Mauritius : The Grand Mauritian Resort and Spa by MDS
SOUTH AFRICAN FIRMS EXPAND THEIR INTERNATIONAL PORTFOLIOS AND MAKE THEIR MARK IN MAURITIUS
The Grand Mauritian Resort and Spa in Mauritius is a project that speaks volumes about the importance of collaboration between architectural and landscape designers.
The 5-star, 193 room resort with extensive beach frontage on the North Western side of Mauritius opened to the public late in 2007, boasting sea views from almost every guest room as well as a kids club, luxury spa and a selection of restaurants with unparalleled ambience.
The resort was designed by South African firm MDS Architecture, whilst the landscape architecture was undertaken by Landmark Studios for Mirage Leisure & Development. With years of international experience behind them, the strong teamwork between the firms is evident in the final result.
Donald McGillivray, MDS Architecture's partner heading this project, says: "The style and concept of the development takes its cue from Mauritian and Balinese influences, translated in a modern contemporary way."
The hotel is divided into 16 room blocks of 12 - 16 rooms per block. The main building, which houses the entrance, reception area, all-day dining area, show kitchen, ballroom and lounge/bar is designed around the concept of terraced water - the building appears to float on a body of water.
The room blocks on the beachfront are 2-storey buildings whilst those set further back in the development are three-storey. There are two pool and entertainment areas namely the main pool and bar and the adult pool, allowing for a more secluded experience for guests who are not visiting the resort with families.
Water and serenity
The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa is experienced as an interesting journey by guests, with a number of possible routes from the guest room blocks to the public areas and beach.
"The landscape architecture seeks to lure guests along various paths in an unmistakably tropical locale," says Mark Young, senior partner of Landmark Studios. Although the planting palette is limited, plants and materials were selected to be overtly tropical and bold.
The element of water provides a visual connection to the ocean, as guests begin their journey by walking over water from the porte cochere and entrance reception located roughly in the centre of the long narrow site. From here, guests move to either side of the resort. As they do so, they are constantly aware of water that flows between the various buildings.
The development is segmented into three main areas, defined by the water features or pools that surround them: a family-oriented active zone, a central public area and an intimate zone.
The eye is drawn from the main building along a central axis across the large central water feature, resting on the ocean and horizon. Earthy, natural materials combine with Mauritian lava rock cladding on the exterior of the building. The lava rock is repeated in the landscaping along with pebbles, timber and honestly expressed concrete, resulting in an unexpectedly contemporary rustic feel.
The expanse of water and the landscaping design ensures that the building does not dominate the environment. The architecture is fairly low key, underscored by subtlety in the structures and enticing views through the buildings.
"Tranquillity, openness and a seamless connection between inside and outside spaces were central to our design concept," comments McGillivray. "The contemporary interpretation of the buildings was achieved by clean lines and straight finishing of the Mauritian lava rock and Balinese-style thatch roofs. Machine timber finishing was used on the exposed timber trusses for a contemporary feel."
Geometric active zone
The family-oriented active zone features one of the largest pools in Mauritius butted up against the resort's speciality restaurant and pool bar. This pool is geometric to echo the architecture of the adjoining pool bar and speciality restaurant and is softened by the timber terraced decks, love seats and islands in the pool. During the day, guests enjoy the expansive decks and large shallow areas in the pool to cater for families, with casual dining options conveniently accessible.
"We used level changes and terraced the decks to create pockets of intimacy," says Young. "Little islands of landscaping were created to break up the expanse of water and create some distance between diners in the restaurant and guests enjoying the pool."
By night, the ambience is transformed for an elegant dining experience. The main building is broken up into four pods, each with large timber decks and landscaping to create privacy. "The concept of pods was introduced to break down the scale of the building. At the same time, they provide flexibility, in that guests can be ushered into selected pods should the resort not be at full occupancy levels," explains McGillivray.
In deliberate contrast to the large active pool, a smaller more intimate pool is located on the opposite end of the site. It features a large Ficus tree around which the pool was integrated and natural vegetation for an organic look.
Although the pool is geometric on the side closest to the guest rooms, it has a soft, curved edge where it meets the beach, seemingly following the shoreline. "To enhance the intimacy of this area, we used different levels and created very small, shaded decks around the pool. It has an infinity edge to connect with the ocean and the beach was brought right up to the lower deck of the pool," says Young.
The spa has its own courtyard, water features and landscaped environment. A lawn crescent holds a 15 metre labyrinth with a gazebo, providing a peaceful spot to reconnect with nature and yourself. There is also a kids' club and fully equipped gym.
The guest room blocks are designed as crescents to address two key elements of the brief: intimacy and ocean views. "Some of the buildings are orientated at odd angles to maximise the ocean views. With each room block having its own unique aspect, we created opportunities for individual character and a sense of identify for each building. It is impossible to get bored or lost!" says McGillivray.
Intimacy has been further enhanced with the use of screen walls, planting and pergolas. There are mini entrance courts between the various buildings and ground floor bedrooms have private courtyards, articulated walls, water features and outdoor showers.
The project was not without its challenges. The site is small and narrow and the design needed to provide maximum accommodation to meet the developer's needs.
The wind factor and tropical rainstorms are notorious considerations for Mauritian projects, limiting the range of selected materials. The usual challenges of working abroad were mitigated by excellent local contractors, all of whom were managed by Mirage Leisure & Development.
Both Young and McGillivray cite up-front master planning and interaction as crucial to successful collaboration and the optimal arrangement for achieving the desired result. "We like to partner with the architects early in the process so that we can influence the site planning and enhance the overall concept . There is no doubt that this produces a better product in the end," says Young.
"The Grand Mauritian Resort and Spa offers a dream getaway destination. We are proud to add the development to our international portfolio of unique buildings that meet the client brief, whilst bringing a pleasing design experience to the development," concludes McGillivray.
PROJECT TEAM: BALACLAVA RESORT HOTEL, MAURITIUS
Client & Development Managers: Mirage Leisure & Development (SA)
Architect: MDS Architecture (SA)
Landscape Architects: Landmark Studios (SA)
Electrical, structural, mechanical & civil engineer: Africon (SA)
On-site engineers: Limbada & Limbada (Mauritius)
Interior designers: Mirage Leisure & Development (SA)
ABOUT MDS ARCHITECTURE
MDS Architecture is an award-winning practice that has designed buildings that attract the business, the people and the activity that lead to a sustained performance. With a proud reputation spanning more than 50 years, the practice is renowned for its skill in the sectors of hospitality and leisure, retail developments, offices, residential buildings and interiors. For more information on MDS Architecture, visit www.mdsarch.co.za