Aman State of Mind
Subtlety and luxury—Jean-Michel Gathy does it again at Amanyara in the Turks and Caicos
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 7/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
"You don't go to an Aman to party," Jean-Michel Gathy proclaims. He should know. As founding principal of Denniston International Architects & Planners, he's collaborated with Amanresorts on four projects over the past 15 years. The newest, Amanyara, is situated on 100 acres at the edge of Northwest Point Marine National Park, a scuba-diving paradise in the Turks and Caicos, British West Indies.
With 18 properties worldwide—as far-flung as Cambodia, Morocco, and Wyoming—Amanresorts has fine-tuned its image among purveyors of luxury escape routes. All those Zen pools, all that pampering. Privacy, location, and "ethnicity in design," Gathy notes, figure into the Aman equation, too. But, he adds, the Turks and Caicos has no architectural identity to speak of. So he gave Amanyara one of its own.
"First, we questioned what a tropical beach resort is," he recalls. And he decided, he says, that attitude trumps architecture: "We took a casual approach, based on pavilions." White columns, a pitched roof, and not much more. This archetypical building—built of Indonesian kapur wood, with a concrete foundation and framing—would repeat in varying scales.
The four public pavilions are sited in a square formation. Opposite an entry hall is a free-standing lounge; across from a restaurant is a structure shared by a library and a boutique. To the side of this nucleus of public facilities, closer to the ocean, are the 40 private guest pavilions. (Twenty larger villas are under construction.)
Still, Gathy's commission was less about building pavilions than it was about building a sense of place. "You land on a dry island with a harsh environment," he explains. There's not much more than strong sun and low-lying vegetation. One might wonder, driving from the airport, if this is the right spot.
Qualms vanish instantly upon arrival. Greeting guests is a large ornamental pool, the first of the resort's five. Sculptural mahogany trees, set in square concrete planters, rise from the gently rippling water.
The word Amanyara is derived from Sanskrit for peaceful place, and the open-sided entry pavilion alludes to an Asian temple. Gathy's long, altarlike teak table runs down the center of the space. Seating is teak and rattan, with weatherproof upholstery limited to creams and grays. Beige terrazzo flooring anchors two processional rows of squared-off columns. A more serene setting is impossible to imagine.
The restaurant's two dining areas sit side by side in a pavilion that leans tropical in aesthetic. Though one of the dining areas is enclosed and air-conditioned, both exhibit the resort's prevalent design moves: teak furniture and millwork, plus terrazzo flooring—here inlaid with teak strips to prevent the large slabs from cracking. Slat walls emphasize the height of the ceiling, 22 feet at its peak. In the library, by contrast, guests can sink into contemporary comfort: Antonio Citterio furniture and a sisal carpet set this pavilion apart from its teak-and-terrazzo counterparts.
The lounge, positioned near the end of a promontory sticking into the Atlantic Ocean, is a 42-foot-high round structure—the resort's beacon. And the nautical feel continues inside, where 2,000 individual kapur slats compose a spectacular conical ceiling that took two months to build. "It's like the hull of a boat," Gathy says.
At the end of the line, Amanyara's trompe l'oeil infinity pool appears to overflow into the ocean. Gathy built the pool of bat candi, a volcanic stone that's yet another of the Indonesian materials used on the project—and nearly its only black element. Three gazebos further trick the eye. Are they floating on the water, or do they just seem to? Closer up, guests discover that the simple structures are built into the decking around the pool.
Amanyara never forgets the point of an island resort: proximity to water. The size of each guest pavilion, generous at 660 square feet, is amplified when its sets of 10-foot-high sliding glass doors open on three sides to terraces, plus ocean or pool views.
That beachy feeling extends indoors with the pavilions' sand-toned terrazzo flooring. Feet need nothing more than a pedicure. "It's like velvet," Gathy says. "We use peaceful materials and subdued colors for these projects—never sparkly red or anything too shiny." Teak shutters and paneling emit a studied simplicity.
An apt translator of the Aman dialect—on any continent—Gathy's firm is currently working on 10 projects for the company. Leaving the architects precious little time for vacations of their own.