The city of Dubai is electric with the sense that ‘anything is possible’. Design is rapidly evolving due to the demands of a more sophisticated market. The hospitality industry in particular has many examples of well-curated hotels that display the way modern luxury is expressed.

In the not-too-distant past, as a reaction to the traditional monotone colours of the desert, brightly coloured adornment was considered luxurious. And - as a result - there are many examples of older, overly embellished, poorly curated designs. But now we are witnessing a design revolution. There is an audible narration around the idea of place and space; and depth to the story. Crafted materials and the execution of space are becoming more refined.

The Vida Hotel in 2015 started the trend for local, contemporary, luxury. And since then many hotels have followed suit. Dubai now has many versions of similar budget to mid-scale hotels in the affordable, entry-level part of the market.

These often celebrate a sense of place with flavours of the city or neighbourhood of the hotel tangible in the design. These designs are considered - and arguably - more refined specifically because they are relevant to the area.

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The Arabic Oud largely influenced the design behind the DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai, design by dwp


There is certainly an appetite for contemporary design. But there are also limitations to be aware of.

If buildings are modern, but soulless, they offer nothing back to the individual. That is unquestionably an unsuccessful outcome.

Human scale is important. How the users of a space actually inhabit that environment matters.

In a great space people feel enlivened and inspired by being there.

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Soundwave Light Installation in the Lobby, W Dubai - The Palm, design by dwp


‘Comfort and shelter’ were originally the main drivers of hotel design. Now we are in the era of experience; so the approach to hospitality design has changed. It has become much more hybrid with less physical focus. The intangible assets are adding greater value.

More than proportion and materiality, those are the drivers. People are asking: ‘What can I do while I’m here?’ ‘What experiences does this place offer me?’ ‘How can I share these experiences with my friends?’ Of course, there still needs to be a good bed, a good shower… but the intangibles are having more intrinsic value in the experience economy.

The reality is that change is normal in hospitality. It is re-inventive by nature. Hotel design is about escapism, beauty, out-doing the competitors and establishing new markets. And all these kinds of influences tend to create self-perpetuating change. In Dubai sophistication has happened rapidly. And, as designers, we have our fingers on the pulse of this adrenaline fueled change. Anything is possible, after all!

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Six Senses Hua Hin Earth Spa, Thailand, design by dwp

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