5 minutes with Zoë Tallon of Dexter Moren Associates

Posted in People on 12 February, 2018

Can Faik speaks to newly promoted Associate, Zoë Tallon, of London-based Dexter Moren Associates…

Tell me about your role at Dexter Moren Associates?

I’ve been working with DMA as an architect since 2008, recently promoted to associate, usually on various complex hotel and residential projects from smaller boutique right up to large scale developments. In recent years I’ve been the project architect on some exciting projects, including The Curtain Hotel & Members Club in Shoreditch which completed and opened to the public last year.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently leading delivery of a high end residential project at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. We are the executive architects for the fit-out of this 10 storey new-build apartment building directly adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice: with a team of 12 on the project, it’s a big one and keeping us very busy! The luxury interiors have been designed by Patricia Urquiola and the building will include a pool, gym, cinema, library and dining rooms, so this is an exciting new development for the legal quarter of London and one I’m delighted to be involved with.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Designing and delivering The Curtain hotel and private members club in Shoreditch has definitely, without a doubt, been the highlight of my career so far. It has been a fascinating job to run over the last four years for many reasons, not least negotiating the cultural clashes arising from a diverse project team of French contractor, New York based hotel operator, Texan interior designer and mainly British consultant team, which made for lively discussions and some amusing lost in translation moments! The project location in the heart of Shoreditch also presented an exciting opportunity to be part of a dynamic and fast changing corner of the city.

How important is the journey when it comes to designing a new hotel?

The guest’s journey is integral to the design and often the most difficult challenge when designing a new hotel in London is how to make the guest experience different from your typical visit to another hotel in the Capital. For example, with The Curtain, the journey was of utmost importance and this drove the concept design with the client’s passionate vision for creating an exciting & vibrant hotel. Michael Achenbaum (of Gansevoort Hotel Group) wanted to bring together an eclectic mix of users and programmes and this informed our design from the drawing board to the finishing touches. The site’s neighbourhood informed the design in a positive way too – the red brick façade with crittal style windows references Shoreditch’s industrial heritage while the current high-tech and creative status of the area is reflected in unusual offerings within the building such as the roof top pool, a barber shop in the members’ entrance and a sound-proof music venue in the basement.

How important are public spaces to you?

Public spaces in hotels are at least as important, if not more so, than the private guest rooms or back-of-house areas. Publicly accessible areas of hotels can draw local people in as well as guests. Lobby space can showcase local artists’ work and small pop-up businesses as well as feature bars and restaurants, such as the famous Red Rooster in The Curtain, which become destinations in themselves. This integrates the hotel into its neighbourhood so it benefits the local people and businesses too, and often become high value generating parts of the project for the hotel operators – a win-win situation.

Where do you see hotel design in the future?

I see the trend towards combining hotels traditional bedroom and food and beverage spaces with other offerings such as members clubs, as with The Curtain and The Ned in London, continuing and incorporating even more facilities as people’s work and leisure lives continue to blend and businesses embrace more flexible working conditions. Hotels could adopt the current trend towards co-working spaces, offering guests, locals and their private club members space to work as well as rest and play under one roof.

Number of meetings attended each week?

On an average week, I can attend maybe three to four meetings. When overseas clients are in town there can be full days of meetings scheduled with up to five a day back-to-back for several days.

What is your favourite city?

Can I have two? I love Tokyo for its good food, great architecture and endlessly fascinating culture. I also remain loyal to my hometown, London. Despite having travelled to some of the greatest cities the world has to offer, I still call it home and believe it’s the most exciting city in the world! 

What is your favourite hotel?

The Edition in Soho, London. I love the contrast in style between front of house areas and guest rooms, the coming together of old and new. The guest rooms are minimal, almost stark in comparison to the opulent front of house areas which are adorned with marble and ornate plasterwork finishes and feature large artworks such as a custom reproduction of one of Louis XV’s Gobeline tapestries at the front desk. The Berners Tavern restaurant is also great.

Tell us about your last three trips?

My most recent trip was to Paris where I attended a wine fair and enjoyed tasting (and buying) wine. Another recent trip was to

Éperney in Champagne which of course included champagne tasting, visiting champagne houses and vineyards. My trips don’t always revolve around wine though! My favourite recent trip was to Accra in Ghana where my mum is from. It was lovely to catch up with my family and do some sightseeing, including a safari which was quite exciting. 

Favourite designer?

My favourite designer is Ryue Nishizawa (one half of SANAA). I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit one of Ryue’s works, and my favourite building, on a trip to Japan. The Teshima Art Museum is located on the hillside of a small, sparsely populated Japanese island and is typical of the designer’s refined minimalist style. Constructed from a 60m wide thin concrete shell with openings to frame the horizon, the museum gives the impression of a surreal spaceship which has landed from outer space. Not easy to visit, involving catching a few ferries and then a cycle ride, but well worth the effort.

Favourite drink?

An espresso martini – perfect for later in the evening at a party or event when you’re flagging – it gives you a caffeine boost!

What projects will you hope to be working on in the future?

I hope to work on beautiful resort hotels on lovely tropical islands, they’ll make for very nice site visits! In all seriousness, designing resorts would contrast well with creating hotels in hectic inner city locations being able to draw inspiration from a more natural, tranquil and calm-inducing environment. 

What would be your dream project?

Designing my own home with an unlimited budget is the dream, ideally on a cliff edge location overlooking the ocean. As my own client I’d have the ultimate freedom to design to my own specifications and I’d also get to enjoy the results!

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