His name may not be immediately familiar to some, but his client list reads like a who’s who of the hospitality industry. Architect Jean-Michel Gathy is the man behind some of the world’s most iconic resort designs, such as the One&Only Reethi Rah and the Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives; The St Regis Lhasa Resort in Tibet; The Setai in Miami Beach, Florida; and the Aman Venice in Italy.
Gathy boasts three decades of experience in high-end hotel design that’s all-inclusive: exteriors, interiors and landscaping. “We are the spoilt kids of the hotel industry,” he says. “Whenever a first-class hotel wants to open somewhere, they always contact us. We get two or three offers a day. We have done so many… The more we live within that context, the more we appreciate the lifestyle, the more we understand it and the more we get a kick out of it.”
Always one step ahead of the competition, the principal designer of Malaysia-based Denniston International Architects & Planners has revolutionised the hospitality sector with his inspired designs, which showcase a profusion of swimming pools and water features, sustainability and local cultural elements. Denniston Architects is currently working on more than 40 projects globally, including those for Jumeirah in Bali, Aman in New York and Rio de Janeiro, and a hotly anticipated green project with Leonardo DiCaprio in Belize. Although the firm didn’t handle any hotel work last year, it expects to launch about 15 hotels over the next three years.
What makes good hotel architecture great?
Jean-Michel Gathy (JMG) An architect can be very good, but if the interior designer doesn’t fit the same theme, it will look strange. We were one of the very first to start the trend of doing architecture, interiors and landscape because we believe that for the hospitality industry, this seamless design process best serves the purpose of a hotel. So when you do the architecture, interiors and landscape, you address all these components in a synergetic way. You don’t say, ‘I’m stopping here. We’ll see later about somebody else who’s going to do that.'