There are a number of UAE-based Anantara properties, so what has Wilson Associates done to make this resort stand out from the others?
Dubai is a tourist destination with a lot of hotels, but Ras Al Khaimah is yet to be developed, so the approach is to have a hotel where people can come for vacation – not just visitors from abroad but also Dubai residents – and offer them something they cannot find in Dubai. That’s why we decided to create this resort with a Maldivian, overwater-villa approach. We know that exists already in Dubai but this will be closer to nature, more like an eco-resort. The site is fantastic with a beautiful mangrove; it’s truly inspiring and made it made it easy to create a special destination. There is also a pier on-site and everything has been built around it, even the overwater villas. There is a ring of sand around it, which becomes a sort of private beach, and it is linked to the Presidential Villa as an exclusive feature for VIP clients.
How did the surroundings inspire the design?
In the beginning we were following the direction of the landscape designer, and looked at the distinctive roots of the mangroves and the natural lines they create, which were very inspiring. We went really organic, which worked very well for the landscaping around the hotel, but was perhaps a step too much for interiors. So we said, what if we keep the natural approach, such as stones, wood, branches, rustic touches, and bring these inside in a sophisticated way – because this is still a five-star hotel, in the UAE, and people expect a certain level of luxury. It is now about how to respect nature and bring the rustic outside in while maintaining a luxury interior.
Did you take inspiration from the local culture as well?
Not at all. We explored that at first, but so many hotels have already done this – and done it well – that we thought we should do something where it feels like you are not in the Emirates anymore. That’s again taking the idea of giving people living here a destination that makes them feel like they got on a plane, so it was more inspired by the Thai culture and Maldivian resorts. Although, we are trying not to be too specific as it’s not in Thailand, but details and ornaments do follow the Thai culture.
What are the more interesting features we can expect to find?
The overwater villas are the most attractive part of the resort in my opinion, and if you look at the design, it looks very simple and feels like a home, but still has the ambiance of luxury – but of course there is a bit of flair here and there. Another great feature is the Thai restaurant, wherein the building is designed to be cantilevered over the water, and the landscape designer placed some rocks on the edge so that it looks like a boat on the edge of the coast, hanging atop the water. You have double-height ceilings and a 360-degree view of the water – it will be a very special place.
Given the marshy, mangrove setting, are you facing challenges with designing around that?
The mangroves are on one side of the property, so we don’t have to deal with them throughout the site. Around them we will place things like the tennis court and discovery centre.
What will guests find at the discovery centre?
It is a centre for eco-education, but for now the design is on hold because previously it was located overwater like the villas. It was then thought that people may want to come just to visit the discovery centre, separately from the resort. We’re now looking to create a completely separate path and change the location of the building so that schools or other groups can more easily visit. The building is being moved onto the shore, and is currently being redesigned.