ATLANTIS THE ROYAL, DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The minute building blocks of extreme design connect to create a towering edifice. The devil’s in the detail.
Awesome is a much-overused word but it can be applied accurately in its truest sense to Atlantis The Royal – the spectacular Dubai resort that has seen some critics clamouring for a six-star rating to acknowledge how far it has raised the bar on distinctive luxury hospitality. You’d have to be marooned alone on a desert island not to have heard by now of the 695 exquisite rooms and suites, 44 offering terraces with private infinity pools, the biggest jellyfish aquarium in the world, the largest collection of celebrity chef branded restaurants in the world, and the Guinness World Record-breaking waterpark – not to mention the cherry on the cake in the shape of Beyonce’s performance at the star-studded opening in February.
But once you’ve popped that cherry, as it were, it’s the ingredients that make up this 43-tierred cake that matter most. Only the finest have been selected to create this design sensation.
The team of design and architecture visionaries include renowned master architect Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of New York, hospitality interior designer G A Group of London for the hotel, interior designer Sybille de Margerie of Paris for the residential accommodation and WET Design of California for the many water features.
The design and architecture were the result of a competition commissioned by Kerzner International, operators of the One&Only and Atlantis brands. The brief was simple, yet complex, to create the most memorable building in the city. The result is a luxurious, modern and refined development that integrates 406,000 square metres of built-up area spanning six towers that are adjoined by a sky bridge, 90 metres in length.
“We were asked to dream big on this project. To create something unique and iconic for Dubai – and when I look at it now, I’m amazed by the audacity of the whole undertaking. The gardens in the sky, first imagined in sketches on paper, are now realized hundreds of feet above the ground,” said James von Klemperer, president and design principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
The design rethinks the conventional concept of the ‘iconic tower’ and its role in the skyline of the rapidly growing city. Rather than focus on form only, the building centres on extending the idea of indoor-outdoor living. This idea is transcended vertically into a 500-metre-long, 178-metre-tall mega structure, operating as a permeable screen porous to people, light, and air. Atlantis The Royal was conceptualised as the ‘deconstruction’ of the traditional sculptural towers associated with Dubai, taking the form of a stack of individual blocks, each offering a bespoke private experience off of a single core. The individual series of blocks enhances the convenience of luxury and amenities for residents and guests, in what seemingly feels like a smaller and more intimate setting. The gaps between become outdoor courts, naturally ventilated and shaded, with incredible views over Dubai and the Gulf.
Elie Gamburg, design principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, added: “Rather than create another piece of iconic architecture, we sought to create a series of iconic experiences through the design of a building that, by being split into pieces, forms multiple gardens in the sky. This makes it possible to have all of the indoor-outdoor living experiences we expect in a beach-side villa raised in the air and creates a place where one can swim underwater in a transparent pool with views over the skyline of Dubai, 34 storeys in the sky.”
A collaboration between the architect and G A Group, the interior design centres on the notion of water and water-based moments throughout the property, rather than the ocean, as can be found at Atlantis, The Palm.
The brief was inspired by the oldest inhabitants of the Arabian desert, the Bedouins. Known for their resourcefulness and hospitality, the tribes would traverse thousands of miles across the sand dunes using water wells, which were the lifeblood of the desert, to navigate. The precious commodity of water is constantly celebrated throughout the property, with water features and sculptures peppered throughout.
Examples of this can be seen in the lobby sculpture, Droplets, which represents the first drop of rain in a dry desert and the Deluge water elevators, which invite guests to walk through water to reach the next part of the resort. Cloud burst light fixtures feature at each elevator bank and hundreds of raindrop shaped light pendants delicately stud the lobby ceilings.
The theme of each guestroom and suite continues the connection with water but in a more refined and abstract way. From the soft lines of the sofa, to the undulating blues and turquoise of the carpet, guests are gently enveloped by the water theme. Each room category moves through this water theme to become more dramatic the higher up the building that guests go. From the gentle blues of the Seascape room to the shimmering pearls of a Horizon Penthouse, all the way up to the dramatic hues of orange and red coral coloured walls of the Panoramic Penthouse.
