Cover Story

Checking in

March 2012
With demand and supply both increasing at a steady clip, Janaki Krishnamoorthi looks at the changing game of hospitality construction.

Atithi devo bhava is an Indian truism we are all too familiar with – the guest is god. For the Indian tourism industry, god truly lies in the details! And there’s no detail more important than that of the hotel room.

Global property consultancy Knight Frank India’s India Hotel Market Review, released in December 2010, predicts that the hospitality market in terms of number of rooms required per day will grow at a CAGR of 10.3 per cent from 2010 to 2013. The good news – especially for the construction industry – is that growth in supply, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15 per cent during the same time, will actually surpass demand.

New paradigms

According to the study, which covered the 10 key cities of National Capital Region (NCR), Mumbai, Bengaluru, Goa, Pune, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, a total of 24,211, 8,709 and 3,057 additional rooms are expected to become operational by 2013 across the upscale, midscale and economy categor­ies, respectively.

With a host of hotel projects underway from Indian and international hotel chains, all vying for the tourist pie with new concepts – like boutique hotels, ecotels, budget hotels and service apartments – architecture and design have assumed renewed significance. The need for unique aesthetics, creative utilisation of space, hi-tech facilities and amenities, higher standards of fire safety and security, use of innovative technology and materials, and eco-friendly measures, is changing the game of design and construction in the hospitality sector.

Phase 1

The first step in the development of any hospitality project is to identify the land. “The single biggest challenge we face is unavailability of land in areas where we wish to expand,” maintains Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC Ltd. “While identifying sites, key factors to keep in mind include permitted land use, zoning, permissible development, shape and size of land, frontage, depth, height, accessibility, applicable norms, and proximity to business districts, high-end residential locations and other important places in the city like airports, as well as adjoining projects and infrastructure development.”

By nature, hospitality projects are cost-intensive, a situation exacerbated by rising land costs. Indeed, for mid-level or budget hotels, land cost is often the deciding factor. “The challenges in developing a hotel in India include very high cost of land, which is as much as 40 per cent of the total project cost,” affirms Ajay Bakaya, Executive Director, Sarovar Hotels Pvt Ltd.

"Owners find it difficult to build upscale hotels in preference to mid-level hotels. Usually it takes a long time in getting approvals and licensing. Costs have also gone up over 50 per cent owing to increase in cement, steel, machinery and price of labour.” According to him, the cost of developing a 100-room hotel, excluding land, would be Rs 33 lakh per room for an economy hotel; Rs 40 lakh per room for a 3-4 star category hotel; and Rs 60 lakh per room for an upscale hotel.

The lengthy and cumbersome process of obtaining permits and construction delays serve to increase costs even more, believes Ambuj Jain, President, Lavasa Corporation (LC), which is a Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) group company developing Lavasa City in Maharashtra. “Some key challenges we face include permissions, approvals and licenses necessary to build and operate. In other words, the paper hurdles. If the agencies concerned could complete their processes in a timely manner, the start-to-completion time would be reduced on an average by at least 40 per cent.” A critical point, as timely construction is essential to ensure an early return on investments. The average construction period for hotels varies from two to four years; the longest for the luxury segment and shortest for budget hotels.

Design dimensions

Once the initial hurdles are out of the way, it’s time to consider another aspect intrinsic to the success of a hospitality structure: design. Innovation, enhanced guest experience and international standards coupled with local flavour are some essential ingredients for a successful recipe. However, some industry professionals believe that when it comes to design, many projects tend to blindly replicate western architecture.

“Contextually, the design of hotels in India is very different from hotel design in the West, or for that matter in the Far East,” points out Jain. “While following brand guidelines, developers do not necessarily take into account the cultural and habitual requirement of a particular region; owing to this, there may be inconsistencies in requirement and solution. This often leads to skewed usage of spaces. It is necessary that the experience be a mix of cultural values and climate-related design principles that have been adopted for ages, rather than aping hotels from other climatic zones.”

Further, the segregation of hotels based on business, tourism and recreation use and the subdivision of segments within each category have led to a specific product requirement dictated by branding and marketing, avers Shimul Javeri Kadri, Principal Architect, SJK Architects (SJKA). “The westernisation is more in the context of business hotels,” she elaborates. “However, the tourism sector provides unique opportunities to explore local vocabularies in architecture and express them in hotels and resorts that encourage cultural contexts as a priority in the visitor experience. This sector has always been the pioneer in creating contextual architecture.” SJKA has developed several hospitality structures in this sector and three more – mid-level hotels in Tirupati, Bodhgaya and Rishikesh – are in the pipeline.

