The Four Seasons, Kuwait

May 8, 2018

The Four Seasons Kuwait is a game-changer in the hotel operator’s portfolio thanks to sleek design from Yabu Pushelberg. Working with lighting consultants VISO, statement pieces adds to the hotel’s immersive and memorable experience, as Helen Ankers discovers.

The Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait has been designed with sleek, avant-garde luxury and is the stylish new centrepiece of Kuwait City. Part of Burj Alshaya, a glittering new two-tower complex that is close to many business and leisure amenities, it is a focal point for the city’s elite social scene. With interior design from Yabu Pushelberg, this property is a game-change in the Four Seasons portfolio and has upped the ante in design terms, making the hotel experience completely immersive and perhaps most importantly, extremely memorable. “This particular hotel was designed with a guest in mind who is refined, well-travelled and culturally informed,” George Yabu of Yabu Pushelberg tells darc. “There is a distinct connection to ‛place’ within the design vocabulary of the hotel, and even though the context is from within the Middle East, visitors are transported beyond the boundaries of Kuwait.”

One of the first pieces of striking lighting guests encounter as they enter the hotel lobby is a Lasvit crystal installation. The largest crystal the Czech company has ever produced, the installation represents Yabu Pushelberg’s interpretation of what guests would normally expect to find in the lobby of a grand hotel, except more modern and utterly unique. “Our client initially asked us to make a grand statement in the hotel’s lobby and asked us for an oversized crystal chandelier,” explains Yabu. “We pared back this notion and designed the world’s largest crystal. We believe the impact is stronger and clearer, but just as special. The crystal’s multifaceted asymmetry is extremely compelling and reflects light and its surroundings in a beautiful way. 

“The dramatic triple-height space in the lobby required something monumental, something elegant and bold that would leave a lasting impression. Soaring ceilings enhance the sculpture quality of the architecture, which is punctuated by the iconic suspended crystal sculptural installation.” The installation contributes to the overall welcome and residential quality of the hotel. Layered throughout, are subtle references to Middle Eastern art and architecture, detailed and re-interpreted in a modern way. Materials, a sense of texture, patterning and colours in particular, are all informed by the intensity of the desert and the local climate, playing with the contrast between daytime heat and cool nights.

In the guest rooms, the design is explicitly chic with every comfort carefully considered. Upon entry, guests follow a short millwork-lined corridor as the room unfolds beyond. Neutral furnishings are complimented by moments of bold colour, while curvilinear furnishings soften sculptural framed elements. Up-lit indigo glass, decorated with a dissolving motif, frames the area behind the bed and on the opposite wall, while burnt orange lacquer defines the entry niche, pantry and stationary wall. Patterning on sliding glass doors, leading to the generous bathrooms, mimic the glass panels behind the bed. Wrapped entirely in stone, with small mosaic tiles on the curved wall behind a freestanding tub, slabs of the same stone feature on the walls, floors and vanity top. The vanity has been designed as a furniture piece and includes the same bronze accents as the custom furniture in the guest room. Layered, framed mirrors with integrated lighting complete the bespoke look. 

“Good lighting is integral to what we do,” says Yabu. “It always sets the mood and tone of a space. We try to work with the best in every aspect of our design and this includes bringing in the best lighting consultants to each project.” With this in mind, Yabu Pushelberg chose to work with VISO on the design-engineering and fabrication of the bespoke decorative lighting elements throughout the rest of the hotel. The task was to create luxurious, unique, yet timeless designs to support the interior elements and bring the story of the Four Seasons Kuwait alive. Utilising elements such as brass, glass and resin, VISO created stunning fixtures for the hotel, including the custom brass chandelier that hangs in the lobby lounge. Collaborating closely with the team at Yabu Pushelberg, they developed a design that balanced the aesthetic with the scale, while still communicating the story set forth in the brief.

One of the key decorative lighting considerations Yabu Pushelberg wanted to focus on was the communication of organic elements within the designs, as VISO’s Tzetzy Naydenova explains: “While guests are indoors, the designers wanted them to enjoy a sense of calm and serenity that nature provides. They provided us with their ideas and inspirations in the form of sketches and images of the lighting in order to inspire our team and create the fixtures they envisioned. While some of the sketches were very specific and included measurements and material requirements, others only indicated the inspiration and design intent. This was all we needed to get started… We knew that Four Seasons and Yabu Pushelberg stood for the best of the best and our task was to create just that. “Once the fixtures were determined, the next task was to install them in a way that didn’t interfere with other elements in the space. A lot of balancing and calculations were involved, along with some sleepless nights! But we think the final result could not have been any better.”

