Wilson Associates creates a traveller’s paradise at the grand new hotel of St. Regis Doha
When visiting the pyramids of Giza for the first time, one is rarely prepared to take in their colossal scale. With commanding presence, the pyramids reflect the particular culture, time and terrain from which they were formed. A similarly imposing structure rises from the sands of Doha, Qatar. Combining Arabic forms and contemporary design within a desert landscape, the St. Regis Doha is inspired by the fruits of its locale. Repeatedly noted for its magnificent stature, the St. Regis Doha is postured in Doha’s swank West Bay commercial district and is the city’s first luxury business resort. Designed by Dar Al-Handasah, the hotel’s twin thirteen-story reflecting towers reach towards the sea like a pair of welcoming arms. Traditional Arab hospitality translated architecturally, the St. Regis Doha is a traveller’s oasis. “Overall, the design is a contemporary oasis that blends sand and sea, luring the guest into a palatial fortress of luxury and leisure,” says interior design firm Wilson Associates, who won Commercial Interior Design’s 2013 Interior Design of the Year award for its hospitality design of the St Regis Doha. To reinforce the oasis narrative inside the hotel, the design relies on the use of natural material and colour palettes. Interior designers Tricia Tay and Sara Barlow from Wilson Associates’ Los Angeles office express their choice of neutral finishes, textiles and play on texture to create a soothing environment reminiscent of sand. “The hotel represents the sand element with the turquoise sea in the background,” they explain. Glimpses of bright blue from the magnificent sea views outside are intensified by the neutral palette sweeping through the hotel’s public spaces. Tay and Barlow add: “We felt having the neutral interior enveloped in these spaces would highlight the pops of colour from the hotel’s surroundings.” Whereas heavy use of neutrals can become tiresome, Wilson Associates’ approach is dynamic. Perhaps most memorable when first entering the Grand Lobby are the wide bands of Durango Veracruz and brown travertine stone creating an alternating horizontal striped wall pattern. Wilson Associates architect Pranav Sinha contends the stone is “consistent with the natural landscape of the property’s location.” As the ceiling measures 10m high, the horizontal wall pattern offsets the vertical thrust created by the lofty ceiling. The Grand Lobby maintains its intended grandeur without being overpowering. Tay and Barlow further note: “We played with the scale and application of the architectural materials to create interest in what could otherwise have been bland and typical.” Custom Axminster carpeting in the adjacent Sarab Lounge features concentric whirls in a flurry of beiges and browns. The designers contend the dramatic carpet design references the ocean waves outside the window while paying homage to the desert colours surrounding the city. The St. Regis Doha’s 336 guest rooms are designed for the traveller in search of respite. In keeping with the brand’s commitment to timeless luxury, the interiors of all 266 standard rooms and 58 suites fulfill the hotel’s commitment to excellence. The bed takes command as the focal point of the Superior Room, handsomely framed by a stately campaign-inspired fabric canopy. A single row of fringe softens the striped canopy edge. Astor Suites feature a carved wood mashribya headboard. Bedding is luxurious and simple. Crisp white Egyptian sheets, espresso-hued throw pillows and a woven geometric bolster pillow weave a tale of understated elegance. Dark wood furniture and trim finishes ground the otherwise ethereal sand tones and alabaster coloured walls. Delightfully airy, the geometric Islamic design of the tone-on-tone guest room carpet bridges past and present and adds necessary patterning to the guest rooms. At a slightly enlarged scale, its lattice design reads as contemporary while still based on historic ornamentation. No retreat is complete without a luxurious bathroom. Superior Rooms feature a deep soaking tub framed by an inset arched mosaic niche, as well as a separate rain shower. Natural light fills the neutral-toned bathroom of the Astor Suite, where a free-standing tub takes top spot in front of the window to capitalise on the stunning view. While the subtle veining of the natural stone floors and walls provides a soft backdrop, punches of geometric patterning are echoed from the bedroom to the bathroom. Additionally, laser-cut patterns referencing mashribya adorn the cabinetry; lattice designs are etched on glass shower dividers. Like the neutral palette, touches of mashribya resonate throughout the hotel. Seating areas in the Sarab Lounge are separated by fixed mashribya dividers. Meanwhile, the Ground Floor Lobby features oversized movable arabesque screens to separate seated guests from the motor court. Designers Tay and Barlow point out they like the mashribya screens used throughout the property, as they “bring a sense of place and old world charm in a modern environment.” Old world charm is the touchstone of the St. Regis. Since John Jacob Astor IV opened the first hotel in 1904 on New York’s Fifth Avenue, the brand has stood as a symbol of uncompromising elegance, both functionally and aesthetically. Cherished rituals include afternoon tea and its renowned butler service. Signature elements embodying the St. Regis’ image include chandeliers, prominent murals and grand staircases. Although the St. Regis Doha property does not include a stately staircase, it does contain the prominent lighting and artwork components. Eight tiered glass chandeliers by Abu-Dhabi based Light Vision create balance in the Grand Lobby. Dramatic and somewhat masculine, they reaffirm the space’s simplicity and horizontal tenor. Although large, their tiered effect is, Sinha explains: “a good way to make the chandelier of that scale to not look imposing.” In contrast, the magnificent venetian style chandelier welcoming visitors to the ground floor’s Grand Ballroom Foyer, also by Light Vision, exudes movement and femininity. It also adds a sense of timelessness, illuminating the immense sepia-toned archival photographs of Doha surrounding it. Tethering Doha to its New York patriarch is Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha. It is the first of a global series of jazz clubs partnered internationally between St. Regis Hotels and New York performance venue Lincoln Centre. Programming is developed by Jazz at Lincoln Centre artistic director Wynton Marsalis to host live performances by world-class jazz artists at selected St. Regis properties. With all the glamour of the Jazz Age, Wilson Associates’ Art Deco design of the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha lounge is as rich and layered as the musical legacy that inspired it. Tufted velvet elliptical banquette seating is sprinkled like musical notes throughout the lounge. Red velvet hanging poufs and rolling waves drape the ceiling above the arc-shaped banquettes below, creating intimate pockets of seating. Designed in tandem with US-based SIA Acoustics, the layout and ceiling treatments maximise acoustic performance while effortlessly reinforcing the posh lounge environment. Gold upholstered bar seating adds a touch of tempered sparkle. The retro abstract carpet pattern in red, brown, grey and beige recalls Donald Desky’s carpet designs for Radio City Music Hall from the early 1930s. Exclusive to St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, the Remede Spa at St. Regis Doha is the first in the Middle East, offering twenty two treatment rooms and spacious pre and post treatment lounges. Wilson Associates uses a clean palette of white and brown, with nickel and brass metal accents to create a serene environment that is bright, but not overly sterile. Cobalt blue glass mosaic tiles wrap the undulating hydro-massage pool in a floor to ceiling sheath of intense blue. A St. Regis maxim is that every address “is a unique reflection of its location, a showcase of architecture and design that continues the distinctive originality of the very first St. Regis hotel.” Wilson Associates’ artful marriage of traditional Arabic and contemporary design is a portrayal of present day Doha. A mixture of past and present, near and far, desert and sea, the St. Regis Doha masters the modern oasis.