Apart from local milieu, site location and climatic conditions also play a key role in design. For instance, LC, which is developing Hotel Novotel in Lavasa, has used the sloped layout of the site to its advantage by offsetting spaces vertically to reduce the cutting of hill slopes and staggered the guest rooms in various blocks, lending it a resort-like quality with an aptly designed landscape.

“Site location and orientation with respect to the sun, wind direction, surrounding structures and regional context play an important role in our layout design of hotels, ” explains Sanjay Puri, Principal Architect & Director, Sanjay Puri Architects (SPA). “We orient rooms and main spaces towards the south because there is more heat gain on this side in India. Again, when you create garden space for a banquet or coffee shop to spill out on, the garden must be on the northern side and not the southern. If you have good wind and if you are able to open out in the southwest direction in places like Mumbai or Goa, you need not air-condition the corridor spaces. Bringing in regionalism, the local culture is also vital. For instance, while designing a hotel in Lucknow, which is very famous for its chikan work, we incorporated floral patterns of chikan work in the interior design.” SPA is currently handling 20 hospitality projects, 10 of which are under construction and 10 close to commencement. These include luxury hotels in Chennai, Lucknow and Indore; midlevel hotels in Kolkata, Raipur, Mumbai, Delhi, Lonavala and Pune; and some budget hotels in Kochi, Pune, Aurangabad and Bilaspur.

While design elements distinguish one hotel from another, giving each a distinct identity, the availability and allocation of space play a vital role in hospitality buildings. In fact, the basic difference in designing luxury, mid-level and budget hotels lies in the sizing of rooms and public spaces. “In hospitality buildings, especially hotel projects, there is a set norm of percentile ratios of space availability, space to be constructed and revenue generating spaces,” reiterates Jain. “In a hotel project, the areas for backend services and housekeeping take up a large portion. This portion is not a wasteful space allocation but required for creating a good working environment that further translates into a delightful experience for the customer. The number of keys to public areas varies in proportion from 50:50 in case of a 5 star hotel to a proportion of 80:20 in a budget hotel. As the budgeting of the hotel is done with respect to the number of keys, this is an aspect which affects the overall project.”

Construction challenges

Once the design is worked out, civil and structural consultants have to apply themselves to incorporating the necessary
facilities, amenities and utilities. “Now, a large number of utilities and service lines have to be accommodated in the same service spaces in a compact manner,” says Narendra Ajugia, Managing Director, Shirish Patel & Associates Consultants Pvt Ltd (SPACPL). “This has reduced the spaces available for structural elements as volume of space has remained same or shrunk owing to cost considerations. Hence, understanding and integrating various utilities at the time of finalising structural framing and retaining flexibility for accommodating new services in the future have become major challenges.” SPACPL has been a structural consultant for prestigious projects including Taj Coromandel, Chennai; ICC-Marriott, Pune; Fort Aguada Beach Resort, Goa; Lake Palace, Udaipur; Rambaug Palace, Jaipur; Taj Malabar, Kochi; Taj Palace Hotel and Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi; and The Oberoi, Bengaluru. Now, it has two ongoing hotel projects; one each in the luxury and budget segment.

In many hotels, the lobby, coffee shops, banquet halls and other areas of circulation involving large spaces are accommodated at lower levels, with guest rooms located at upper floors. This kind of arrangement requires complex structural systems, according to Ajugia. “Typically, hotel rooms have always been floated over larger common facilities located at lower levels,” he says. “As rooms occupying smaller floor areas have to be placed over facilities lower down occupying larger spaces, they require complex structural systems. Now, with increased and multifaceted facilities, it has become more challenging. Column arrangements have to be different. As upper elements will not go right down to the ground level, many upper elements have to be floated, all of which give rise to complex framing, pushing up the structural cost. This is something that isn’t often appreciated as they all become invisible once the hotel is complete.”

