Someone who needs no straw in the Maldives is the legendary whale shark. It cruises the ocean with it’s up to 5 foot wide mouth completely open actively sucking in seawater which it runs across filter pads on its gills which sift out plankton, fish eggs, baby shrimp, etc.
At St. Regis Vommuli, you can get sucked into the mouth of the aquatic beast to quaff your own liquid nourishment at their award winning “Whale Bar”…
- “A tropical bar in the Maldives designed to make guests feel like they’re in the mouth of a giant whale emerged the big winner at international design awards held in London. The Whale Bar, St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, dreamed up by the Singapore and London-based design group WOW Architects l Warner Wong Design, beat out luxury hotels, residences, and restaurants around the world to be declared the most beautifully designed space at the SBID International Design Awards 2017. From the outside, the bar’s distinctive shape recalls the carcass of a giant whale shark. Inside, guests sip on cocktails against light-oak interiors, a soft neutral palette and Maldivian art.”
The whole concept reminded me of a tradition I read about when I first visited the Maldives for coming-of-age young men. Boys, often no more than 13 years old, would jump off a boat with a rope in hand, free dive into the water where a whale shark was swimming, SWIM INTO THE WHALE SHARKS MOUTH, and then OUT ITS GILLS, hence lassoing the fish. Young boys were the just small enough to pull off this crazy feat. I would certainly consider someone to have proven their “manhood” if they did such a thing. Not surprisingly, the government prohibited this practice years ago because too many young lads were drowning in the effort.
I would much rather toast my arrival at manhood at the Whale Bar, methinks.
(With this post, I’ve added the new topic tag of “Design”.)
Great covers aren’t limited to pop songs and fashion mags in the Maldives. Their thatched roofs are a world recognized icon of tropical paradise. But a few resorts have opted for more creative designs with different aesthetic than the ubiquitous thatch. One of the most original in all the Maldives is Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa’s tented villa roofs. It’s actually not just the roof, but the ceiling as well (see photo above). It gives the villas a light and airy feel to them. And the interiors are very stylishly decorated.
Lori is amazed at how many details I can remember from the dozens of resorts we have stayed at, but I must admit that sometimes they do blur a bit in my mind as so many follow such a similar villa look and feel. Hakuraa Huraa is one that is distinctively memorable though.
Maldivians are not just working in the resorts, they are building and designing them. One of the pioneers leading the way in envisioning spaces with the same aesthetic beauty that the destination has become renowned for is Mohammed Shafeeq. Part of the local Maldivian GX Associates architecture firm which have designed many top properties in the Maldives, he was introduced to us by the Kandolhu resort who were particularly proud of the award-winning work that he did in the redesign of their resort a number of years ago. I caught up with Shafeeq to learn a bit more about his background and perspectives…
- Where are you from in the Maldives
I am from Male’ and also brought up in Male.
- Where did you study?
- I studied in Maldives (in Male’) completed my A Levels and then went onto university in the UK at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to study architecture.
- What was the first thing you designed?
The first thing I designed was a small island in the North of Male’ Atoll which was basically a concept sketch on art paper which was developed to be a small resort by the owners.
- Which other resorts did you design?
Some of the resorts we designed include Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Kihavah Villas, Anantara Veli, Baros, Coco Palm Boduhithi, Coco Palm Dhunikolhu, Constance Halaveli Resort, Four Seasons Resort, Fridays Resort, Hilton Irufushi, Huvafenfushi, Kurumba, LUX Maldives, Maafushivaru, Mudhdhoo and some of the more recent ones are the Thundi in Kuramathi and Milaidhoo.
- How has your approach changed as you do different properties?
The approach always follow the trends in fashion, lifestyle and technology and the tastes of the travelers and I always try to stay ahead by reviewing other competing developments in the region.
- Have you designed any non-resort properties in the Maldives?
Yes, I did much residential and civic work before specialising in hospitality design and they include private residences, apartment blocks, law courts, hospitals, schools and prisons even.
- What is something they didn’t you in design school that you had to learn the hard way through experience?
What I learned through experience is the delicacy and expertise required when you model the built environment to appease the senses of the users to make them feel totally comfortable and create an ambience that is akin to a home with a magical touch.
