Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo and Frank Nicholson reinvent the language of elegance for the Four Seasons Dublin.
Staff -- Interior Design, 6/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
PRETENSION IS TOO often confused with good taste, says Michael M.S. Chun, vice chairman, of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG), Newport Beach, California. There is no danger of that happening at the 259-room Four Seasons Dublin. Project architect WATG and Boston interior designer Frank Nicholson eliminated the "précieux" and predictable touches that have made many new 5-star hotels look hackneyed. What remains is a clean yet classic style of elegance suitable for both the city and the brand.
Despite its Irish Georgian and Victorian references, reflecting the style of the largely residential Ballsbridge neighborhood, Four Seasons' first hotel in Ireland has an aesthetic exuberance fitting for this growing city and the expanding Irish economy. Elements of conservatory design literally open up the building to its surroundings. Curved roofs with a wrought-iron and glass structure create a light, garden-like setting for the lobby lounge, restaurant, and pool/spa. Sited within the protected H-shape of the building and set in a corner of the Royal Dublin Society's show grounds, the public spaces look out onto front or rear courtyards that integrate them with the bustling streets.
The design works closely with this outward-directed architecture to underscore Dublin's friendly, sociable nature. Framed by graceful Palladian windows, the 115-seat Seasons restaurant is more like a garden pavilion than a hotel restaurant. Nicholson carved out three separate areas within the dining room to intensify the feeling of dining in a grand, discreet residence. Cool creams, rosy beiges, and strategic gleams of gilding forge a sophisticated ambience that stops short of stuffiness.
The adjacent 38-seat Café expands the dining options and the range of experiences the hotel offers. Although 249 rooms would verge on being a boutique hotel in New York, the room count is fairly large in a city coming into its own on the international scene. Lighter and more casual, the Café's look matches the less formal character of the mixed menu, which features regional and international specialties. Guests seeking more privacy can sink down into the plush upholstered or leather armchairs of the 70-seat bar and adjoining "Living Room." These are not places to see and be seen, but venues for relaxing by the fire or just enjoying the art of conversation for which Dublin is duly famous
.Guest rooms with a standard rate of $305 offer a complete retreat. Six special "Conservatory Suites" mirror the architectural approach to the public spaces. Each contains a glass and marble conservatory space, with spectacular views and the romance of window seating. Indoor gardens brighten these premium rooms year-round. A basic guest room palette of candlelit colors is warmed by deeper golds, sheer greens, and blushy roses, bridging classic styling with contemporary taste. Rich woods and a mix of patterns visually insulate the 182 guest rooms and 67 suites. Even the view on the upper floors shifts from the energy of the city to calm of the Irish sea, the residential aspects of the neighborhood, and the mountains beyond.
Guests looking forward to the luxurious bathrooms associated with the Four Seasons brand will not be disappointed. The aesthetic mood swings to a more modern temper with the crisp lines of the long vanity, the harder edge of the oversized bathtub's marble cladding, and the reflective shine of the shower stall's glass front. The guest bath is light, bright, and efficient—but not remiss in providing visual interest with art and a variety of textures.
Both the guest floors and the public spaces address the need to create a highly residential atmosphere in what is, essentially, a public building. "We seek to combine the tradition of 5-star quality, comfort, and graciousness—all hallmarks of Four Seasons—with reflections of Ireland's characteristic architecture and heritage. This hotel was to be a landmark for Dublin, yet it had to fit into an upscale, residential neighborhood," says Chun. "So, took cues from the surrounding buildings—from the Royal Dublin Society, with its granite façade and monumental public presence, as well as the two- and three-story brick family residences. We used the light-gray granite of the Royal Dublin Society Hall for the base of the building, then updated and simplified the Georgian and Victorian influences in the red brick of the exterior, the appearance of the slate roof, the windows, doors, keystones, and the gabled ends of the roof and the pediment."
Design also closed the gap between a hotel operated by a Canadian company and a city proud of its culture and heritage. "The Four Seasons introduces a cosmopolitan element to Dublin," says Robert M. Payan, WATG's principal in charge and project designer. "There are many famous and historical hotels in Dublin, but they are generally older and very local in character. For the Four Seasons, we tried to capture the flavor of Dublin and blend it with the sophistication expected of a Four Seasons hotel. The aim was to create a sense of unpretentious graciousness rather than making a trendsetting statement."