In conversation with Spanish architect Manuel Clavel Rojo, principal and founder of Clavel Architecture and Interior Design, as he talks about his first project in the region-miX Dubai for Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse at Emerald Palace Kempinski
By Roma Arora
Photographs by Ignacio Soto Conde
Four years ago, architect Manuel Clavel Rojo was given the commission to create the best and the most luxurious restaurant for internationally acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse, which also happens to be his first in the region. It’s a dream project for Rojo and clearly, he has created something rare, unbelievable, and a masterpiece! He has installed a huge Fabergé egg in the middle of the restaurant, the lower part of it is floating in the central void of the main and VIP restaurant (6th and lower roof level) and its outer shape and material responds to structural and sensorial matters respectively. Egg represents the mystery of life, the surprise element, and the real design wonder can be seen at the miX private dining area on the top level where only a privileged few can ascend in a golden private elevator. Rojo recalls: “Ducasse wanted a design which is elegant and luxurious, something which is understood by people coming from different cultures and countries. After many brainstorming session, we decided on weaving a design story around this oversized golden Fabergé egg (20m height per 10m diameter). The biggest challenge for us was to create a space within a given space as this building was not designed by us. It’s a very big limitation, we had to do everything according to the given construction.”
It’s the first project for Rojo in this region and one of the most challenging as well. Rojo says: “It required technical and architectural brilliance to fit something as enormous as this in an already given structure. Different parts of Fabergé egg were built in different parts of the world. They were shipped in containers and assembled here.” For Rojo, creating the right atmosphere with the right design is key to a successful F&B project. He explains: “You might be creating the best of designs, but if the atmosphere is not warm, welcoming, and inviting, it just defeats the whole purpose of the place.” His focus was same here too, creating the right ambience and atmosphere. He expands: “We wanted to give this place a perfect atmosphere and lighting plays the most important role. Light is designed to be soft to make guests feel comfortable. For any restaurant project, dishes are the real hero. So, the targeted architectural lighting concentrates on dishes, not on guests and there is a flexible system where the position of lights can be changed according to different furniture arrangements.”
The recently opened miX Dubai is lavish and luxe space that serves French cuisine with local and international influences. It spreads over three floors, with unparalleled views of the sea and Palm Jumeirah. The restaurant is split into three distinct areas. The top level of the restaurant is a hidden gem with chef’s table. This is an exclusive and reserved space with dedicated services, a terrace, and a central table for 12 guests. “One can actually unfold the secrets and witness how the egg actually looks from inside and magically blends with the dome of the hotel. We have used gold extensively like on flooring, walls, and elevators to give it a luxe feel.” The miX private dining area, also known as the member’s club is connected with the miX restaurant in the lower level. This is a privileged area, with only 10 tables. Again, guests can contemplate amazing views, enjoy a private bar or exclusive access to the stunning restrooms. “Architecturally, it’s a cylindrical space of 190sqm just below the main dome of the building. The main feature is the convex curved golden shape of the egg hung from the centre. It took us a long time to get the colour of the egg and finished right and I am happy it turned out very well. Also, in this area of dining, gold chains are used for breaking the spaces in a contemporary yet warm way.”
On the lower level, the miX restaurant is inspired by the Islamic Mocárabe, a flowing ceiling of transparent acrylic tubes covers the 500sqm dining room in a single gesture. Here you can also see the oversized golden egg, floating in the middle of the space and is the feature that presides and bring its energy to this area. Rojo highlights: “We worked with the elements of the Arab culture like contemporary mocárabes are used extensively for creating the ceiling. Walls disappear using a rhythm of mirror layers, white volakas marble, and purple carpets have been used to achieve a flowing dialogue of continuities and qualities.” “Another highlight here is that space is given a playful twist by creating an artificial landscape of material relations where tables are conceived as islands, ceiling as a black reflecting sky. The metallic curtains across this floor surrounding the whole area gives a contemporary interpretation of desert tents running over a continuous ceramic mosaic flooring,” shares Rojo. Moving onto miX Bar and Lounge, which is a more intimate, an informal area where guests can enjoy a wide selection of wines and an eclectic cocktail menu, in a casual setting. “With of-themoment counter top seating, the sleek area gives off a laidback vibe, reminiscent of cosmopolitan cities around the world. It’s dark with dim lighting and gives a different feel as compared to the other areas of this restaurant. We have given a casual setting to this area. The idea is to celebrate food, the interiors, and this place.” Beyond the dining hall, the terraces with lovely alfresco setting allow to sit in an exterior space surrounded by amazing views of Dubai skyline from the Palm.
The terrace is a flexible space that can be adapted according to the weather and uses required by the hosts. Rojo has launched his dream and he wants everyone to see and feel it. Rojo signs off saying: “We have executed this project in a way that from down to up, the level of privacy increases. It clearly depends upon the guests the kind of experience they are looking for. But be whatever floor you’re on, you would always find a glimpse of this magnificent Fabergé egg in gold, either in the centre, or you in the centre, or it would be simply around you.”
See it to believe it!