In a globalised world, the brand-new Sofitel Mumbai BKC shows that fusion isn’t always confusion
For a city often called the Big Mango, it is fitting that the newest hotel to open in Mumbai uses the paisley as design motif. Turned on its head, the paisley metamorphoses into a rather streamlined version of this majestic King of Fruit, and indeed, is often referred to as such in Indian art literature.
Sophisticated, unctuous, opulent, larger than life, the mango is also everywhere in the interiors of the 302-unit Sofitel Mumbai BKC, the newest five-star hotel to open its doors in India. Singapore-based Franco-Spanish hotel designer Isabelle Miaja has used the motif in so many different ways that guests encounter it again and again – often, so subtly expressed that one doesn’t even spot it. Such as in wallpaper patterns. Or on glass railings around the property. Or rather more obviously, in the stylized shape of the writing desk.
Sofitel Mumbai BKC: One of
Mumbai’s most modern projects
The hotel, which had its official opening on February 1, is the brand’s first property in India. As such, the aim was to reference its French heritage within a broader Indian context. “Being a flagship hotel, it had to evoke the sense that it belongs to Mumbai even as it retained a certain je ne sais quoi,” Miaja told an Indian magazine recently.
It is sited in the commercial capital’s new business district, the Bandra-Kurla Complex. As such, in addition to its strategic location, its architecture and design aim to ensure that this establishment stands out as one of the city’s most modern projects.
In collaboration with American master architects BBG-BBGM, she has delivered to her brief, and the result is a modern and imposing business hotel with interiors held in European contemporary lines with sparkles and blends of Indian colours, shapes and patterns.
BBG-BBGM are internationally renowned architecture and interior design firms with extensive expertise in the design of hotels, resorts, corporate and investment office buildings, high-rise residential, retail, mixed-use complexes, master plans for development, and renovation/ restoration projects. Miaja, whose firm works principally with the Accor, Taj, IHG and Radisson chains, has several hotel projects in her portfolio, including the Pullman Jakarta, Olhahali Island in the Maldives and the Lime Spa at Desert Palm Dubai.
“Overall, the architectural design should allow the Sofitel Mumbai to stand out as a successful combination of Indian culture and French style. We have worked with French and Indian artists in order to give the hotel this unique aspect,” Miaja said of the 443,925-sq-ft hotel.
“The fusion between Indian culture and French flair is evident throughout the hotel, in every corner and in every piece of art.”
The elegant mélange is evident from the first moment of entry, through the grand lobby. The waiting lounge is adorned with delicate Indian columns, vibrantly weaved carpets, and is furnished with classic French furniture. The canted glass façade pays tribute to diamonds, one of India’s most revered and popular exports. Custom-made crystal and glass chandeliers crown the atrium lobby. The glass chandeliers light up at sun down with colourful fibre optic lights.
Stone artwork, reminiscent of ancient Indian temples, is incorporated into the reception area, which is bordered by brick-shaped mirrors that add a distinctly contemporary appeal. A large metal fretwork wall feature fabricated in three types of stainless steel with amber backlighting adds glamour and warmth to the elegant lobby.
Furniture across the property also reflects the blend of Indian and French. Classic French furniture adorns different parts of the hotel, while Indian furniture with gold sofas, custom-made chandeliers and paisley tables are found in the rooms and suites.
Hotels are in the business of selling sleep and if their bedrooms don’t appeal to travellers, they can kiss their business goodbye. Happily, that isn’t the case here, and the Indo-French theme is brought into all the guest rooms.
Indo-French theme: Indian motifs
integrate with baroque details
in the rooms
Indian motifs are on curtains, windows and line the ceiling. Bed structures are reinterpreted from the Indian style; with a new concept offering a classic yet modern and comfortable feel. Textures, patterns and colours are influenced by paisley motifs integrated with French baroque details, recreating a whole new classic look. The use of the colour purple hints at royalty.
The artwork in the rooms is a unique collection of prints under the banner of “A Tale of Two Cities”. Each of the 10 different paintings custom-created by Isabelle Miaja, show historical monuments from India merging with landmarks from France.