Unlike many resorts, the lighting design of Atlantis The Royal was developed as part of the overall architectural concept, helping to technically refine the design. Designed to create fluidity and depth across the property, the lighting is an integral part of the guest experience and impacts how the building can be seen on the Dubai skyline, as well as what guests see when they look out from their balconies at night.
- The underwater lighting across the resort’s pools, which changes from day to dusk and dark until it glitters
- Light projections used across the resort to create moving ‘art moments’, such as aquariums with underwater LED screens and projection mapped bars
- Within each Sky Court, light is projected onto the underside of the court (roof) to create an immersive experience at night that replicates the shimmering water from the pools below
The architecture, water views, context and the Atlantis brand were all inspiration for the design process of WET’s fountains and water features, with the location of the resort creating a constant visual connection to water with the bay and The Gulf on either side of the property. WET aimed to make the connection to water physical so visitors felt as if they were always surrounded by water. A series of water fountains along the resort’s main axis guide visitors from their entry through FireFalls to their climactic finale, the Skyblaze feature. The fountains highlight the power of water and its effect on us whether creating quiet, contemplative moments or the spectacular. The combination of water and fire together in so many features at one location is something never seen before anywhere else in the world.
As guests drive up to the resort, they are met with a vast expanse of gushing water overflowing the vertical surface of the massive wall along the hotel drive and into the covered entrance, which appears to rise majestically from within. At night the programmable wall shimmers with light, captured and reflected in the individual droplets of each rhythmic wave.
Two waterskins flank the hotel entry reflecting the brilliant threshold of water and fire that frames the entrance path. Pushing the boundaries of glass technology, walls of glass clad in rippling water hold between them choreographed plumes of fire.
Designed by G A Group as an artistic interpretation of natural life in the middle of the desert, are three lobby aquariums where unique LED screen technology creates a dynamic light play between the resident fish and silhouettes to create a constant movement of schooling fish and dappled sunlight. Home to 7,200 marine animals and 32 species, the aquariums are maintained by a team of hundreds of aquarists.
The interior design company created multiple sculptures and artwork throughout the resort, such as the stainless-steel Mushroom Tower, an abstract representation of a mushroom’s growth on a tree in the sky garden of the Skyscape Signature Suite. It was inspired by the designer’s visit to China where he found a beautiful piece of deadwood covered in mushrooms. He removed and restacked the mushrooms piece by piece resulting in the first ‘model’ of what is now the 2m high Mushroom Tower.
Six acrylic Cloud Trumpets adorn the 96m high sky pool. At more than 5m tall, the trumpets are topped by 110 flowers comprising three parts per flower, resulting in 330 individually handblown pieces of glass. Representative of the sky pool’s namesake, Cloud 22, each trumpet is surrounded by its own vapour cloud which swirls around the flowers from day to night.
In the lower ground retail avenue, the Fish Bait Ball is a ‘floating’ 1.6m spherical optical lens, featuring 750 handblown glass fish. In an optical illusion, the lens is home to an internal projector that displays moving shafts of colour, giving the appearance of the mass of fish jumping and swimming in sync.
In the VIP elevator lobby, the Soap Bubble shaped orb is a unique piece of artwork inspired by Plateau’s Law. This describes the shape and configuration of soap films, with the sculpture representing the beautiful and perfect harmony of the inner geometry of a soap bubble. Brought to life in blue and red to represent the fire and water throughout the resort, The Soap Bubble is a unique interpretation on the droplets of water that feature throughout the lobby level of the resort.
And that’s just a taster of some of the ingredients that make up this awesome resort.
At a glance
Owner/Developer/Operator: Kerzner International
Architectural design: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Lead architect: IBI Group
Interior design: G A Group