remix Qatar

The designer loves designing hotels because of the stories they tell through their designs

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The designer of the St Regis Doha, Rodrigo Vargas, tells Sindhu Nair why he loves designing hotel complexes.
Intricate wooden lattice work serves as dividers or just as a design element

f there is one hotel premises that is attracting a lot of attention it is none other than the St Regis Doha. A year before it had officially opened, PR companies were setting up interviews with the CEO of the hotel chain and by the start of this year there wasn’t much about the new complex that the media didn’t know. It was a lot about numbers, so here are a few of them to help retrain your brain: 4,000 square meters of events and meetings space, a 1,850-square-meter ballroom, 16,000 square meters of leisure facilities, an Olympic-size swimming pool (50m x 25m) and ten restaurants and lounges. But to me it was not the pure expanse that defined the space, but the warmth in the pure detailing of the space that made it more humane to the guests. Be it the high ceiling or the larger-than-life intricate chandeliers, each of which took almost 12 hours of workmanship just to hang, the atmosphere within the St Regis seems to resonate with more cheer than elusiveness. It could be the profusion of warm colors and the Arab features that welcome its visitors and instantly put them at their ease. Or it could just be the people who make the encounters more personal and hence special. T-Qatar talked to the man behind the vision, the interior designer

Rodrigo Vargas, who owns the interior design firm of the same name in Los Angeles. His work is often defined within the design community as “unexpected, bold and daring with a passion for understated luxury”. While the architecture of the St Regis reflects the brand philosophy of grandeur and a history steeped in tradition, the St Regis Doha interior gives the story a twist, spicing it up with a regional flavor. Rodrigo loves hotels, and he loves designing one because it allows him “to tell a story about the place, the city and the culture of the place it is situated in”. At the St Regis, he has woven an Arab fairy tale, but one that is truly ingrained in the St Regis history. “Sophistication is what the design is all about, and the

The two-tone flooring and stone cladding make the huge space look more intimate and humane

The facade of the majestic St Regis

The play of water bodies within the lobby

inspiration for this understated elegance has been from the local architecture,” he says. The mashrabiyya work that runs as a design feature throughout the interiors is a major ingredient in the Arab tale. Be it behind the concierge services in the main lobby, where the grandeur of the wooden latticework adds to the magnificence of the space, or adjacent the water body, where it acts as a partition and brings in privacy to a part of the lounge, inviting people to sit down and spend time, the mashrabiyya has been used vividly and with a different purpose each time. Bringing the human element in huge spaces is always a daunting task for designers but Rodrigo seems to have succeeded. And for this he has played with colors and materials to give the sense of scale. “Warm colors and materials were chosen, and in the living spaces, like the tea lounge and vintage bar, stronger colors and comfortable cosy furniture helped in humanizing the space.” Scale and proportion have been cleverly mastered to bring the beauty of the space to work on the senses rather than to use the space to overpower them. Another feature that stands out is the two color tones that run uniformly through the lobby. This is the feature that Rodrigo loves in the St Regis. “I love the two-tone horizontal banding in the main lobby as well as the intricate three-stone color patterns on the floors,” he says, adding:

“It’s an amazing building of great scale with a sense of place and we wanted the interiors to reflect the same element.” Walk around the St Regis, and once the grandeur of the expanse seems passe, take a look at the accessories and they have another story to narrate. The paintings of the Doha skyline that are locally sourced and the artifacts that add to the decor all have a role to play in the Arabian folklore. “We wanted the art to reflect the rich culture of the country,” he says. And for someone who has practised in the UK, how easy is it to interpret and to reflect the traditional architecture in the design elements. “We studied the architecture of mosques and the traditional patterns of the mashrabiyyas and reinterpreted them in a contemporary way. The stone banding in the lobby, the floor patterns and the woodwork reflect the rich layered effect of the traditional architecture,” he says. And the one place that Rodrigo loved in Doha was the traditional souk. “it’s an amazing place, its texture, the culture that it holds. You can see the vivid rich cultural history of Doha and be a part of it when you visit,” he says. As he designs more interiors there is one mantra he will adhere to: “Honor the place that you are working in. Understand the history of the space you are designing in. Design spaces that will stand the test of time...”

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