“When I bring in art it is not just to fill walls, it is not just original but powerful as well. It needs to catch your attention. If an owner does not have a budget especially for that, I keep it at a minimum, like the final touch of jewellery on a beautiful woman,” Miaja has said.
Each room is designed as a soothing retreat in the heart of the city. There are 49 superior rooms, 182 luxury rooms, 40 Club Millésime rooms, eight junior suites, 22 prestige suites, and one lavish imperial suite. All rooms have hardwood timber flooring, large bathrooms with oversized tubs and separate showers. Enhancing the luxurious experience, each unit also features flat-screen LCD TVs, broadband internet access, fully stocked mini-bar; 24 hour room service; international newspapers, nightly turn-down service and luxurious French bathroom amenities.
LARGER THAN LIFE
But if it’s India, there have got to be elephants – and there are, from elephant-inspired lighting features to massive artworks. “The most striking feature is a metal elephant weighing several tonnes situated on the terrace of the Jyran restaurant that gives the impression of ‘walking on water’, a memorable image,” Miaja said.
Jyran is the property’s signature restaurant and is a Tandoor Dining Lounge for those who enjoy a bit of drama. Jyran means ‘lost love’ and the name is symbolic of the hope, new beginnings and emotions that follow. Inspired from the Northwest Indian Frontier, a land of warriors and poets, Jyran is designed with celebration and drama in mind, where many of the elements are inspired from Bollywood. As one walks over the little bridge leading to the restaurant, one is greeted by small fireworks that create a sense of theatricality and grandeur. The interiors are complemented by intriguing influences from palace style windows to informal timber seating, and an imaginative blend of materials in an art-deco inspired dining area. An outdoor lounge area over a reflecting pool highlights three bowls of fire. The metal elephant sits here, over the water feature, poised as though it were walking on water. The sculpture, cast from recycled metal, is intended to initiate conversation.
DIAMONDS AND GLASS
Besides elephants and paisleys, glass and diamonds are another theme running through the hotel, finding expression in the majestic floor-to-ceiling beverage tower in the heart of Pondichéry Café, the all-day dining restaurant at the hotel. (Pondicherry, just outside Chennai on India’s east coast, was one of the few French colonial strongholds in India.)
A private dining room for 10 takes the use of glass further, with an exclusive central area enclosed in a glass structure inspired by raw, uncut diamonds. The walls, which have been designed with translucent watermarks of the French Cannonball flower, serve to elevate the private diners from the hoi polloi elsewhere in the restaurant, yet ensure that all eyes remain on those within this jewel-like enclosure.
A few metres away, diamonds and exclusivity also mark out two private elevated pods at Le Bar Diamantaire, the lobby lounge. The intimate space is enhanced by these unique elevated pods that are installed to provide special seating for private rendezvous, while enjoying an incredible view of the restaurant. They were inspired from the design of what a finished diamond would be before being set onto a jewellery and thus the elevated form. The pods not only give a sense of height to the area but also anchor the bar.
The strong connect to jewellery echoes across the lighting fixtures. All the chandeliers in the hotel have been designed by Miaja and custom-made for Sofitel Mumbai BKC. While the more intricately designed chandeliers are imported, many, like the ones in the lobby have been installed on-site by local workmen.
It isn’t all glass, though. Various materials have been used for wall finishes across the Sofitel Mumbai BKC to give it the brand’s Magnifique touch. Crema Nova Marble, Polished Black galaxy Granite, Nero latina black marble and designer wallpapers etc. have been used around the hotel.
Some materials have been sourced locally from local suppliers while other areas have walls that have been specially created to give it an Art Deco finish.
In terms of floor finishes, wood, marble and stone used in a variety of different ways keep the hotel areas distinct and separate from one another. Nero marquino black marble, Black Galaxy Granite flooring, Imperial black polished granite and Diamond beige marble all provoke and invigorate the sense of vibrancy across the hotel. Vibrantly coloured carpets at various restaurants ensure the perfect combination of warmth and vibrancy.
Leaving the hotel, one feels that all its14 storeys whisper class and elegance with a touch of edgy, sharp boldness and confidence. The use of angular glass, natural marble, intricate chandeliers, gold and diamonds, stately furnishings, and other bespoke design elements form a signature design style for the hotel.
By CLARK KELLY