VISO’s work can be found in the hotel’s restaurants, business lounge, ballrooms, meeting rooms, pool area, hallways and common areas. As well as the brass chandelier in the lobby, bespoke fixtures include custom ceiling installations on the ground floor and first floor; rectangular pendant clusters in the meeting rooms; four large dome pendants in the first floor lounge, a custom steel pendant lamp in the fourth floor dining area; a dandelion suspension lamp on the ground floor; geometric pendants in Elements restaurant; and glass and metal pendants in the pool and spa area. “The pool features dozens of glowing lanterns hanging above the pool itself,” says Yabu. “This is flanked by archways and alcoves, which create semi-private, intimate lounging areas for guests, all enveloped in a palette of deep indigo stone with dramatic veining and smooth and textured limestone. The oasis, grotto aspect of the space is both calming and inviting. Mysterious, mood lighting enhances this feeling in a restrained, ethereal way.” In terms of challenges with this project Naydenova tells darc: “The high ceilings at the Four Seasons Kuwait are one of the many stunning architectural details. They convey a sense of drama but also created a design-fabrication and installation challenge for us. We worked on developing fixtures that didn’t get lost in the space or overwhelm the interior design. Not only was the design a key component, but the engineering process to create structurally sound fixtures was just as important. “One of the bigger challenges our team faced was with the large brass chandelier in the lobby lounge. Due to its unique design and extremely large size, the design and engineering teams had to find the perfect balance that worked with the structure’s architecture. The structure is made from rectangular, L-shaped brass panels and features a handmade hairline bronze finish. If the L-shaped pieces were not put together exactly as per the mathematical calculations, it would have posed a structural risk to the fixture as a whole. For this reason, the specific size and placement of each L-shaped piece was calculated accordingly to find the precise joining / suspension point in order to achieve structural balance and symmetry in the space.” Another challenge for VISO was the large dome structures the team fabricated for the business centre of the hotel. “Yabu Pushelberg wanted to have four acoustical dome fixtures that can absorb noise over each meeting table,” says Naydenova. “This way, meetings conducted in the room could not be overheard and privacy retained. At the same time, the domes were specified to have a metal finish, be manufactured in one piece and to have indirect light emanating from them.” Meeting all of these requirements for one specific structure was a challenge for the VISO team, because metals don’t meet the acoustical requirements and such large domes need to be fabricated in two or more sections. According to Naydenova, there was no precedent for a light fixture like this before and her design and engineering team spent a large chunk of their time on R&D to find a solution. What they came up with was a carbon fiber dome that could be fabricated as one piece. This was followed with an application of a special acoustic resin to allow it to absorb sound. Next, the domes were finished with a unique paint that gave them the look of metal. Finally LEDs were installed inside the cove on top of the dome to provide a metallic glow and to illuminate the ceiling.

“There were so many design elements in this hotel and we appreciate we played just one of many roles in its development,” says Naydenova. “For us, lighting helps tell the story by translating the organic elements of the design as well as utilising luxurious materials and textures in both large and small scale. As discussed, the hotel had many large spaces for the lighting to fill and it was sometimes challenging for our team to envision the final result. The entire interior design just works beautifully and our fixtures are part of that! “I want to thank Yabu Pushelberg for choosing VISO as their decorative lighting partner on this project. The stand out feature for us, was to see our fixtures fit in with all the other lavish elements of the hotel. Working on this unique project has been an amazing experience; it challenged our team in many ways and it is because of these learning experiences that we continue to design and fabricate lighting fixtures.”

“Lighting has an enormous impact on the way a space is perceived and the way it feels,” concludes Yabu. “If lighting isn’t done well, everything else can falter. Lighting is seductive, the fine precision required to accomplish this is what is difficult to explain and difficult to achieve, but is entirely with the effort.

“Good design should transcend trends. We try to create environments that speak to hotel guests on a visceral level, we believe we have achieved this with the Four Seasons Kuwait.”