Constructing large hotels over a period of three to four years amid crowded cities is another challenge where the safety of neighbouring structures, moving pedestrians and vehicular traffic has to be ensured. “Safety and security are always a concern in busy urban areas, especially when you have to dig deep to create two levels of basement parking and have an old neighbouring building that may require stabilisation in terms of retaining walls, etc,” says Jain. Ajugia seconds this, saying, “New construction on existing adjoining buildings has to be engineered diligently. While excavation is in progress, we go for diaphragm walls to avoid damaging columns of adjoining property. Precautions are also taken while bringing materials and stacking them at site.” Most areas lack sufficient space for storing materials and they are often brought in on a daily basis. This generally has to be done at night, conforming to noise level norms, as there are traffic restrictions for heavy vehicles entering the city in certain areas during the day.

Technology trail

In keeping with the current trend, the hospitality segment too has opened up to new and innovative construction technologies and methods – from Mivan shuttering, premix concrete and pre-stress slabs to prefabs, dry panel walls and aluminium composite panels – that contribute to quality and speedy completion. “We now use pre-stress slabs, modular and aluminium flying forms, dry panel walls with sound insulations for internal partitions, even in wet areas, to avoid masonry and plastering that requires wet working,” reports Ajugia. “They are also used to avoid cutting and chasing masonry walls for concealed plumbing and electrical piping, under slung plumbing in the bath area to avoid sunken floors. Post-tensioned flat slabs have made an entry into hotel projects, reducing the time cycle for each floor because of large spans, simple formwork and early decentering.”

Saint-Gobain Gyproc, a pioneer of the concept of drywalls in interior construction in India, says its products are widely used in hospitality projects. “In a sector like hospitality, the speed of construction that drywalls can offer has been a boon,” says Hemant Khurana, Vice-President - Marketing & Sales, Saint-Gobain Gyproc India (SGGI). “Drywalls are also superior in performance on passive fire protection, acoustic insulation and finishing compared to traditional masonry-based construction.” The company has also introduced acoustic ceilings and wall panels considered ideal for guestrooms and is also bringing in products like access panels and metal ceilings for back-of-home areas to maximise the efficiency of services and ease maintenance for hotels. “The major benefit is construction becoming superior in terms of acoustic performance, passive fire protection and convenience,” adds Khurana. “In addition, technologies like drywalls are lightweight, reducing structural costs. Drywalls and modular ceilings are easy to install and maintain, and thereby cost-effective in terms of labour and regular maintenance.”

However, in Jain’s view, the use of such new methods is still limited. “The majority of hotels still adopt time-tested RCC with brick or block infill,” he maintains. “Interior and partition walls are frequently filled with metal studs and dry wall with soundproof batting. This saves time as no curing time is required for cement and it is also easier for all the in-wall MEP (mechanical electrical plumbing) installation.”

Material makeover

While exteriors still largely continue to feature RCC and brickwork, glass, aluminium composite panels and stone-clad elevations are also being used in various combinations, especially as they are less labour-oriented, help reduce construction time, and require minimal maintenance.

Glass, of course, has an aesthetic edge and its potential is now being explored, as Chirag Chheda, Area Sales Manager-West Zone, HNG Float Glass Ltd (HNG), tells us. “Technology has strengthened glass and it can be used for staircases, floor and ceilings,” he points out. “The budget and location of the hotel influence the use of glass. Today, glass is used extensively not simply because it looks trendier and offers a greater scope for creativity, but because of environmental benefits owing to its capacity to capture natural heat and light. This, in turn, reduces the carbon output generated by heat and electrical power.

Sound insulation is another major advantage.” Adding that glass facades are largely used by luxury hotels, he pegs the price range of such glass at between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000 per sq m. HNG offers a wide range of products from clear toughened, lacquered, frosted and tinted glass to ceramic fitted, insulated, reflective and low-E glass.

Some developers are also experimenting with innovative usage of materials. Take the case of Hotel Novotel in Lavasa. “As a concept, it was decided that the materials chosen should not seem new but should age as the project ages,” reveals Jain. “One such idea was the use of copper roofing to lend an interesting aesthetic value while providing for a detailing that increases roof thickness. This increases insulation and reduces heat gain into spaces. To achieve the ageing concept, it was decided that the copper roof should be used without any treatment. As the building ages, the oxidation process turns the copper into patina and faded hues, thus making the project look different at every stage.”

