Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel designs the Bulgari Resort in dubai using a fusion of European and Middle Eastern influences

Italian architecture firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel has completed the architecture and interior design of the Bulgari Resort in Dubai. The newly-opened property resembles a traditional seaside village in southern Italy. The 130,064m2 property is located on the seahorse-shaped Jumeirah Bay Island, connected by a 300m-long bridge to the city’s centre. In addition to the resort, the development also includes six residential buildings of 173 sea-facing apartments, 15 private mansions, a beach club, and the brand’s first Marina and Yacht Club, inspired by the yacht clubs of Italy’s 1950s and 60s, providing a sense of entering a film set from the past.
“The land allocated to Bulgari is vast,” says Silvio Ursini, executive vice president of Bulgari, in charge of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts worldwide. “The whole land is 55 hectares, and ours is 13 hectares. The direction that we took was to position the hotel building in the middle of two bases [The Marina and Yacht Club on one side and hotel amenities on the other]. This was mostly to create two different energies. It is like a ship that is anchored at the dock.
“The early sketches of the building from Antonio and Patricia started off with a vision of a low rise building and very thin staggered and layered floors. As Italians, we don’t do blocks. We do things that try to be more interesting, have a relationship with the place,” Ursini explains.“The way Patricia and Antonio strung the six residential buildings around the marina was inspired by a Bulgari-designed emerald necklace,” he adds.
A coral texture characterises the two main buildings of the hotel. Created on the overlay of horizontal lines, the building façade is defined by coral-like brise soleils (sunscreens) or matt white lacquered steel parapets. In addition to serving their function in providing shade from the hot sun, the sunscreens also reference shading techniques in the Middle East.
While some aspects of the project aim to block the sun, others such as the light colour palette and large glass windows utilise natural daylight. The interior surfaces of the resort are clad in fine oak wood, featuring long thin planks that recall the deck of a ship.
The overall design merges inspiration from southern Italy and Roman architecture with elements and colour palette of the desert landscape in the Middle East. “It is very dangerous to touch Middle Eastern design heritage and culture, because the risk of becoming clichéd is huge. We believe we have approached it in a different way,” Ursini says.
“We have used a brand new coral-inspired shading to evoke the necessary shading in the Middle East in a way that is innovative. We have also used the Bulgari pattern in a different way, layering it so you have these transparencies. And we have involved craftsmen from Morocco to design the carpets. The Middle Eastern inspiration was about being respectful and not clichéd,” he adds.
The use of limestone across the project is reminiscent of the golden sand of the desert, as well as the architecture typologies found in the south of Italy. Lava stone and basalt paving create a contrast between public and private spaces, treated as an ‘inner urban environment’.
Throughout the property, a repeated use of ‘Maglia Pantheon’ mesh patterns are used as a nod to the ornamentation on the floor of the Roman Pantheon, a classic example of Baroque Rome, featuring an intricate bronze lattice-work. Bulgari’s eight-point star motif, inspired by the Campidoglio floor in Rome, is used in the lobby of the resort – a familiar emblem of the brand.
The ‘Maglia Pantheon’ pattern is echoed in other places across the project, including the light fixtures, the space divider screen in the lobby, as well as backdrop and table divider in the Il Ristorante restaurant.
Marble is used extensively across the design, with the architects and artisans on the project hand-selecting singular marble slabs at quarries from various parts of the world. It is also a thread that binds Italy to the Middle East, according to Ursini.
The external walls of the resort are made from Arabescato marble from the Italian city of Carrara. The lobby features Breccia Medicea while Calacatta Voila is used across the La Galleria floors. Other types of marble from Mongolia and Brazil are used in the public area floors of the resort as well as the walls of the boardroom. In the spa, the reception desk is made of green onyx from Iran cut with a ‘book matched’ technique that allows a near mirror image of its veins. The material is also featured in the hamman walls, alongside Aphyon marble from Turkey.
“We used rare materials which are considered very difficult in the hotel industry. We used details, including furniture and fixtures that are not hotel-related furniture and fixtures: they are Italian residential and retail products. [They are] products that have taken many years to create, from prototyping to manufacturing, applying the traditions of Italian craftsmanship,” Ursini elaborates.
The villas, with walls made of limestone from India, also feature private pools made of rare Green Sukabumi stone from Indonesia. The residences are defined by overlapping wooden terraces that continue the patterns of the façade and are interspersed with large glazed sliding doors.
The landscaping includes a selection of native and imported plants, including palms, olive and lemon trees, rosemary bushes and flowers.
The resort itself includes 101 hotel rooms and suites and 20 hotel villas, furnished with Italian luxury brands such as Maxalto, Flos, Flexform and B&B Italia, in an effort to express the ‘Made in Italy’ quality of the hotel and its design. All rooms and suites boast large balconies and floor-length windows that overlook the sea and Dubai’s skyline.
Ursini explains that the Bulgari Resort Dubai, which took seven years to complete, is designed keeping in mind “today’s cosmopolitan and sophisticated travellers and local communities” – much like other Bulgari properties around the world.
Fundamentals such as consistency, craftsmanship, and a ‘spirit of a place’ (genius loci) is essential to the Bulgari brand and must be reflected in all aspects of the hotels, including the design. “The hotel must reflect the hotels of the past, where everything was crafted to perfection,” Ursini says, adding that, with that spirit, many of the details within the resort have been custom designed.
“We don’t come from a hotel background, which is a great advantage if you want to do something extraordinary; because if you come from the hotel industry, you will have a hotel architect and hotel furniture and hotel details,” explains Ursini. “In our case, no. We want to craft the home of the Bulgari brand – and we start from the designers. We have appointed Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel, the foremost Italian residential designers to craft our hotels from the very beginning, again in keeping with the consistency of all our properties,” he concludes.

Author : Aidan Imanova

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