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Innovating an existing art piece with new designs and ideas creates a master piece. There are many buildings that have been innovated to serve a different purpose from its original use. These original buildings vary from being modern to historic, and their innovated interiors could represent different design periods and styles, from Victorian to Classic Elegant for example. Where does the interest in such projects appear? In the challenge the designer undertakes to preserve a building and transforms its interior through the use of materials, technology, structure and space, after adapting with the existing elements. Expressing my personal interest in comparing and contrasting innovative retail spaces using examples from different cultures, I have chosen to discuss a hotel located in London, United Kingdom, and a hotel from my hometown country Muscat, Oman. The reason why I specifically chose these two countries is because I have lived in them the most out of all the countries I have travelled to.  
This essay is going to discuss how interior designers or architects working on interiors have produced innovative retail spaces, which creatively combine materials and technology, structure and space. It will also discuss how they explore approaches to the specific needs of the project and the existing structure and material.

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The hotel I chose to talk about from London is The Ned, I chose it for its historical content. I found the transformation from a bank structure and space to a hotel really interesting, specifically the way they preserved the grade I-listed building elements, such as the vaults and eye-catching green marble columns. As for the hotel from Muscat, Al Bustan Palace Hotel, is an iconic building and it is must-visit destination. The interior of this hotel is spectacularly luxurious as well as its location between the mountains and sea for security reasons, which contributes to the atmosphere and views its unique for. Despite the amazing interior innovations in these two hotels, I aimed to look into two different cultures, a culture I am currently living in, and a culture I was born and raised in, from the Middle East to Europe. I find it really interesting how interior designers and architects express and reflect their ideas and designs in different ways influenced by the location of the site and their cultural background.  

The first example that I will discuss is a hotel located in the city of London, the historic victorian Midland Bank building, which is Grade I-listed, has been reopened in 2017 as a hotel called The Ned. The Ned was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924. ‘Ned’ was Sir Edwin Lutyens nickname, which his friends called him by. To honour the building’s designer, SoHo House decided to name the hotel after his given nickname, Ned (Griffiths, 2017). The new design of this Grade I-listed building was created by Alice Lund, and the management team for the private clubs is ruined by SoHo House & Co, meanwhile the rest of the hotel is managed by New York’s Sydell Group (Centres et al., 2018). The Ned’s bedrooms represent the interiors of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The hotel’s bedrooms standout for their unique interiors that capture the vintage decoration from the early 1900’s, which includes historical furniture of mahogany  and brass, hand-knotted rugs, rich patterned items and reinforced showers (Hargreaves, 2017). There are nine restaurants located in the hotel that are open to the public as well as grooming and spa spaces. The Ned also has a private members club, which includes access to a rooftop pool, a gym, a late night lounge bar, a spa and hammam (Mahruqi, 2017).

However, before the innovation took place, the building was occupied as a bank, as mentioned before, and some elements were kept in the same place untouched to show respect towards the originality of the building, its use, and its content. The old Midland Bank space is now converted into a twelve floor hotel with a rooftop, which consists of nine restaurants, a whole floor dedicated for meeting rooms available for the hotels private members, 252 hotel rooms, and more. The features that were transformed include the two domes that have been converted into a private members club space called Ned’s Club Upstairs, which  provides the services of a heated pool and an outdoor dining space. On the other hand, the Ned’s Club Downstairs is located in the basement of the hotel, it includes a night bar for private members and a restaurant (Delahaye, 2017). The current event space in The Ned, which is open for rent,  was originally board rooms and executive offices during the occupation of the Midland Bank. The current lobby and reception area was known as the banking hall before, the featuring element in this space is the wooden banking counter, and the 92 green outstanding marble columns, which characterises the design layout and format of the ground floor (Mail Online, 2017). During the occupation of the bank, the basement was used as a the safety deposit boxes area where two vault doors are located. The two meter, metal, vault doors were preserved and used as an entrance for the private members bar and the other one is used for he restaurant’s entrance (Delahaye, 2017). As for the safety deposit boxes, the designer Alice Lund says, “There are about 3,600 boxes lining the two spaces. You can pull out the little trays – in fact, we use those as cocktail poseur tables.” (Lindsay, 2017).

