Recognition that we need to live in a more ecologically sustainable way has underpinned the call by many design professionals for a new aesthetic – one that reflects prevailing environmental concerns. We speak to Zac Ayache, Executive Design Director for AMAALA, about this welcome trend and how, at AMAALA, they are turning the concept into reality.
SPM: Biophilia, the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, is becoming increasingly important in interior design. Of course, this is at the heart of the AMAALA design ethic, but what is your starting point or inspiration?
Zac: At AMAALA, we are setting out to inspire a fundamental shift towards a culture of holistic well-being. This begins with an inside-out approach, starting with the design. Through concepts like biophilia, we are exploring natural design principles to bring the outside world in whilst positively influencing guests’ well-being.
The breathtaking natural wonders that surround the AMAALA site have been our greatest inspiration to ensure our guests can truly reconnect with nature. Soaring mountains, sparkling sea, a coastline dotted with unique coves and hidden beaches have guided our thinking in shaping transformational experiences that encourage mindfulness and enlightenment amidst captivating natural settings. In parallel, we want our interiors to evoke the same sense of tranquility – with green and open spaces combining form and function to optimize positive health impacts.
At AMAALA, we are setting out to inspire a fundamental shift towards a culture of holistic well-being
SPM: Clutter can trigger stress and anxiety in many of us, so how will AMAALA ensure a feeling of openness and space?
Zac: The ‘less is more’ approach of contemporary design is what adds to the spaciousness of the interior environment and creates a feeling of openness. Clean, modern design, aesthetically proportioned spaces and sleek furnishings are key elements we are exploring at AMAALA.
Room layouts, furniture placement, storage solutions, and color schemes are crucial for us to ensure our spaces feel open and airy. Communal spaces are being designed with maximum comfort and function in mind, while paying close attention to fundamental features such as large windows to provide ample natural light. Minimalistic décor and accessories will keep the space uncluttered, and smooth surfaces will reflect light and make the space feel more expansive.
SPM: How important is inclusivity to the design so that everyone feels welcome wherever they are? How are you going about this?
Zac: As we set out to establish the world’s first truly integrated wellness community at AMAALA, we recognize that inclusivity plays a key role in this vision. We are committed to embedding inclusive design and accessible architecture at the heart of every guest experience – from the selection of colors to the arrangement of rooms.
When designing any space within the destination, we ensure that the central principles of universal design are explored. This includes delivering flexibility and allowing adaptability to the users’ space; ensuring consistency with user expectations and intuition while eliminating complexities; communicating necessary information regardless of user abilities; minimizing repetition and sustained physical effort; and allocating appropriate size and space for use.
We are committed to embedding inclusive design and accessible architecture at the heart of every guest experience
SPM: A popular focus for well-being design consultants is the physical elements of health and well-being. How are you approaching this at AMAALA?
Zac: AMAALA’s health ecosystem is centered on the individual. We want to provide a holistic experience for all guests as they aspire to become the best versions of themselves, so it’s extremely crucial that our spaces are motivating and uplifting. Our rich ensemble of colors, textures, temperature variations and space configuration, as well as concepts such as thermal delight and acoustics, will harmonize to help stimulate healthy mental and physical activity and ensure visitors feel more energized and focused. Connection with nature is key in that respect, and this is highlighted in every brief across our assets. Our architects and designers are carving out seamless transitional experiences between the indoors and outdoors to foster a stronger connection with nature and its elements.
To further encourage our guests to harness the restorative properties of nature, we are mapping out a unique, multipurpose wellness trail throughout AMAALA’s Triple Bay masterplan. This will connect all our assets to encourage guests to actively explore the destination via walking, running, cycling or even horse riding.
Our architects and designers are carving out seamless transitional experiences between the indoors and outdoors to foster a stronger connection with nature and its elements
SPM: Light is undoubtedly one of the most important elements in interior design. Will you be utilizing spaces designed around natural light sources, smart lighting systems to better match our natural rhythm, and artificial light that mimics daylight?
Zac: Natural daylight is one of the most important elements in green building interiors. It not only provides a tremendous health and wellness boost but also influences mood, comfort, the perception of colors and much more. Circadian lighting, in particular, is crucial to healing, regulating wakefulness and sleep. We are also focused on incorporating passive and smart lighting systems through interior patios, skylights, clear doors and lighting shelves.
Throughout the destination, we are implementing a harmonious palette of textures, colors and patterns
SPM: Choosing the right colors can offer numerous psychological benefits, but colour is a very subjective thing. How do you approach this?
Zac: Throughout the destination, we are implementing a harmonious palette of textures, colors and patterns. The functionality of spaces is a key factor that impacts how we apply color theory – i.e., active spaces will receive more energizing colors (warmer tones), whereas passive spaces will receive calming tones. For example, when designing our kids club, we will infuse brighter colors to encourage excitement, optimism, and creativity. In contrast, our wellness spaces will incorporate hues of green – considered the most restful color for the eye – to encourage relaxation and mimic nature.
Other factors that influence the choice of colors are regional influences, weather, brand identity, sustainability motives and our attempt to create a sense of place within the design. By the use of such objective fundamental principles, we are able to make widely accepted choices for color in interior design.