- Which designer has had the greatest influence on you?
- Frank Lloyd Wright.
- If you were given a blank cheque and a completely free reign to design the resort of your dreams, what sorts of design element would it feature?
- It would feature a back to basics, barefoot and eco friendly nature resort with an extremely luxurious ambiance where natural and built environment will have no boundaries.
- What are some of the constraints or considerations to designing for a remote location in a tropical environment?
The constraints are mostly to do with the size of the island and the requirement of the client to have a set number of villas and spaces on that island but to afford the best views and settings for each and every public building and guest villa.
- Are there any projects you are working on that you can share with us?
Right now we are working on two projects in Baa Atoll, One in Raa Atoll, One in Noonu Atoll and Two in Male’ Atoll.
World Design Day today. Increasingly, Maldives resorts are looking to stylish design to distinguish their properties so there is vibrant portfolio of creativity found across the destination.
Today’s feature evoked my recent trip to the famous Design Museum in Denmark. One of their most famous exports exhibited is the Danish chair. A further geo-personal connection living as we do near High Wycombe, home of the Wycombe Wanderers, known affectionately as the Chairboys (we can see their training ground from our house).
The exhibit featured a wide array of quirky and inventive styles, but one that caught my eye was Gehry’s cardboard creations (see photo at bottom)…
- “The architect and designer Frank Gehry has been working with cheap and everyday y materials in new and untraditional ways on a small and large scale. In 1987, he created the very sculptural cardboard chair while working as an architect on a cardboard model. He wanted to experiment with the material and discovered that it was possible to transform huge piles of cardboard into sculptures. Little by little it turned into a chair and became one of the icons of the 20th century. And then it is sustainable.”
And you can find such museum quality pieces at in the Maldives as well. Huvafenfushi’s CUBE villa comes with its own similarly inspired chair with a name as fun as its sinuous shape – “The Vitra Wiggle”. It is accompanied by a set of cleverly nested tables as well.
Turtles all the way down…
Turtles aren’t just some namesake mascot for Velaa (“Velaa” means turtle in Maldivian). They are more like its spirit animal that imbues the property from top to bottom. And everywhere in between.
From top, the entire layout of the resort is designed to look turtle shaped from an aerial view. The water villas have been arranged in an almond shape to resemble a turtle head, and 4 jetties surround the circular island to complete the chelonian outline. From below, Velaa is itself a turtle nesting ground (as we so fortunately witnessed when we visited).
But the today’s “Best Of” distinction is more about the in between bit where the essence of the turtle is stylishly reflected in every nook and cranny of the property. The most distinctive design element is its simple, chic logo motif which pervades the resort. A football-like mesh pattern of hexagons and pentagon evoking the characteristic patterns on a terrapin shell. I’ve included just a few snaps I took of the restaurant, the Tower bar, the spa. And at bottom is their cappuccino decorated with cocoa in the same distinctive pattern (thanks Belinda).
Magic coconuts in the Maldives news this week: “Police summon white magic practitioner to investigate possible cursed coconut” meant to influence yesterday’s long awaited elections. Everything seemed to go smoothly and peacefully which hopefully paves the way for the people’s voice to settle all of the political controversy of the past year and a half.
For some real coconut magic, though, Kandooma architecture is nuciferally inspired reassembling coconut husks.
These dramatic structures aren’t the only soaring design features of the resort which takes extensive advantage of vertical space with not just these massive vaulted ceilings (see photo below), but also tented canopies, a dramatic reception area and a unique tower even.
If your kids want to immerse themselves in an imaginary world of a less virtual type, then Soneva Fushi’s kids club is as out of this world as any level of Tron. Sort of like what Tim Burton would design for kids if he was stranded on a tropical island. Other creative offerings include yoga for kids (kids sitting quietly and contemplately…that is a magical fantasy world!).
The spa ‘vista’ doesn’t have to be the glorious Maldivian seaside when you have such dazzling design for the spa itself. Six Senses Laamu’s spa stands out not only in the Maldives, but worldwide having recently been nominated for ‘Spa Design of the Year’. Its look is inspired by nature resembling a woven bird’s nest.