Hill Glazier Architects, Barry Design Associates, and Christian Liaigre help to upgrade the Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 10/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Offering coveted amenities assuring luxurious comforts and enjoyment, the Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas traces its heritage to 1939; its British Colonial architecture celebrates a style harking back to the 1800s; and the here-told background synopsis leads up to the $100 million renascence completed December 2000. Key players in the climactic rejuvenation were architect Robert Glazier of Hill Glazier Architects; interiors expert Robert Barry of Barry Design Associates; Christian Liaigre, creative principal for the interiors of Dune restaurant and bar; and, of course, Sol Kerzner, owner/CEO of Sun International.
Back, then, to the start. The first recorded site development matching today's locale was by Dr. Axel Wenner-Gren from Sweden who, while cruising the world's seas on his private yacht in 1939, "discovered" the islet then known as Hog Island. He built Shangri-La, his private estate, and landscaped the grounds à la Château de Versailles. A small harbor and boathouse were among other enticements for attracting tourists. But in 1961 he fell on hard times, and perforce sold his property for $9.5 million to Huntington Hartford II. Viewing the venue as a commercial venture, the A&P heir had John L. Volk build a 52-room hotel plus four cottages called the Ocean Club, and succeeded in having the location name changed to Paradise Island. His subsequent improvements and innovations—first-class surroundings, sports facilities, air transportation, ferry service to/from Nassau, and lots more—were impressive but, alas, financially prohibitive. He sold out in 1966. Twenty-eight years later and following several changes in ownership, Sun International took over, soon launching a $7.5 million restoration. By then, the room count had grown to 58, including four suites and five two-bedroom garden cottages. The great rejuvenation of 2000 added another 40 rooms and ten suites to the new Crescent Wing. Total square footage comes to 50,000.
Presenting the architectural story is hotel specialist Glazier, responsible for the aforementioned wing; reception, restaurant, and bar buildings; club house; and pool colonnade. The reception structure—something like a gatekeeper's cottage fit for royalty—exemplifies the British Colonial building style, here represented by Doric wood columns, pitched wood-shingled roof, wide porch, and overhang with rafter tails. It is commonplace for traditional houses to have welcoming porches preceding entries into living rooms, the architect notes. His portico-fronted addition perpendicularly connects with the original hotel, whose legendary elegance he resolved to retain. The bluff-positioned pavilions for the restaurant and open-air bar reflect a more casual Caribbean building style.
Robert Barry's interiors report concentrates on the reception building and new guest units. For the latter, he used dark walnut floors and shutters, thus going against the customary hotel practice of choosing white so as to make spaces look brighter than they are. He was decisively vindicated when, nonetheless, he chose dusky tones as an antidote to sun-ignited glitter and glare. In guest suites, French doors separate living and sleeping rooms; bathrooms contain oval tubs, wall mosaics, and built-in TV sets. His "contemporized" British Colonial living room in the reception house has become a popular gathering place for guests who enjoy the library books, small refreshment bar, and, one may assume, chatter about the club's charms. Barry's colleague Jody Krasner was the decorator.
That leaves the Dune restaurant and bar, custom-furnished by Christian Liaigre (and operated from New York by Jean-Georges Vongerichten). Liaigre's indoor furniture and lighting—as always, designed, fabricated, and marketed by the creative maître—also utilize dark woods to offset "the power of daylight" entering through open surrounds. Other aperçus: The pendant combines linen-wrapped shades with rough bark, intensifying the intended look of country furniture; seating is covered with linen, waterproofed fabric, or grained leather; candle holders are of blown Murano glass; plates and dishes of stoneware, ashtrays of bronze, and accessories of palm wood.