UNA BARAC, Founder and Executive Director of Artelior

Posted in People on 12 September, 2017

Can Faik speaks to Founder and Executive Director of Artelior, Una Barac in SPACE’s ‘5 Minutes With’, done in collaboration with SLH…

Tell me about your role at Artelior?

I’m the Founder and Executive Director of Artelior. I’m lucky as my role is very creative, which I love. I’m very hands-on with all our projects. I work closely with the clients to define the project brief and ensure their requirements are met. I work very closely with my team to make sure that the initial vision and concept is translated into the overall design, right through to the finest of details. 

What projects are you currently working on?

Four Seasons resort in Hvar, Croatia. Sales & Marketing Suite at historic Trent Park. Refurbishment of Park Plaza County Hall in London. New restaurant at Art’otel Cologne. Refurbishment of Park Plaza Hotels in Utrecht and Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Courtyard by Marriott hotels in Split, Croatia and Vilnius, Lithuania. Swissotel and Sofitel M Gallery in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. New Park Plaza Hotel in Pula, Croatia.

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

Very important. Every project is a journey that begins with understanding the client and the end user. Our success is measured by the satisfaction of the people who use the spaces that we create. Our next step is to gain understanding of the site context and root the project in its locality. We do this by looking at the historical, cultural and present day context of the building and area and weave those influences through the narrative of our design. The journey from concept design through to delivery is a really enjoyable process and unique every time; every site is different and every project comes with its own challenges.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Setting up Artelior, my own business, after more than two decades of working for large commercial practices. My past experience has been invaluable, but I felt the time was right to apply a more bespoke approach to design. Creating my own brand and being able to offer a more personal service to my clients is incredibly rewarding.

Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?

Hotels are much more lifestyle focused now, more holistic with entertainment and a distinctive R’n’R environment. The design should attract regular and one-off clients who see the space as a sanctuary where they can escape from life’s stresses; a soothing bolthole. That’s really important.  Hoteliers are making a conscious effort to keep their guest in the hotel in this way and attract passing trade. This is the case for both branded and unbranded properties.

How important are public spaces in hotels?

Incredibly important as they’re effectively becoming hubs for people to meet, work, do business, catch up, relax and enjoy good food and drink. As the result of this, bars and restaurants are becoming an integral part of the reception lobby. There are less and less physical partitions between those spaces, as we see them blend seamlessly between each other.

Number of meetings attended each week?

Between 10-12. I used to have more meetings when I worked in large corporate practices, but now my focus is a lot more on design and the creative process itself. I meet with clients to present the designs we produce. And I hold a lot of design meetings with the team to ensure successful design development. I have a great network of support within our studio, so I can focus more on the design and cut down the management meetings to one a week.

What is your favourite city?

London, without a shadow of a doubt. The more I travel, the wider my horizons become. But the fonder I become of London, it makes me realise how diverse and dynamic a city I live in. I love travelling though and am on a plane at least couple of times a fortnight, if not every week. 

What is your favourite hotel?

That’s is a tough one! I’d have to say: Conservatorium Amsterdam for a city hotel. It really strikes the balance between cool, relaxed, class and sophistication. The Chedi Andermatt for its understated luxury and cosiness that a ski resort requires. Ushuaia Ibiza for the ultimate Mediterranean party resort and phenomenal use of F&B and entertainment.

Tell us about your last three trips?

1. Ibiza, for my friends’ wedding and to celebrate my birthday.

2. Zagreb, Croatia, where Artelior also has offices, so I travel there frequently. Croatia is my second home.

3. Les Arcs in the French Alps for some end of season skiing. I’ve skied from a very young age; I can’t imagine life without it.

Favourite designer?

This is a tricky one as there are so many incredible designers out there. Jamie Hayon is my favourite at the moment. But I have to commend Tom Dixon for his quintessential British style and the way he’s gone from product design to full interior design or large hotels. It shows that a good designer knows no boundaries. 

Favourite drink?

Water; I drink at least three litres a day. My favourite “proper” drink is Veuve Clicquot. I love champagne; all those bubbles instantly induce happiness at the end of a long and productive week.

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

I’m very blessed with my existing base of clients. Winning another project with an existing client is a real accolade and testament that we got it right on previous projects. So, I hope to continue building on my existing relationships. Doing more luxury boutique hotel work and super-prime residential is also on my list.

What would be your dream project?

Designing my own home from start to finish. I’ve been quite a nomad over the years, owning and redeveloping a number of period properties. But the thought of designing my own family home and seeing it grow from foundations up would be incredible. Not having existing structure and space limitations would be a dream come true. I dream of a contemporary white villa perched high on the cliffs, overlooking the sea.

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