Maximum innovation in the use of materials, however, is witnessed in interiors, which again vary within various hospitality sectors. “The type of materials used in construction in the hospitality industry usually stems from the kind of space being developed as every area has different demands and design considerations,” asserts Khurana. “A guestroom in a hotel must offer the maximum degree of comfort in terms of aesthetics and acoustics and so the materials selected will have a rich feel and finish, and help maintain quiet and peace. On the other hand, a convention centre or banquet hall must offer a feeling of space, acoustic comfort and protection against fire. If the space is an auditorium or stadium, the needs change again; the structure must be impact-resistant and offer physical and fire safety.”

Materials also vary among hotels. “Budget hotels go through more wear and tear and have lower housekeeping budgets, so the material specification is hardy, cheap and difficult,” says Kadri. “The premium segment has more available choices as the higher-end residential market is more advanced in India than the lower-end market. Mid-level is a constant balancing exercise; using money wisely on some high-value materials and keeping the rest in check.” She adds that material usage varies tremendously between business, recreation and tourism hotels, with the last focusing more on local materials like stone from the area and local weaves, crafts and artefacts.

Going green

With increasing tourism adding strain on the environment, eco-design concepts will play an increasingly central role in the hospitality sector with the introduction of eco-friendly materials in the construction and interiors, and adoption of sustainable practices like rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling and solar energy generation.

Elaborating on eco-friendly methods and materials that could be used in the hospitality sector, Mukul Gupta, Managing Director, Eco Earth Solutions (EES), says, “Hotels can aesthetically use natural contours and elevation for creative landscaping that would be eco-friendly. Manmade rocks from recycled material can enhance the outdoor beauty instead of using mined rocks and stocks. Water recycling and harvesting and using such recycled water for fountains and other water bodies can be made possible through efficient water treatment systems. Hygiene is also a vital factor in the hospitality sector, especially for food areas, washrooms, etc. Wall cladding, floors, countertops, serving bays and tabletops should all be made of a non-porous surface and should not be painted as these can leach or emit toxic substances.”

For instance, Nestle and McDonalds at Intercontinental Hotel, Delhi, used EES materials for hygienic reasons. The kitchen areas and floors made out of conventional porous material were lined by a special polymer-based seamless floor to prevent breeding of microorganisms. This lining also prevented the floor from eroding and becoming powdery, and made it corrosion-resistant to the various reactive components of meat by-products. Set up by Chemtreat Group, an engineering, consultancy and manufacturing company, EES focuses on producing eco-friendly construction materials. It has a wide range of products for the hospitality sector, including Celeste (an alternative for granite and marble ), Woody Lenosa (wood plastic composite), Ecocrete HP Grout and PlumaPlank (an engineered thermoplastic board). Gupta adds that while health resorts and spas in India have started moving towards eco-friendly concepts, other categories are yet to catch up.

Conventional eco-friendly materials comprise flyash bricks, ferrocement PVC pipes, precast slabs requiring less energy during construction, aerated concrete blocks, aluminium steel, particle board and gypsum boards. For interiors, of course, you have a range of products, from CFL lamps and dual flush cisterns to a var-iety of energy-saving devices. Recycled wood is also used considerably in the premium and resort segments. “Wood is taken out of old buildings and reused,” explains Kadri. “It definitely reduces the cost. While old Burma teak would cost Rs 2,400 per cu ft, new teak would cost about Rs 4,000. We used only recycled wood in one of our Ayurvedic health resorts in Mumbai.”

Meanwhile, Puri believes that though many people in the hospitality sector are open to the idea of going green, they still need some convincing. “Eco-friendly concepts like water harvesting and recycling will naturally cost more but will pay back in the long run,” he comments. “Hence, players in the hospitality sector, being owners of the property, will be more open to the idea as against developers of residential or commercial structures. Costs vary from project to project but it will hardly be 5 per cent of the overall project cost.”

Suitably equipped

The equipment used in the construction of hospitality structures has also undergone tremendous change. Hi-tech tower cranes, hydraulic mobile cranes, backhoe loaders, compactors, excavators and telehandlers are on par for the course at any construction site, and hospitality projects are no exception.

“There is no specific equipment for the hospitality sector as such,” says Amit Gossain, Vice President–Marketing & Business Development, JCB India Ltd. “The equipment used is similar to that used in construction of other structures. However, the choice of equipment depends on the size of the structure to be constructed and the amount of excavation and compaction thereafter. Other factors that clients look at while selecting equipment are service support from the manufacturer, performance of the equipment, the number of outlets across the country and, of course, brand image.” JCB India has recently introduced a new version of its compaction equipment, Tandem Roller VMT 860, and several additional attachments, increasing its versatility.