Moving on to the second hotel, I would like to start off by explaining the reason why its called Al Bustan. It is named after the actual village it is built in. This village itself has a history that contributes to the products of the hotel. Al Bustan village was a village of fishermen, and to award them for their tough work and great efforts after buying the land from them, His Majesty The Sultan Qaboos commanded the hotel management team to but fish for all the hotel’s restaurants from these   fishermen only. The second part of the hotel’s name, Palace, was named after the ninth floor, which is where the presidential suits are located. The hotel was built to serve the purpose of hosting the State Presidents of the GCC during their visit to the country to attend the GCC summits, which take place every four years. The importance of this hotel does not just express itself through its interior but through its location as well. Al Bustan Palace is surrounded by mountains throughout three elevations, as for the fourth elevation its facing the sea, this makes the hotel well secured during the presence of a VIP. 
Another special feature about the sea elevation is that His Majesty the Sultan commands the military forces to place ships in order to protect the VIP visitors in case of any emergency. The hotel started serving its purpose in 1985 and went through three renovations before its last one, which took place lately in 2017 (Salah, 2017). The latest renovation was established in 1900 by Albert Keller’s American company known as Ritz-Carlton. The management team of Al Bustan Palace Hotel requested the Ritz- Carlton (The Ritz-Carlton, 2018) to design the hotel using the same theme it always had, which was coded as classic and elegant. The hotel’s original interior idea was to include the most expensive furniture and decorative elements even if they do not match, because this hotel was designed to serve state presidents back then. Mr, Salah mentioned during the interview that the rooms would have a built in wooden desk that was very heavy and took up to twenty people to carry it, the flashy silk curtains would not match the carpet or the rest of the furniture was it was very expensive, as for the carpet it was a mixture of pastel colours that completely contrasted with the rest of the room. The hotel holds up to sixteen meeting rooms, eight restaurants, and a six hundred seat auditorium, which makes even more unique because its the only hotel with an auditorium space in the Middle East (Salah, 2017). 

Comparing The Ned to Al Bustan Palace in terms of adapting the existing space for the new use does not apply on the same level. Al Bustan palace was originally built to host the state presidents during their visit for the summit escorted by their employees, from ministers to administration staff to housekeepers and much more. The layout of the Palace was split into what is known as wings. For each Head of State was a wing out the octagon (eight sided) building on the ninth floor, and the eighth floor was for the ministers. As for the rest of the employees, each country was dedicated an entire floor to make the access between them easier rather than going up and down wings to please the layout. The transformation that took place in Al Bustan Palace hotel was the idea of transforming this Palace from just hosting state presidents and their employees to a hotel that would host visitors and guests. The management team realised that this amazing beautiful building would be in loss if its only used and accessed once every four year, therefore the idea of keeping the ninth floor private and accessed by the state presidents only (Salah, 2017). But The Ned on the other hand had a greater transformation, from a bank to a hotel, as mentioned above.

According to the documents shared by Mr. Salah, Al Bustan Palace Hotel was firstly designed by ‘Al Balat Al Sultani’, which is the Royal Council of Advisors. The ninth floor, which is for the presidential suites have always been accessed and designed by Al Balat Al Sultani, and they have always kept it confidential, even the plans of that floor are restricted and not allowed to be shared (Salah, 2017). 
The lobby in 2002 contained different types of moroccan tiles and mosaics, mostly appeared on the arches with a variety of blue and green tones. There was also brass on the sides of the arches, and brass coffee tables around the eight sitting areas. The flooring of the sitting area used to be a brown carpet, and the rest of the lobby had white tiles (appendix 7) . The interior of the hotel in 2002 was reflecting the Arabian luxury even though it did not match. Throughout the innovations from 2008-2017, the management team of Al Bustan Palace Hotel, which included the ministry of tourism, aimed to introduce a new aspect to the hotel that would attract more customers. The new aspect that is introduce to the hotel is a ‘Funzone’, which includes; a “shading concept, watertoys area, galleon’s area, playground area, forest area”. This addition has been located one one side of either wings of   the hotel in order to consume beneficial space (RITZ CARLTON HOTEL, 2015). The feature of adding a space for kids attraction is not found in The Ned as they do not offer much for the public other than restaurants, but Al Bustan Palace Hotel does not have as many private members benefits as The Ned. 

