered tree-lined entrance leading up to the hotel, which is surrounded by an expansive drive.

"We decided the building should be Tuscan style architecture with a grand entrance. The whole idea of the entrance was to make it as inviting as possible, as appealing as possible.

When the person comes to the hotel, he should feel he is entering a grand space," says Ashok Korgaonkar, managing partner, The Arch Group, which designed the building and supplied the brief for the design of the outdoor space.

At the same time, while the exterior of the hotel needed to impress guests, it was also important it didn't overshadow the building, said Korgaonkar, which meant keeping the landscape fairly plain. "The building was so dominating and we didn't want the landscape and the building to compete with each other," he notes.

While the landscape had to complement rather than outshine the building, it still had to be worthy of a five star rating, however. Luxury in landscaping can be communicated in various ways. In this project, the sense of luxury was conceptualised through the use of variety, explains Heinig, having different style gardens, for example.

"The luxury is in the 'richness' of the experience walking through the hotel landscape and in the simple details and straightforward lines that are supposed to convey elegance," he notes.

The plant palette was also used to convey the idea of luxury. "It's a five star hotel so everything has to be high quality. [The clients] spend a lot of money on the inside and the building, and what will enhance it is the landscaping," says Nasser Sultan Lootah, managing director, Greenscapes, which did the softscaping.

"Five star hotels mainly go for the beauty. You see a lot of flowers, expensive plants. They spend more and the inspection of the maintenance is much higher. The standards are very high."

Seamless integration of the outdoor space with the rest of the hotel is another indicator of a five star resort. At The Westin, this has been done, Heinig explains, by picking out details of the architecture and interior design in the landscape.

In the front garden, for example, feature elements in the form of small pillars reflect the overall style of the hotel architecture. In the exterior space, details from paving to ornament reflect the language of the building.

Integration of the different design elements is also seen in the outward layout of the exterior garden and orientation of the beach garden to make the most of the sea views.

One of the challenges at the design stage was making sure that the outdoor design integrated not only with the design of the interior and the architecture, but also with the outdoor space of the neighbouring Le Meridien Mina Seyahi hotel, which is also part of the complex, next door.

This was done through edge design, says Heinig. "Edge design was addressed through careful material design. The design critically manipulated the planting palette to create a seamless yet distinct environment. Links and connections were carefully yet strategically seamed in with the existing surroundings."

Another challenge at the construction stage was in selecting a plant palette hardy enough to survive the salt and heavy winds. Plants used include Pennisetums for shrubs and Sesuvium for ground cover.

It's still early days for The Westin Dubai, the first hotel under The Westin brand to open in the Middle East, but so far it certainly seems to have been well received.

The hotel reported high occupancy rates during its first few months of business and reviews have been generally positive. The design of the outdoor space is only one of a number of design elements to a hotel but in a region where a large amount of leisure time is spent outdoors, it can be said to play no small part in ensuring The Westin's success.


Project details

Lead consultan: Architecture Group

Landscape design: Orient Irrigation Services (OIS)

Swimming pool design: OIS

Main contractor: ACC

Soft landscaping and maintenance: Greenscapes

Construction and provision of swimming pool: United Pools Contracting

Hard landscaping: Herald Contracting

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