Seconding the fact that the equipment used is common for all construction, Rajesh Sharma, Vice President & Head–Sales and Marketing, Escorts Construction Equipment Ltd, adds, “Our aerial work platforms used for maintenance of buildings are used more by hotels though.” Escorts is a market leader in hydraulic mobile cranes and telehandlers.

While both Sharma and Gossain agree that the hospitality sector is booming, they differ on their view of its impact on the equipment industry. “Compared to the total real-estate development, its role is miniscule,” maintains Sharma. “We cannot say that hospitality sector will drive or affect the growth of the equipment industry. The largest growth driver for equipment is infrastructure.” On the other hand, Gossain says, “There is no formal study done on usage and demand of construction equipment in the hospitality sector. However, as mechanisation is increasing and the hospitality sector is growing, we can assume that demand for equipment has increased in the past few years. The demand is quite well spread in this segment as hospitality projects are now coming up in tier-II and tier-III cities as well.”

Pan India

Indeed, that’s the most exciting part of the hospitality boom – the pan-India nature of it all. Developments are mushrooming across the country and in all segments. About a decade ago, there were just a handful of national players in the sector and the markets were largely confined to the four metros and a few other cities. However, in the past decade, the scenario has changed drastically owing to the changing perception of India as a lucrative opportunity, leading to the entry of several international hotel chains, a widening consumer base with the growth of the Indian middle class, and the emergence of the branded budget and economy segment. The resulting rapid development and soaring land costs in the metros led to a shift to other major cities, which were also growing apace, opening up new avenues for the hospitality sector.

“Till 1990s, the industry only offered high-end hotels owned by well-established groups like the ITC, Oberoi and Taj,” says Bakaya. “In 2000, new players entered the scenario with a focus on wallet-friendly, mid-market-segment hotels. Sarovar was among the first hotel management companies to spot this trend. We launched two brands, Sarovar Portico and Hometel in 2006 specifically to focus on developing mid-market and economy hotels.” Today, Sarovar manages 26 Sarovar Portico hotels and seven Hometel hotels in the country. What’s more, around 30 hotels under development in various cities, including Chennai, Delhi, Sholapur, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Thekkady, Tirupati and Rishikesh, are expected to be launched in the next
five years.

For its part, LC has around 15 hospitality projects scheduled to be developed over the next 10 years in Lavasa in diverse categories, ranging from budget to luxury. Four hotels – Fortune Select Dasve, Mercure Lavasa, Ekaant, The Retreat and The Waterfront Shaw Apartment Hotel – are already operational.

The major league is also pulling out all the stops. Just look at ITC Ltd, which has 40 hotels under various stages of development. “The growth trajectory will be across our four brands with close to 5,000 rooms in the next five to seven years,” says Anand. “There are as many as 40 hotels under various stages of development that will be either owned or managed by us under one of the four brands. In the premium luxury segment, we have three to four hotels under construction and another six to seven on the drawing board. There are close to 28 Fortune hotels in the pipeline and five Welcom heritage properties. In the years to come, we will have a portfolio of about 150 hotels. The focus will be to expand in the super-premium luxury segment.” In the immediate future, ITC luxury hotels planned include a 600-room integrated hotel complex, the ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, a 400-room hotel adjacent to ITC Sonar in Kolkata, a luxury resort at the ITC classic golf resort in Manesar and an ITC hotel close to Mahabalipuram.

Evidently, no one’s checking out of this business in a hurry, not when the going is so good. Care for some room service anyone?

International Convention Centre, Lavasa

Completion: 2010
Owner: Lavasa Corporation Ltd
Architect: Hafeez Contractor
Contractor: BG Shirke Construction Technology Pvt Ltd, Pune
Innovation: Energy-efficient design

Features:
Cavity walls and double walls have been employed on the western face and dry stone cladding used to reduce thermal gain and corresponding load on the AC. A horizontal shading device prevents direct sunlight from reaching pre-functional spaces. Low-E value glass along the pro­menade reduces head load on the AC. Metal insulated roof over convention spaces reduces heat gain owing to solar radiation from roof. There is a co­mmon fire tank for the convention, five-star hotel and entertainment centre and serviced apartments. Automatic doors with air curtain mounted on stiles reduce leakage of cooled interiors. Similar to the Davos model, various activities are decentralised. The design encourages interaction and flexibility of use with amenities facilitating quicker turnaround time between events with potential to plug in high-end technology such as video walls.

