The design and construction of the Grand Hyatt Kuwait

Gavin Davids profiles the Grand Hyatt Kuwait, one of Kuwait’s most highly anticipated hospitality developments and a landmark project for both Hyatt Hotels and Tamdeen Group

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2022, the Grand Hyatt Kuwait is one of the country’s most anticipated hospitality developments in recent years, and is set to be a milestone project for both Hyatt Hotels Corporation and its Kuwait-based owners, Tamdeen Group.

Not only is it already an architectural landmark thanks to its distinctive design and grand aesthetic, but the hotel aims to offer signature guest experiences, while forming an integral part of the country’s most immersive luxury social and lifestyle complex – the 360Mall Kuwait.

The hotel’s design has been conceptualised to seamlessly integrate into the context of its surroundings, complementing the established architectural lines, visually and functionally, while still making a distinct architectural statement all on its own. As part of a flourishing mixed-use development, the architectural planning of the hotel sought to ensure a fluid connection between the adjacent areas that allow guests the ease of flow back and forth from the hotel to the mall.

Located on the Sixth Ring Highway, the Grand Hyatt Kuwait is part of the expansion of the 360 Mall Kuwait, which consists of an additional 20,250sqm of retail space and the five-start hotel, as well as the largest multi-purpose arena in Kuwait and the second Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy in the world.

The hotel has two direct entry points from the mall extension, and in order to take advantage of its location, these unique accesses were created at the main communal levels to allow guests a variety of entry and exit encounters. The Grand Hyatt Kuwait is also connected to the brand new multipurpose indoor ‘The Arena Kuwait’, which has a 5,800-seat capacity.

In addition, the hotel contains three standalone lifestyle dining venues, and these restaurants and lounges utilised the clear sightlines created by the design to absorb mall activities. Designer CallisonRTKL also worked to create other spaces that offer a more intimate and private experience exclusive to hotel guests.

As the tallest building in the area, the nine guestroom floors offer unobstructed views from every angle, while the 302-rooms offer guests a luxury urban escape, complete with impressive architectural designs. All of this adds up to create what is Kuwait’s most exciting entertainment, social and retail destination, one that is unmatched nationally. Cognisant of the significance of the project, the designers ensured that the property has several distinguishing features, such as is its curved design – which was conceived and executed in lieu of a traditional rectangular outline – to allow for a natural and harmonised integration into the existing architectural landscape.

Consequently, the hotel’s exterior design complements the curvilinear design aesthetic of the 360 Mall extension with a series of layers that splay out with unique characteristics. These multiple design features are focused on achieving an environmentally responsive building – inspired by and adapted for the local climate and culture.

As part of this impetus, CRTKL derived the design of the hotel’s signature exterior from the date palm leaf, with specific attention given to the branches of the palm and their ridged shapes that provide the narrative for structure and shade. An inclined glazing system allows the façade to shade itself for large portions of the day, while angled vertical fins were fused between each guestroom to provide additional self-shading as the sun’s angle drops in the afternoon.

Large dynamic screens reminiscent of the traditional mashrabiya were designed with a highly detailed gradient pattern at the podium level, maintaining high visibility at eye level, while also increasing the amount of shade and privacy in various focal areas.

From the outside, the mashrabiya presents a beautiful and enigmatic front, CRTKL says, but the overall, impression created is that of a façade that successfully merges cultural values of heritage, traditional geometric visuals and ancient technical aspects, creating something beautiful that will stand the test of time.

Speaking about the inspiration and motivation behind the project, hotel designer Dustin Wekesser, Associate Principal at CallisonRTKL says: “The entire 360 Mall Kuwait development is a fantastic project with many great entrances and influxes, but as an architectural team, we wanted to make Grand Hyatt Kuwait feel more exclusive and opulent, to set it apart on an entirely different level of luxury.”

“During the conceptualising phase we thought a lot about scale and how guests would perceive their arrival from multiple distances and reviewed several levels of detail to achieve this. The hotel is clean and bold from a distance, featuring details that are angled and large enough to be observed from the main roads. However, as a guest approaches the hotel, the details get smaller and more intricate, creating a dynamic and vibrant play of patterns, shadows, light and textures.”

“Overall, the striking design is cohesive and thorough, as meticulous attention to every detail exemplifies the rigor and quality needed to meet the expectation of an unrivalled experience expected of an impending stay at Grand Hyatt Kuwait,” he adds.

Wekesser reveals that Hyatt was involved early in the design and development of the hotel portion of the project and as such, meeting Hyatt’s requirements and ensuring the design aligned with their brand standards was a key factor in pursing the concept. Furthermore, the hospitality brand’s involvement went beyond the planning stages, with their influence extending to the exterior and interior designs.

Upon arrival at Grand Hyatt Kuwait, guests step into a dramatic hotel lobby that houses an exceptional art program that celebrates the region and public areas that provide an elegant and dynamic backdrop for meetings, socialising and relaxation.

The perimeter of the lobby is swathed in weightless white drapery, while the centre of the lobby is anchored by a marble water-like feature holding an equine sculpture at the centre.

The plush interior of the lobby lounge is accentuated by wall panels clad in white geometric patterns, while orbital shapes in the form of an oversized mobile sculpture rounds off the double volume aesthetics. A distinguished feeling of grandeur is established through a bespoke collection of luxury furnishings.