Looking at the interiors of the hotel that was recently innovated by Wimberly Interiors aimed to keep the same concept of interior, which is classic elegant. What I found really interesting during my interview with Mr. Majid Salah is the link between one of the lectures we had about including the five senses within the design of an interior, which the newest innovation was based and inspired by. For example, the new interior of the Majan ballroom, Ruwi room is inspired by, The Sultan Qaboos’s Grand Mosque arches for the plaster design and carvings, which represents the sense of sight. The sense of touch is based on the Omani national woman’s dress materials and details, which inspired the materials used as table cloths or chair covers through the beads and sequences added to the materials used. The famous rose water in Oman inspired the plains of flower bouquets around the halls and spaces are based on the sense of smell. The sound sense is based on the Omani instruments that are played during the vacancy of the spaces, as for the taste it is based on the traditional Omani dates, which are placed around the halls as a sign of hospitality and generosity towards the visitors (Interiors, 2015).  
Examining one of the restaurants interiors of The Ned hotel, lets take Kaia, is an Asian restaurant open to the public, as an example. The interior of the restaurant is very simple, the preserved green marble columns are surrounding the space, creating the structure that holds the double height space and designs the restaurant’s layout. The chess tiled flooring, brings out the white marble circular tables. As for the bar stools, they contrast the organic colours because they are maroon and they also contact the materials because they’re made out of leather. In my opinion, adding plants within an interior creates a homey environment. In comparison to Kaia, Al Bustan Palace’s contemporary Omani and Middle Eastern restaurant called Al Kairan contrasts the interior age and period of Kaia. Al Khairan reflects its contemporary menu and location through its interior. Because the location of the restaurant is directly facing the sea, the cutleries and lights are inspired by shells, the colour scheme is in inspired by the tones of blue, the materials vary from four types of flooring tiles to metal used in more than one place.   
I would like to draw your attention to the importance of technology today. The Ned turned a bank into a hotel, which could be the outcome of online banking, as many people today find it very fast and easy to access their accounts for transactions and more during anytime of the day without waiting in queue or booking appointments. In the case of Al Bustan Palace hotel in relation to technology, they are working on developing a program where you can not only book your room online or through an application, but you would also be able to use your phone in order to unlock the room’s door and control the lights, air conditioner, and more (Salah, 2017).

How successful could such innovations turn out? Well, The Ned turned out to be a very successful. This hotel was awarded, in the European scale and not just in the United Kingdom, hotel of the year at the AHEAD awards ceremony that took place in London, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge last year on the 20th of November (Anon, 2018). On the other hand, Al Bustan Palace was awarded Oman’s Leading Hotel, Oman’s Leading Beach Resort, and Oman’s Leading Suits ten times from 2005-2017. Looking at the Middle East scale, it has three awards from 1998-2001 for Leading Hotel and Leading Resort. These awards exclude over forty other awards the hotel was nominated for (World Travel Awards, 2018). 

To conclude this essay, we see how The Ned and Al Bustan Palace hotels both provide luxury to their members, visitors, and guests through the division of public and private spaces. Although these two hotels do not share the same number and types of benefits for the same class of people, they have been through innovations that changed the actual purpose of the building into a luxurious hotel, combining materials and technology, structure and space. 
Overall, Alice Lund transformed a bank into a hotel, which reflects the 1920’s and 1930’s period through its preserved existing interior. On the other hand the Wimberly team, (Rachel Johnson, Mark James, John Paul Pederson, Sameena Singh, Damien Follone) (Interiors, 2015), have preserved the original design code of the hotel, which is classic elegant, but instead with the latest innovation a contemporary touch was added to make the hotel more competing. This is how Alice Lund and Wimberly Interiors explored approaches to the specific needs of the project and the existing structure and material.





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