The big 'Blu'
Natural influences make an impression at the Radisson Yas Island
A multi-layered, multi-dimensional lighting sculpture hovers over the lobby of the Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island.
Composed of linear, copper-coloured components suspended at varying heights, it is a contemporary take on the traditional chandelier, explained Anne Kuzyk, head of interiors at Aukett Fitzroy Robinson, the company responsible for both the architecture and interior design of the Radisson Blu and its sister Park Inn property next door.
The fixture was custom-made by Preciosa and, in the evening, takes on a life of its own, exuding an ever-changing spectrum of coloured light; shifting gently from purple to blue to pink and then yellow. “It is the heart of the hotel. It’s an amazing talking piece and it really comes alive at night with the colour-changing lights. I was inspired by Alexander Calder, the sculptor, from a very early age, and I felt this was the place to put this kind of installation.
It’s almost like bringing the New Tate to Yas Island,” said Kuzyk.
Guests lounging in the lobby, or making their way to and from the lifts, move beneath the structure, and are privy to one aspect of its multi-faceted form. Meanwhile, up on the mezzanine level, guests move alongside it, and are treated to a whole new perspective, reiterating the impression of it being more of an art installation than a light fixture.
The placement of the structure also serves to break up the horizontality of the lobby area. “The lobby is divided into three different areas,” Kuzyk noted. “There is your check-in zone, which is quite horizontal, there is your transition zone where people walk to the lifts, and then you’ve got your lounge and seating zone, so, because people would be using the space that way, I turned the sculpture around to get rid of the horizontality from the design.”
A smaller version of this ‘contemporary chandelier’ hangs above the check-in counter, making a striking first impression as guests enter the hotel, and offering a tantalising glimpse of what’s to come. Like its more sizeable counterpart, the underside of the structure is mirrored. “The idea is to reflect the views of the island back into the space,” Kuzyk pointed out.
This idea, of bringing the outside in, is a cornerstone of the overall design. Barriers between the indoors and outdoors have been systematically broken down, with an emphasis on inviting natural light and panoramic views deep into the interior. “There are a lot of terraces, and a lot of opportunities for al fresco dining. And everywhere you go, we have capitalised on the view; the outside is very beautifully captured within our property. I think that’s one of the most important selling points for our hotel,” noted Rafat Kazi, PR and marketing communications manager, Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island.
With mangrove-covered sandbanks, the grassy expanse of the Links golf course, and the unending blue of the Arabian Gulf all to be found on the hotel’s doorstep, Kuzyk had a rich palette of natural influences to draw upon.
So, in Business Class rooms, a textured headboard made out of beige plaster mimics the motion of sand dunes. The room’s colour palette is inspired by the sunset, and by the continually-shifting colour of the sand. Abstract artwork plays with the idea of sunlight sifting through the leaves of a palm tree. “We’ve used all very natural influences, but in a very contemporary way,” Kuzyk explained.
In the spa, the ethos is overwhelming organic. “It’s all very natural – that’s the whole idea. The tiles are like the sand, it’s like the dunes running through. There are tiles made out of pebbles, and echoes of palms and waves.”
An oversized jacuzzi nuzzles into one corner of the spa, set across from a large window offering uninterrupted views of the sea and golf course. And in the treatment rooms, an intricate, abstract version of the sun adorns the ceiling above treatment tables.
Waves of colour
In the yet-to-open Persian restaurant, Zeeba, the design carries overtones of the sea. “We’ve used the colour turquoise. That was inspired not only by Persian colours but also the Arabian Sea, because when we first came here, there was nothing. And all you saw, all through the day, was the sea, which changed colour throughout the day. So, throughout the hotel we’ve tried to capture the various colours of the sea.”
This is reiterated in the hotel’s main corridors, where carpets are imprinted with wave-shaped patterns. “Again, we are bringing the sea in. The executive floors have a red wave, and the standard floors have blue,” Kuzyk continued.
This also serves to ‘shorten’ and liven up the corridors, she explained. “That’s always one challenge with hotels. They have these long long corridors, so if you can do something interesting on the floor, it detracts from that. And when you arrive for the first time, it is so much more special getting to your room.”
Long characterless corridors are also a standard feature in many meeting areas, Kuzyk pointed out – something that she tried to counteract in the Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island. “Business centres and meeting rooms usually have very long corridor spaces.
“I took the original concept of the false Italian perspective, so what happens is your eye actually comes inwards in the design of this corridor. Then I took the idea of a man’s pinstripe suit and put bands of turquoise into the carpet.”
This is another striking feature of the hotel’s interior – its refusal to shy from colour. From walls and floors to bed covers and accessories, spaces are infused with vibrant hues. “Every time we presented to Rezidor [the owning company of the Radisson brand], they said, ‘What’s great about working with you and your team is that you have been brought up in Europe, which is so grey, but you’ve come here and you’ve re-invented colour’, which we have. People look better in colour and so do designs,” Kuzyk maintained.
The essence of Blu
The Yas Island property is significant because it is the first hotel in the region to open under the ‘Radisson Blu’ banner – as opposed to the now defunct Radisson SAS brand name.
As a result, it was essential for the Abu Dhabi property to fully capture the essence of the new brand. “Kurt Ritter, [president and CEO of the Rezidor Hotel Group], really wanted us to bring this property into the next generation of the Radisson Blu portfolio.
“We are designing a hotel that needs to last for the next 15 years, so we are designing for the next generation. There is so much competition, so you have to have high design standards, which Rezidor has definitely got,” said Kuzyk.
The new brand ethos is perhaps best communicated in the lobby, which is “very sleek, very smart and very modern”. Signature furniture pieces like the Egg by Fritz Hansen define the highly contemporary space, which is warmed with quintessential ‘Radisson’ colours like chocolate brown and aubergine.
“What was great about working with Rezidor is they didn’t give us a rigid brief. The have a specific set of operating guidelines but they allowed us to put a level of ‘dream’ into it,” said Kuzyk.
Working in the Middle East also presented a level of freedom that might not be available elsewhere, she added.
“This is our first project in the Middle East. What we have found is that the opportunities to design here are far greater than in other parts of the world. It is not limiting at all here. You are given a brief that you can expand upon and that you can actually put your dreams into. Whereas we are more rigid in Europe and other parts of the world.”
One thing that was restrictive, however, was the allocated time frame. “We had so little time. I think we had 24 months to design the interiors and architecture and build it in time for the Grand Prix,” Kuzyk revealed.
“But you are driven because you don’t want to fail. And you inspire your own team by being that driven. You inspire people to go a little further and work a little harder,” she said.
The process was aided by the fact that Aukett Fitzroy Robinson was responsible for both the architecture and interiors of the property. “You understand what the architect is trying to achieve. Then you can bring the design of the building into the space and let it reflect the architecture. The other thing is that everyone can sit around the table and debate about what the best solutions are.
“In many hotels, you walk in and every area looks like it has been done by a different person. I think that’s disorientating,” said Kuzyk. “It’s like your home. It should look like it comes from one hand and one line. How else are you going to distinguish the Radisson Blu from other hotels?”