Large-scale artworks have been commissioned specifically to fit the theme at Grand Hyatt Kuwait, the project’s designers say. In some cases, Meyer Davis started with the artwork, and built the interior design around a certain piece. The ultimate effect is one that offers visitors a chance to experience and engage with some remarkable pieces in a way that could be more intimate than at a museum or gallery setting, Wekesser says.

The rooms feature signature wooden parquet flooring, book-matched marble in the restrooms, floor to ceiling windows, and thoughtfully planned dressing spaces. Sensibly integrated lighting creates a sense of warmth and drama, while custom-forged geometric screens cast shadows at each guestroom entry, giving a subtle nod to the traditional Mashrabiya, a motif that is repeated throughout the architecture of the building.

“The goal was conveying an authentic pride-of-place through design. There is a cultural steadfastness in Kuwait that has created a commitment to preserving and honouring the nation’s history. At the same time, there is an openness to modernisation. We felt it was crucial that the design, craft, and storytelling on display at Grand Hyatt Kuwait was reflective of that great sense of national pride,” Meyer Davis explains.

Throughout the hotel’s environment, design and décor are enlivened with concepts and detailing inspired by the area’s art, architecture, crafts, customs and archetypes, the firm points out, adding that the brief from Hyatt was ‘local in essence but reframed and reconstructed to become a part of the cosmopolitan and glamorous Grand Hyatt hotel sensibility’.

“Hyatt pushed both our architects at CRTKL and the interior designers at Meyer Davis to think creatively about the materials and finishes. We were given license to create a unique identity for the hotel and worked collaboratively with the teams from Hyatt and Tamdeen to explore and implement amazing features, such as self-shading facades, interior living walls, custom screens and more. Now, the results can speak for themselves,” Wekesser states.

While CRTKL served as the design architect and oversaw the project in increasing detail with PACE supporting as the local architect, Ahmadiah Contracting & Trading delivered the project as the contractor.

Wekesser points out that although the Grand Hyatt Kuwait was designed simultaneously with the 360 Mall expansion, Arena and Rafa Nadal Tennis academy, the delivery of the mall and academy were sped up to ensure they opened in 2020, while the hotel’s opening is only scheduled for later this year. This meant that when it was time to deliver the building, the contractor had a lot on its plate as it managed an active construction site around a fully operational, mixed-use development.

In order to ensure the smooth running of the construction process, he explains careful consideration during the planning process played a huge part in devising a schedule that facilitated the smooth running of the construction process.

“Due to the numerous programs that were running simultaneously on what was a relatively small project site, the arrangement of the programmed elements needed to stack, align, and overlap in some instances in order to meet the area and access requirements for each zone. As such, early on, a lot of attention was given to reviewing both live and dead loads with the structural team and to ensure the expansion joints and building separations were in the best locations.”

“Due to the mixed interior functions of the various building types being created, we also needed numerous transfer slabs and beams to provide large column free zones under the mall and hotel that could accommodate larger gathering spaces including the hotel lobby, ballroom and loading dock,” he says.

“Thanks to the position of the hotel on a corner of the project site, we were able to keep the cranes and staging areas for the hotel long after the mall opened and with limited impact on the mall access or visibility from inside the retail space.”

This meant that hotel construction could continue at full force without disturbing the operation of the other zones. Wekesser adds that the biggest challenge faced by the team was the project’s cohesive design, which created multiple visual and physical connections between the various programs and with the staged opening. Those connection points could only be experienced once everything was open and flowing together, he points out.

“Fortunately, early on a great deal of effort was spent on getting the layout of the entire development right to allow for clear separation between the operation of the different spaces and mixed uses. This detailed planning effort, by all the various groups involved, resulted in a servicing strategy that allowed each space to function independently and for each front-of-house to have their own entries and egress strategies,” he continues.

“This diligent work meant operations during the staged opening could be successful and were minimally impacted by the ongoing construction in other areas. Likewise, the team were able to preserve the guest experience, guest access, service strategies and other occupied zones from disruption,” he points out.

The end result of all this diligence is a project that is greatly anticipated by the Kuwaiti population. With the site in a highly visible location, Wekesser says that its excitement amongst residents and visitors has been building for a variety of reasons.

“Located on the Sixth Ring Road, the site is highly visible with local traffic having watched it come to life over the past four or five years. It has since emerged as a striking piece of architecture that is now catching the eyes of those further afield thanks to social media, especially Instagram where the project is getting a lot of attention and pickup,” he relates.

“We have been working as a collective to highlight the incredible different aspects that have taken this from a hotel to a destination – from the architecture and design to the world class Food and Beverage (F&B) offering, the spas, lounge spaces and social terraces. Not to mention the sports, entertainment and retail experiences that come as part of the wider 360 Kuwait development, which are laid out on the doorstep of the Grand Hyatt Kuwait.”

He concludes, “A high bar was set with the original 360 Mall which has been open since 2008. We continued to set new standards and increase expectations with the new mall expansion in 2020, then the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy and the very recent opening of The Arena at 360. So, naturally, there is a certain level of buzz around the final piece to this puzzle, and we are equally excited to deliver on this and launch a new destination for Kuwait that will put it on the maps of luxury travellers.”

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