Mondrian Doha, Qatar

Opened in September 2017, Mondrian Doha heralded the presence of the sbe’s first venture into the Middle East. Located in Qatar, one of the UAE’s most historic locales. Hotel Spec editor Can Faik speaks to the designer behind Mondrian Doha, Marcel Wanders, about his vision...

Upon entering the newly opened Mondrian Doha, you are met with an oversized gold leaf bell encasing a magnificent crystal chandelier hanging from the tall ceiling, perfectly contrasting the white walls and columns, not to mention the swirly-pattern tiled floor. You think you’ve seen the most spectacular room in the whole hotel, but this is only the beginning of a wonderful story that will unfold at every turn while walking through this contemporary, yet classic hotel.

Lifestyle hospitality group sbe has come out with all guns blazing for their first opening in the Middle East, and alongside designer Marcel Wanders and architects Southwest Architecture (SWA), they have not held back on the interiors of this 270-key one-of-a-kind hotel.

The five-star destination draws on local knowledge that exhibits innovative materials and techniques, where each space possesses its own identity. Walking through the different areas, a collection of stories forms, weaved together by Marcel Wanders’ bespoke designs, born from the idea of a truly holistic, sensual and memorable experience.

Mondrian Doha is definitively set to become an iconic building in Qatar’s up-and-coming capital city. From a modest fishing village, Doha has grown to become one of the Middle East’s most exciting cities for culture, art, travel and business, brimming with innovation and possibility. Competing on the same level as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Doha has had an unbelievable surge in hotel investment in the past five years. The interiors of Mondrian Doha both reflect and enhance this, with the hotel claimed to be the most multi-layered sensory experience and luxury hotel in the country. Mondrian is in many ways the symbol of Qatar’s tremendous growth and exciting future.

Marcel Wanders has drawn inspiration from traditional Middle Eastern folk tales and stories for his first hotel in the region. Influences also come from the beauty of local patterns, ornate Arabic writing and historic souks. Standout and memorable elements such as giant columns with golden eggs, flowers, falcon video art, giant shishas, patterned carpets, ornate stained glass and intricate mosaic tiling really makes the Mondrian Doha a work of art.

Internationally-renown Amsterdam-based designer Marcel Wanders, speaks to Can Faik about his experience while working on the Mondrian Doha...

Tell me about your role on the Mondrian Doha and what it was like working on the hotel.

Conceptually, we have married local culture with a modern design aesthetic. Designing interiors with locally inspired fabrics and materials, we’ve crafted the Mondrian Doha to be a contemporary classic. Bespoke designs span from the hotel’s lobby and restaurants to its royal penthouses, VIP units, bridal suites and premium and standard rooms. I wanted the space to feel grand, like you’re in a story – all the time. So, we have thoughtfully arranged the interior space to feature giant columns, golden eggs, falcon video art, ornate stained glass and intricate mosaic tiling. Our vision throughout is to inspire guests with feelings of nostalgia and thus, create a sense of place and connection to the surrounding region.
 
What was the inspiration behind the design concept of the Mondrian Doha?
My inspiration for this interior came from two different places. The first is One Thousand and One Nights, or Arabian Nights, the classic Middle Eastern volume that is compromised of many small tales proceeding from an original, larger tale. Some appear within other tales, while others have a complete beginning, middle and end. The culture of Qatar and its patterns, Arabic writing, historic souks and references to falcons all make their way into this hotel. Like the tales of the book, many themes are layered in the hotel. With each individual space telling its own tale, guests have many different experiences, and therefore, weave for themselves a collection of stories to share – making it the most personal luxury hotel experience one can have.
 
How many people did you work with on the design project?
On one hand, we send our team to the location to do research. They stay there for two weeks: they go to the museums, restaurants, talk to the locals and tourists, see what’s happening there, all of this to understand where are we going to be. We have to see what’s so great about that city, why people want to go there.

On the other hand, working with sbe and Sam Nazarian was a very positive experience. This is their first hotel in the Middle East and the vision they gave us was of a destination where guests never have to leave because all of their desires would be met. They were instrumental in helping us define how the city has grown immeasurably over the past few years, transforming itself from a modest fishing village into a global visionary capital. They worked alongside us to help design within this thriving artistic region, brimming with innovation and possibilities.

Building an hotel is a team effort with thousands of experts from all areas being involved.
 
How long did it take to bring this project from concept to completion?

If I recall correctly… it’s been seven years.
 
What was the highlight of the project for you?
The entrance of any place is very interesting because it determines how you feel upon and after entering. With it, you have to set the stage for a great experience. You want to give them a little part of a great life, you want to tell them: I’ll take care of you. I want people to step into a lobby and say “Oh my god, this is going to be amazing! I’m going to have such a great time here, this is so exciting! I have to show this my friends.” I want them to go “WOW”.

Were there any challenges? If so, what?
There are certain things we knew the hotel needed to have, such as restaurants, bridal suites, a multipurpose hall and a world-class spa. Our goal here, like it is with all of the interiors we design, was to create a sense of belonging for the guests in each area they visit. With bespoke designs, such as oversized gold leaf bell with a crystal chandelier that welcomes guests, and a surreal white forest characterised by giant white Trees of Life, we were able to bring the local culture into every part of the hotel and create a multi-layered sensory experience. This kept the hotel’s functionality from becoming an obstacle or restriction to the vision we set out to implement.
 
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
I think people are leaning toward simplifying their lives. They are looking to do more with less, and they are gravitating toward places that combine the spaces in which they live, work and play. I believe we have already seen a tremendous shift from ornate interiors to streamlined, intelligent spaces that incorporate innovation with efficient design aesthetics.

Moving forward, I am seeing a trend toward smarter design. I envision interiors that combine beauty with intelligence to make people’s lives simpler, more refined and innovative. We are already designing spaces that remove the barriers between personal spaces and entertainment space.
 
What would be your dream hotel project?
The most important thing we can do as designers is to create a meaningful connection between people and the work. In hotels, I take this one step further and look for ways to give people their own sense of place and to make them feel that they belong right there and no where else.

I think hotels are the perfect vehicle for celebrating the gathering of souls and ideas. So the goal for every area of the hotel, from the moment someone arrives until the time they leave, is to unlock all of the senses through the most holistic and memorable experience we can create.
 
What’s next for you?
The future is wide open. Our goal every year is to remain open to inspiration. It is the opportunity of what’s next that drives us most. I would love to do an opera for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I would like to design a big mosque. These are high on my passion list — not on my list of immediate things, but on my list of important things.

Mondrian Doha, Qatar