Posted in People on 12 February, 2018

WATG’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Mallows, talks in-depth to SPACE editor Can Faik about the spectacular projects the company has completed and what the future holds under his leadership…

Since the firm’s inception in Hawaii in 1945, WATG has grown to offer integrated design services comprising strategy, planning, architecture, landscape, and interiors for urban, tourism and resort destinations. WATG and Wimberly Interiors have offices all over the world, and are best known for creating internationally-acclaimed locations in 160 countries across six continents. WATG’s projects are renowned not only for their design and sense of place but also for their bottom-line success.

Tell me about your role at WATG?

As CEO + President, my role is to drive the firm forward – financially and globally – growing the business to continually meet the needs of our clients.

What five words would you use to describe WATG?

Client-focused, creative, collaborative, integrated and committed.

How long have you been involved with hotel design?

Throughout my 30-year career, hospitality design has played a major role, particularly early on. More recently, I’ve been involved in larger, mixed-use developments, which I believe will add tremendous value to WATG, given we that have many clients that are seeking to develop integrated projects in new and emerging destinations.

What makes WATG different to other design companies?

We’re truly integrated in that we can deliver 360 degree solutions for clients – from economic strategy, master planning through to architectural, landscape and interior design. The experience is completely seamless for our clients – we can build a client team that combines global and cultural expertise with design speciality.

How and why did you get into the architecture/interior design industry?

Creating a better world has always been an aspiration of mine. To create truly memorable places requires teamwork and talent. Building and leading teams of talented individuals that can invent and deliver places that enrich people’s lives, I find inspiring. Very few endeavours are more meaningful to me than maximising individual talent for the greater good.

Bringing together development strategy, planning, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design to create memorable settings and places that lift the human spirit, for me is the most powerful and relevant way to devote ones working life.

Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?

This is an exciting period of evolution in the hospitality sector – innovation levels are high, driven by consumers less enchanted by fussy, intrusive service and more focused on unique experiences. The road less travelled remains highly aspirational and we (and others) will find ourselves creating amazing lodging concepts in more remote and eco-sensitive locations. Eco-integrity and adding positive social value to local communities will be high on the agenda. Wellness will remain a hot topic and immersive holistic experiences wrapped around biophilic design will be another dominant trend. Nostalgia and a return to journeys, as opposed to fast fix trips, will be another feature – we are just completing our refurbishment of the Orient Express for Belmond – the golden age of travel revitalised with a contemporary twist – very exciting.

With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does WATG stand out from the rest?

Two things: firstly, we have built a diverse, global team of economists, future thinkers, specialist designers and technology experts. Our global strategy team plays an integral role in helping clients far upstream in the development process – ensuring that we maximise land use and develop a highly profitable solution.

Secondly, we have an incredibly robust internal leadership programme for our young designers. A focus on talent is a core pillar within WATG. We’re independent and have been for more than 70 years, therefore we can offer young designers a robust, exciting, long-term career.

What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?

The importance of collaborating with our clients as expert advisors. Our clients often have a very clear vision when they come to us, and our role is to bring that vision to life.

The other important factor I’d like to emphasise is something that has remained a constant for decades and that is that consumers – hotel guests, office professionals, apartment residents – want to experience something special. Consumers appreciate and desire great design. That has never changed and after more than 70 years, our WATG designers know how to deliver great design that touches the lives of the people that experience our places and spaces.

What’s your favourite part of a hotel?

Two places – the lobby and the back of the house. The lobby is key to establishing the overall setting and understanding of place, not only for guests but as a sense of pride for employees, and the back of the house is the where – through good functional design you can make the working environment within a hotel better for staff so that they can focus on delivering a great guest experience.

What does design mean to you?

Design is like magic – it’s the creative process where something valuable and inspiring is brought into reality where prior to the design process, there were only objectives and intentions. Design is a process driven by talented individuals working collaboratively and creatively as a team.

What would be your dream hotel project?

A dream project would be something that is seamlessly integrated – utilising all core elements of our design arsenal to deliver a timeless, memorable experience for the guest and creating something of value for the owner.

Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

Shanghai Bellagio (opening in Q4/Q1) is an integrated project where WATG did the architecture and Wimberly Interiors designed the interiors. This is the first Bellagio outside of North America.

Belmond Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express: Wimberly Interiors designed the three private ‘Grand Suites’ that will debut in March 2018.  The team used moments within each city – Paris, Venice and Istanbul – as inspiration along with the overall Belmond guest experience.

Phu Quoc Island – an incredibly exciting master plan design in Vietnam. The challenge was to create a grand master plan for 2030 that establishes broad design guidelines for all future development on the island, with a focus on eco-planning and sustainability.

Hotel 50 Bowery New York – one I’m planning on visiting when I’m in NYC this spring. It opened last May to a lot of fanfare and we’re now awaiting award news!     

What’s next for you?

Travelling the globe to meet my new team.    

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