PIERRE-YVES ROCHON, FOUNDER PYR
Acclaimed for his elegant and timeless designs, Pierre-Yves Rochon has been a prominent name within the luxury hotel sector for four decades. Here he tells Sophie Harper about his latest project, Four Seasons Hotel Doha.
Founded in Paris in 1979, PYR has always had its roots very firmly in the luxury sector with a design philosophy centring on creating a refined, comfortable atmosphere that celebrates elegance and warmth while providing a timeless backdrop for an ever- changing modern culture. Entrusted with the design of a number of iconic historic landmarks as well as cutting-edge developments around the world, PYR has worked with the likes of Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, St. Regis, Peninsula, Shangri-La, Sofitel, InterContinental, and numerous boutique hotels.
What first captured your interest in design and how did you begin your career as an international interior designer?
When I was younger, I first wanted to be a film director. Creating movie scenes was fascinating to me – choosing the backdrop, the colours and the lighting to create the mood. However, at the time it was not a very practical career choice and I chose not to attend film school. I turned to interior design, which of course has many of the same components. I attended L’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and then worked ten years at Michel Boyer’s studio, which gave me valuable design experience. After that I became more comfortable with the trade. The biggest challenge was of course finding my own clients. You have to create a relationship of trust. I started by doing corporate interiordesign projects for offices and banks. Then I did the Hotel Al Bustan in Oman for InterContinental Group, who then entrusted me with the Carlton in Cannes, the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, and also the Château des Crayères in Reims with the renowned Gardinier family.
What was the brief for Four Seasons Hotel Doha?
To take the existing classical architecture of Four Seasons Hotel Doha done by Frank Nicholson and refresh the interiors, as well as bring new life to the beautiful edifice and make it more comfortable and inviting for today’s guests.
How did you approach the redesign of Four Seasons Hotel Doha? What is your favourite area of this hotel specifically?
When I first visited this property, I found for the most part that it was very lovely with a gracious presence and nice volumes. So we wanted to be modest in our renovation and make only minor changes to the interior architectural elements in order to refresh it rather than be too aggressive or damage the space. We kept the volumes and many works of art. We brought it up to date to appeal to today’s travellers and did not overdo it. Part of the design process, especially with a renovation, is having some restraint and knowing when to stop.
We were inspired by Doha and its relationship to the outdoors. It is a unique Middle Eastern city where a very developed, cosmopolitan district is right on the beach and beautiful blue sea. It is where the world of man and the beauty of nature meet. This is why we implemented a spectrum of blues and beiges in the guestrooms, from pale to rich, because these are the colours of Doha – where the sky, sea, sand and earth come together. We used a range of greens in the public areas, to give the feeling of a garden and new life. The new outdoor terrace at the Tea Lounge helps bridge the indoors and outdoors, since in Doha the guests usually stay inside. It creates an opportunity to go outside and enjoy the air and views.
The most important idea was to respect the existing place and to refresh it, giving it a lighter colour scheme, blending classical and modern forms, and imparting a more residential feeling, while also paying homage to Middle Eastern influences. We paid special attention to creating the new Tea Lounge so that it would be a very special place where all the families would want to go. We wanted to give it varying atmospheres – one is a bit more feminine with a lighter colour scheme, and the other is more masculine with a darker colour scheme. You can find subtle Middle Eastern influences throughout. Here, we hope the guests can find a place they can identify with and feel personal to them.
What challenges were you faced with for this project?
While the project was mostly an extensive renovation, we had the challenge of keeping many of the existing elements of the hotel, but also creating some new spaces. We wanted to honour the volumes and proportions of the public areas and guest rooms, but bring a fresh feeling to it.
In the public areas we were able to utilise the lovely collection of existing artwork and enhance it with some new pieces. We also kept some of the classical furniture in the public areas and corridors but also introduced some modern forms and luxurious materials. We designed a new winter garden with glass and metal close to the Tea Lounge and incorporated this new architecture with the new outdoor terrace. Another challenge was to elevate the experience in the guest room suites, so we made some changes including the creation of a new walk-in dressing area and built-in features to make it feel more personal and residential.
Why was Four Seasons Hotel Doha a particularly exciting renovation for you?
I liked the architecture and thought the existing building was interesting as it was done by an architect who knows Four Seasons well. I didn’t want to destroy the work that was done already or its sense of place. I wanted to bring a new dimension of modernity to the hotel and enhance the guest experience with uplifting design elements and spaces.
What is your design process after you see a brief from a client?
We study the architecture, we make sure we understand the history of the city and the atmosphere of the location. We research the local culture and the artistic elements that might tie into the story of the hotel. We think about who the client is, and how they might like to experience the hotel as part of the city. We consider the guest experience starting from the first glimpse of the hotel during arrival, to the tranquillity of the check-in experience, the comfort of the overall circulation, the appeal of the food and beverage options, and of course, the first moment the guest opens the door to their room. We think about these things all together and try to make a cohesive experience that is grand and glamorous but also intimate and warm.
We don’t think in terms of trends or flashy ideas that might go out of date. Instead, we consider how we can create an atmosphere that is welcoming, uplifting, peaceful, and luxuriously comfortable with a powerful sense of place. This feeling is timeless.
What inspires you most about hotel design and where do you find new ideas to bring to luxury settings?
I stay inspired by never doing the same thing twice. This philosophy allows you to move forward, to go further every time. I learn from my daily life and simply remaining curious, because from there I get ideas – through my travels, exhibitions, an evening at the opera, a piece of art, the way the light looks at a particular time of day.
What is the most impactful design feature of a hotel to its guests?
The design should make a guest feel at home and comfortable. Being in a hotel is a very special moment during your travels, when everything else might feel foreign and you need to feel safe and relaxed.
What do you hope visitors to hotels you’ve designed feel when they look around at your handiwork?
We want to make guests feel good and want to come back. We want them to discover all the interesting and beautiful details in the design and appreciate their authenticity and craftsmanship.
What has been the pinnacle of your career so far?
The Four Seasons George V is certainly one of the most iconic projects I have worked on. It is the result of an extraordinary relationship of trust and continued success that has lasted for 25 years.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I try to start the day peacefully and relax with a bath, and then I walk to the office through a beautiful park, past the President’s house. Then, my days are very busy, always fully planned out and organised, as there are many projects we work on at PYR. But at the same time I make sure I am present for everyone and make myself available as much as possible.
Where can we expect to see more of your work in 2020?
We are working all over the world on large iconic hotels with major luxury brands, but also on smaller hotels, such as a luxury boutique hotel for a French jewellery brand in Place Vendôme. We’re also designing restaurants and private residences. We want to remain as open minded as possible and work on an interesting mix of projects to keep our creativity sharp.