The hotel world is changing, and while designers have gotten their hands wet in the game, perhaps the most intriguing hotel group to step up is GHM – with a series of culturally inspired hotels that boast the vibrant locales of where they are located, GHM has taken the art of hotel design to the next level.
Hotels were once merely a place to rest weary bodies and tired eyes, but as the years have passed, so have traditions. In a world where consumers are looking for the next ‘it’ thing, kitschy shanties and atavistic accommodations are becoming relics of the past – and it’s about time. Primo designers like Gianni Versace came into the world of hoteliers and flipped the script, turning the world of hospitality into part naptime, part showtime, but he wasn’t the only one. Look around the world and you will find a spate of impressive hotels and resorts designed and inspired by the likes of Versace, de la Renta, Bulgari, von Furstenberg and Tcherassi, and if one thing is clear, it’s that hoteliers aren’t in Kansas anymore.
These super-lux hotels which can be found in Indonesia, Vietnam, Oman and Switzerland have taken the idea of what it means to be design conscious, and totally reworked it into creating ultra-chic, high-end, design-conscious pieces of culturally reflective art.
But it isn’t just fashion designers who are getting involved and strapping their name to these creations, but architects and interior designers who are keen to take on expanding and diversifying portfolios as well, and with no hotel group does this become more evident than GHM. These super-lux hotels which can be found in Indonesia, Vietnam, Oman and Switzerland have taken the idea of what it means to be design conscious, and totally reworked it into creating ultra-chic, high-end, design-conscious pieces of culturally reflective art.
Reda Amalou, a multiple-award-winning architect, and the chief architect of The Nam Hai Hoi An, has said that it is his belief “that history and time are an especially fertile breeding ground for contemporary and future architecture.” And it shows in his work. The Nam Hai Hoi An, for example, is made up of villas which are built as a reinterpretation of the traditionally central Vietnamese garden house, which features a pitched roof and timber framing. While the layout has been rotated roughly 90 degrees from that of a traditional garden house in central Vietnam, the ideation and creation is something that stays true to the locale in which the hotel is located – but it doesn’t exist merely in Vietnam.
Oman too plays fiddle to its culturally rich and diversely vibrant background in its design, and features a system of falaj-inspired waterways that gurgle quietly through a low-lying blasted white Omani-influenced series of suites that sits quietly amongst the date palms and against the backdrop of the towering Al-Hajar mountain range. The idea here, much the same as in Vietnam, is to keep the hotel as culturally linked as possible, while still flaunting that which makes the GHM properties truly world class. Designed by the multiple award-winning Belgian-born architect and designer Jean-Michel Gathy, The Chedi Muscat is a product of a designer who approaches his design from this culturally sensitive viewpoint that makes the GHM properties so harmoniously balanced. A designer who is travelling as much as he is designing, his global perspective and knowledge have provided places like The Chedi Muscat with an indescribable flair for perfection that bring together a globalising world with an undoubtedly localised tradition.
But it isn’t just in Oman that Gathy has left his fingerprints. In the most recent addition to the GHM portfolio, Gathy has also upped his game once more in sculpting what many praise as one of the best hotels in Europe in The Chedi Andermatt – a stunning Alpine property that sits quietly in the small central Swiss town of Andermatt. When asked about design here, Gathy says that much of his inspiration came from luxury hotels of years past such as those like the Grand Bellevue that once called Andermatt home. The grande dames, as they are known, were what inspired Gathy to design and build The Chedi Andermatt in a way that was balanced, substantial, solid, without arrogance and featured a bevy of features that aren’t in your local Motel 6. Paying homage to the Alps, The Chedi Andermatt features dark woods, a healthy helping of stone, and a feeling that comes off as rustic-lux. Keeping with the GHM tradition of a local yet global approach, The Chedi Andermatt also features a dose of Asian inspiration, and a few other intricacies that have become a part of Gathy’s arsenal over the years of travel and found inspiration.
Travel to the other side of the world where the weather is much warmer, and you will find just as equally inspiring work from a totally different perspective, but one that continues to advance GHM’s pursuit for design perfection. There, in Bali, Indonesia, you will find the majestic villas and immensely captivating private art collection that legendary Indonesian art collector, architect and designer Hendra Hadiprana has left and curated for guests of the sleepy central Balinese town of Ubud. Once his private retreat, The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah is not only packed with hand-picked art, but has also been designed in a way that evokes the traditional architecture that has become one of the hallmarks of the Island of the Gods. Or, if the beach is more up your alley, stop by The Legian Bali, where a Hadiprana-designed beachfront resort has been transformed by the late Jaya Ibrahim into a living, breathing art gallery where custom-made Balinese carvings and antiquities from around the world make their home. Regardless of which of the two you opt to spend your time in, the Hadiprana approach at both, which has become one of the most well-renowned in the world, will leave you both in awe and a state of total mental relaxation as you take in the Island of the Gods.
But while design in many of GHM’s locations rings true to the culturally apparent, GHM has also prided itself on threading a line of Asian influence through each of their properties. And it is this attention to detail, this small consistency throughout each of the properties in the portfolio that also distinguishes GHM from simply falling into a class of design aesthetics that relies too heavily on local tradition. GHM has struck the perfect balance between localised tradition and the idea of an ever-globalising world. Neither too global, nor too local, it is through this combination, this understanding of the world-leading designers and architects like Amalou, Gathy and Hadiprana that work with GHM, that this GHM-specific balance has been reached.
And while the fashion designers and their contemporaries continue to push the envelope on what it means to be a hotel, it is GHM that is reminding us that perhaps the most important part of being a hotel is in reflecting upon, drawing from, and respecting the cultural heritage of where you lie your head, while still enjoying the pampering of a world-class staff and organisation – and that’s one thing you will recognise as soon as you pull up to one of these superiorly designed oases.
(Featured image: The front drive and lobby lounge at The Nam Hai Hoi An echoes Vietnamese tradition as it is constructed as a modified version of an authentic Vietnamese garden house.)