Executive Lounge,Mumbai

Completion: 2008
Owner: HPLTD
Architect: SJK Architects
Structural consultant: Rashmin Dahisaria
Structural repairs: Reliable Constructions
Civil and carpentry contractor: Hari Om Interiors    
Innovation: Design and materials

Features:
This lounge has been designed as an executive dining space in the heritage precinct of Mumbai's Fort area. The endeavour was to create a tastefully opulent space that draws from several different Indian crafts and traditions. The space provided the inherent classicism of tall arches and cast iron columns, all of which were discovered and restored. However, each element introduced has been custom-designed and finally incorporates craft, sometimes in a more contemporary avatar, such as the buffed brass tabletops with leaf cut-outs, and the silver-leafed walls. The Banaras fabrics, Gujarat painted motifs and Tanjore paintings provide the more crafted Indian idiom, whereas the fibre optic lighting and contemporary chandeliers ex­em­plify the constant dialectic between the old and the new.

Chrome Hotel, Kolkata

Completion: January 2009
Client: Chocolate Hotels Pvt Ltd
Architect: Sanjay Puri Architects
Innovation: Design and construction

Features:
Facing a busy arterial road and surrounded by buildings, this small plot for a business hotel had a height limitation of 24 m. As there was nothing to look out to at lower levels, the entire volume comprising the public spaces and vertical circulation is punctuated by small, 45-cm diameter circular openings with frit glass. These openings allow natural light at daytime simultaneously obscuring the exterior view. Each opening lit by LEDs changes colour, glowing in different hues as the night progresses. The room levels are identified by a rectilinear white block punctuated by varying widths of vertical slit windows that cantilever out over the level of the flyover, forming a wedge at the front corner that houses a suite at each level creating a distinct identity despite the small size.

You enter the hotel through a 24'-high lobby with a wall of varied rectilinear composition of wood and glass that curves into the ceiling, slowly fragmenting into individual suspended glass cuboids, creating a sculptural effect. The small lobby space is perceived with openness by virtue of its volume and its extension into an open coffee shop that is segregated by low pink glass partitions. Suspended within this lobby volume, a wood-wrapped corridor acts as an open bar overlooking the lobby while leading into a restaurant at the upper level. Angled trapezoidal planes, punctuated with varied compositions, fold down from the ceiling to create two private dining areas within the restaurant space and fragment the volume into smaller spaces with more privacy. Four levels of rooms house the 63 rooms with the suites cantilevered out at the front corner of the building with floor-to-ceiling glass, each one designed differently. The rear corner has themed rooms that include a sports room, a quirky music room, a love room and a wellness room.

The typical rooms are created with a graphic composition that differs so that no two rooms in this boutique hotel are identical. The rooms are smaller owing to the constraints of the site but are perceived with openness achieved by the continuity of design elements and the glass-cornered toilets within them. The corridors too have panels that visually connect doors to rooms diagonally interspersed with large graphical panels deviating from the staid repetitive corridors that most hotels incorporate. The topmost floor houses a lounge bar with an open terrace along its length. The bar being small in area is designed in a fluid manner that allows it to be perceived as a larger space while being rendered in a sculptural way. Undulating curved ribbon-shaped panels are suspended from the ceiling with reflected colour change lighting between them across the length of the bar. The walls and the bar counter are merged fluidly with curvilinear panels of varying widths and projections. Complete white rendering of all design elements allow the bar to be completely transformed by colour change lights at intervals, creating different moods.

Despite its restricted surroundings, and height, the building creates a strong presence within the area using every space within to advantage in a clearly functional manner; creating the illusion of being a much larger series of spaces internally. Awards won include the Cityscape Awards, Dubai (2011), Hospitality Design Awards New York for Best Mid Range Hotel Worldwide (2011), Asia Commercial Property Awards, Hong Kong for Best Leisure & Hospitality Project in Asia Pacific Region (2010), finalist in hospitality category in the World Architecture Festival Barcelona Spain (2009), and the IIID MK Award for the Most Accomplished Interior Design Practice (2009).

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