The Oberoi Mauritius draws on its island setting to create an escapist fantasy with all the comforts of 5-star service.
Staff -- Interior Design, 6/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
THERE IS NOT a hard edge anywhere in the Oberoi Mauritius, which opened this spring. The gentle lines of the 76 villas designed by Thailand's Bunnag Architects and the unobtrusive interiors of Singapore's H.L. Lim follow the natural profile of the turquoise Baie aux Tortues and the lush green mountains beyond. From the plush chairs to the sunken bathtubs that overlook private gardens, the message is escapist, elegant, and entirely unique.
This is the kind of resort that makes one want to close the doors and close out the world. The careful integration of the architecture and design with the local environment, both physical and cultural, creates a timelessness essential to a resort setting. Both Lek Bunnag and H.L. Lim followed a design approach that would enhance rather than overwhelm the northwest edge of this Indian Ocean island. "The indigenous architecture, the beautiful sky, and the sunset—these were my inspirations," says Bunnag. "Today's discerning traveler wants to enjoy the highest level of leisure and modern comfort, yet be close to gardens, landscaping, and the culture of the place."
Bunnag's design uses small-scale structures to create modern internal volumes of space, then envelops them in architectural forms inspired by indigenous Mauritian building styles. Variations in the roofscape and modifications of the landscape level generate visual interest on what is essentially a flat site. "We wanted the composition of the high and low roof lines to lead the guest's eye toward the natural magnificence of the ever-changing color of the sky and the beauty of the horizon," says Bunnag. "Everyone, including our client (PRS Oberoi, vice chairman and head of development for Delhi-based Oberoi), agreed that the key to success in resort design is a masterly integration of the inside and the outside."
Settled into Bensley Design's verdant land- and waterscape of mounds and pools, the hotel unfolds as a series of pavilions. Lim takes a minimalist tack in the public spaces. His soft, natural color scheme complements the use of organic materials. Despite the generous use of wood, the disciplined of the design allows for a soothing, almost delicate atmosphere. From the overall scale to the seating plan and the furniture design, the aim is not only to convey a sense of spaciousness but also of privacy.
Deeply involved throughout the project, PRS Oberoi provided "very specific requirements" concerning both the size of the villas and guest bathrooms as well as their components. Unlike most hotels, Oberoi's new resorts make the guest accommodations the real design centerpiece. Taking nothing away from the quiet elegance of the Oberoi Mauritius's lobby or the inventiveness of the two restaurants, three bars, and the lovely little tea pavilion, its villas showcase how much design can transform the limits of what can be done within four walls.
Space planning is a central issue. Bathrooms, featuring sunken tubs, and separate showers are oriented to overlook a private, walled sub-tropical garden. Framed by marble cladding, the bathrooms feel spa-like, but function with an efficiency most guests only wish they had at home. Lim made room for "extras" that are necessities at this long-stay destination: a walk-in wardrobe and a large vanity table.
Understanding that many guests would want to use the villa as a home away from home, Lim and Bunnag extended the escapist feel with the raised dining pavilion. Borrowing from Mauritian culture, these open-air dining pavilions are topped with a thick, sugar-cane thatched roof. Teak furnishings bridge the design language of local influences and contemporary trends, complementing the subtle colors, natural fabrics, and original artwork in the living and sleeping spaces of the villas.
The subtle departures from this local, natural theme are found in the meeting rooms, spas, and restaurants, especially the wine cellar and cigar lounge. This exotic beachfront bar incorporates an historic, 18th-century ruin preserved from French colonial days. The restaurants, like Jean-Marc Gonzalez's menus, are a blend of Asian, French, and Creole influences. Oberoi's Indian roots are apparent in the holistic simplicity of the spa. Views in every treatment room encourage guests to relax and enjoy the healing ethos. For those who simply cannot distance themselves from business, the resort also includes meeting rooms with state-of-the-art visual facilities, a fully equipped business center, and a library.
Without resorting to any of the bold strokes usually connected with trendsetting design, the Oberoi Mauritius has redefined the visual standards of a luxury resort. "Close collaboration among the architect, interior designer, and landscape designer, working with an avant-garde hotel operator such as Oberoi, is what sets new designs. Mr. Oberoi is a person who likes to lead the market. He is the trend," says Bunnag.