05 Mar Meet Akos Bara, the designer of the El Paseo del mar
Reinventing Andalusian Design at the Kempinski Hotel Bahía
The Kempinski Hotel Bahía’s lobby, bar and restaurants have been transformed by Architects Ákos Bara this year. The striking design and innovative features is really making an impression on guests and diners alike. Ákos started with the architecture of the building for his inspiration and then looked to the rich design heritage of the area to create something unique, with a wonderful sense of place.
We spoke to him to find out more about the project and his inspiration.
How did you start your design process?
I believe that great interior design is about the harmony between the interior and the exterior. It’s important to connect the interiors with the architecture of the building, so this is where we started.
The building is strongly Andalusian in character, with a modern colonial design that has stood the test of time, but the interiors were really letting it down. A first impression is crucial to enhancing the guest experience, so the lobby is a very important space in a hotel. We worked hard to enhance the guests’ sense of arrival, while reflecting the Mediterranean location and telling a story about the hotel. Details such as the carpet, which is a huge map of the Costa del Sol, combines modern patterns with a historic feeling and gives the lobby a purpose as a meeting point for travellers from around the world.
We had to problem solve around some tricky architectural points, such as the angular glass roof, which was breaking the flow of the space from inside to out. In order to soften this and break down the border between the interior and exterior we created a curved, metallic pergola which blends the interior and exterior and frames the view, softening the angle. It was a real design challenge but one which really paid off.
We knew we wanted to create four distinct areas with different design identities, so everyone could find something they loved and there were places to go for all occasions. The lobby, Black Rose The Bar cocktail bar and lounge, Baltazár Bar & Grill by the pool and Spiler right by the beach all needed their own style and identity. We’re very pleased with the results so far.
What was your key design inspiration?
We wanted to use Andalusia’s design history, with modern methods and touches to create a design which is connected to Andalusia’s iconic buildings such as the Alhambra.
I was inspired by the traditional glazed ceramics from the area and the strong colours and geometric shapes of these Moorish buildings. I also love the use of plants, natural colours and materials such as raffia and woven items. The beautiful carpets, interesting patterns and geometric shapes are all wonderful for a designer and I have taken those key elements and applied them sensitively to the building, creating a unique design which gives guests a real sense of arrival and a sense of place.
What was your biggest design challenge?
Definitely Baltazár, the poolside steakhouse. The space is very strange, almost like a corridor connecting two parts of the hotel. It is a narrow space which borders the pool with several levels and it also has to work all year round – day and night. Although there had been several restaurants there before, the space just wasn’t working, so we needed to use all our design skills in order to create a place people wanted to be.
We utilised the maximum width possible, using huge sliding windows to make the most of the stunning setting. We made the most of the levels to create different seating areas, with circular booths to add shape and form and tables of different heights to add interest.
There were columns, which made the space tricky to work with, but we turned these into features by cladding them in high gloss, green tiles that tie in with the gardens outside. There are bench seats to maximise space and warm textiles to make it feel relaxed and comfortable.
Phase two of the design will involve adding a tented ceiling which when viewed from the swimming pool will create a sense of still being outside, breaking down the barrier from outside to in. We will also add loads more plants and greenery to further connect the space with its surroundings.
Another challenge was connecting the new design with the older elements, as this is a project that will be done in stages to minimise disruption to guests. We have used the concierge area to bridge the gap between old and new, with a minimal and modern design.
This area presented another challenge, as here you can see all the way up to the eighth floor glass roof. Guests can look down on this area from the corridors surrounding it and also look up from the lobby. There are so many different viewing angles, that we needed a central feature, which would work well from any place you looked. This is why we have chosen the large circular lights, as they are strong shapes, look great from above and below and are open so they do not block the natural light.
Tell us about the colours
The colours are strong and rich, adding warmth and interest, taking inspiration from the traditional glazed ceramics, which are so prolific in Andalucia.
The powerful blue that has been applied to the columns and the ceiling was created by the team to give a feeling of luxury and beauty, connecting the room with the blue skies outside. They had to apply six layers of paint to achieve the effect. Starting with a dark navy blue, they then built up the colour with lighter, translucent colours and finally finished with a glaze to give it a real shine.
It was a lot of work, but I am very happy with the result.
We balanced that with bright yellow sofas in a stunning velveteen material. This nods to the sun and sea on the Costa del Sol, but in rich and vibrant tones and in fabrics that demand to be touched.
Down in Baltazár Bar & Grill, we also took on a challenging colour palate, selecting green as our key colour. The restaurant borders the swimming pool and looks out across the stunning lush gardens of the Kempinski Hotel Bahía, so green was the obvious choice to tie the restaurant into its setting. However, green is typically a cold colour, so finding the right one was a real challenge. We must have looked at hundreds of colour samples for the tiles before we found one that was warm enough for the space. We applied it to high gloss tiles, which is indicative of the traditional ceramics from the area and then softened it with dark reds, burgundy and textiles which have a Moorish feel.
Can anyone go in and take a look at the your work?
Yes! The Kempinski Hotel Bahía has undertaken this redesign with the aim of making the hotel more appealing and welcoming to all. You can soak up the atmosphere of the lobby by enjoying a cocktail, or high tea in Black Rose The Bar. You can also dine in Baltazár Bar & Grill without staying at the hotel and its access is through the lobby, so you can see both areas. Find out more www.kempinski.com/estepona