Investing in Good Design: Ritz-Carlton Dubai
José Sirera in Brand, Hospitality, Hotels

As we emerge from the global recession, many lessons have been learned, but one theme is more resonant than ever: good design pays. Smart investment in design can produce buildings with timeless appeal and make a positive impact on the surrounding city. And as demonstrated by one of our most recent projects, The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre, this is achievable even in challenging economic times.

© Gerry O’Leary - The 14-story hotel epitomizes luxury and elegance and features 341
guestrooms; 124 serviced apartments, a health club, spa and indoor swimming pool;
multiple signature restaurants and bars, extensive retail space and one of the largest ballrooms
in the region.

In January 2011, the Gensler-designed Ritz-Carlton Dubai opened its doors to the public. The hotel provides a stunning addition to the luxury brand’s portfolio and serves as a unique retreat in the heart of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the master plan of which was also designed by Gensler. Although construction had already begun when the economic downturn hit, our client remained adamant that the construction quality and the build quality of the project should maintain the high standards set at the onset of the project. With this in mind, Gensler’s design team made design choices that mitigated the effects of a declining economy but would remain timeless once the recession passed.

For example, we took sustainability into consideration and kept consumer expectations for luxury in mind. These qualities are closely tied to the Ritz-Carlton brand so it was critical that neither was compromised. There is a certain expectation when travelers choose a brand of hotel: they know what to expect, and there is familiarity even if they are new to the city.

An integrated design

The 14-story hotel’s distinctive but understated design suits the Ritz-Carlton brand and serves as a unique retreat in the heart of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the master plan of which Gensler also designed. The hotel is mindful of its place in the fast developing city; its profile respects the district’s master plan, which seeks to achieve density similar to newer financial centers like Canary Wharf in London. Along the same lines, the limestone façade also references the classical elegance of Paris and other global cities renowned for their design.

The hotel also provides a pedestrian experience that is unique within DIFC. The pedestrian-focused spaces around the hotel provide both internal and external routes around the property and a retail spine that will link the hotel to the surrounding financial center. With a focus on “walkability,” outdoor routes and amenities create environments that respond to the local environment and provide shade from the hot summer sun.

Impact on the city

In the Gulf region, where entire cities are being built from scratch, a well-designed building or mixed use complex is not only good for the brand and property owner, it also can raise the bar for the whole city. Buildings set standards for a higher level of luxury, finish, design, LEED Standards, planning, and more.

These lessons can be used by property owners outside of the Gulf region. The importance of thinking about the impact of one building on a city as a whole is universal. To give you an example, let’s say we’re upgrading an office for a customer, and they go from the old 1960s building into to a brand new, modern, trendy building and all of a sudden people start wearing suits, dressing better, and feeling better about their jobs—all because the environment has been elevated. Morale has been raised; occupants feel more worthy. With that, the entire city—not just the people who actually work or live in the development—benefits by default from the creation of these developments.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre underscores the impact that a hotel (either standalone or mixed use) has on a city. No matter what region it is in, a hotel creates public community spaces and set the tone. A visitor to a city, for example, can go to a hotel and visit a sandwich bar, have dinner at a restaurant, or have a drink in the lobby, and all of these things allow the visitor to mingle with the locals. A well-designed hotel can both reflect and impact what a district is about.

For investors in the Gulf region, it is important to remember that quality is still of the utmost importance. It is easy to value-engineer and downgrade projects but you need to be mindful of the final result. As in other regions, a long-term vision with an emphasis on quality will go a long way in this region, resulting in success that is both aesthetic and financial.

José Sirera is a principal and hospitality practice area leader for Gensler in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. He is responsible for a number of high profile projects including exclusive hospitality complexes, government headquarters and large-scale mixed-use developments. José’s excellent understanding of design and its role within the building process enables him to provide innovative architectural solutions to align with clients’ goals and aspirations. His international experience has led him to be an expert in the field, and his insights are highly sought after by colleagues. Contact him at
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