The S Hotel, Design & Architecture


The S Hotel, Design & Architecture

Business Social

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

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An all-woman panel of architects and interior designers took design faithfuls on a trip down memory lane when the S Hotel hosted the penultimate event for the Jamaica Observer's Design Week Ja 2019 Conversations in Design series. Held last Saturday, in the hotel's Sky Lounge with a 180o-degree view of the Caribbean Sea, the event presented art, design and architecture aficionados the opportunity to place a face to the designers responsible for structures and spaces they had long been familiar with.

As MoBay residents welcomed the design crowd from Kingston, the conversation got underway when registered architect & principal architect of Design HQ Ltd Isiaa Madden launched into her presentation, titled 'North Coast... 20 Years in the Making'.

The Howard University graduate, who returned to Jamaica in 1996, took her first job at Duncan, Sharp & Associates. With three years' experience under her belt, Madden opened her firm which operated from a small room in her parents' basement and worked on small projects with the Government of Jamaica until her big break came in 1999 when she worked on the first RIU hotel in Negril. RIU, which Madden credits with introducing the 'big' hotels to Jamaica, gave her the chance to help build a 395-room hotel. This led to more contracts with RIU, and Madden says she blossomed as she travelled to Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Punta Cana to build more hotels with the brand. She returned to Jamaica shortly after. “It was all go after that, she said, I have worked on all the RIUs and have had the opportunity to work on most of the other Spanish hotels that are here,” she informed.

With her name attached to the likes of Rick's Café and her hand in developing affordable townhouses, Madden shared her early experiences in architecture and explained how the industry, with the help of technology, has modernised over the years. With a new development order in place which will allow for the erection of higher buildings in Montego Bay, Madden ended on an optimistic note for the design dreams of the second city.

Restaurateur and interior designer Cecile Levee, in her address titled 'Place & Spaces,' said, “Design creates culture, money follows culture, culture creates value and values create your future.” The self-proclaimed 'multi-potentialite' declared she does it all and encouraged the audience to follow suit. “Why settle to do one thing? You've been given talent. There should be no limit on that. Whatever ignites your passion, don't stay in a lane; don't stay in a box. Just do you,” stressed Levee.

Levee added that Jamaicans are some of the most travelled people in the world. The problem was that many drew inspiration from across the world without any consideration for the differences in culture and climate. Levee had the audience enthralled with her design quips as she detailed the process of what interior designers do while sharing design tips specific to the local climate.

After a Kit-Kat break courtesy of Garfene Grandison, general manager of the Nestlé Jamaica Health and Wellness Foundation co-principals of Antrobus + Ramirez Alison Antrobus and Ruby Ramirez shared their experiences in transforming what was the Breezes Montego Bay Hotel into the now highly 'instagrammable' six-storey structure of the S Hotel. Jamaican-born Antrobus described the S Hotel's design as “an inspiration to MoBay” and said it was truly a homegrown product.

The in-demand duo (word on the design circuit is that a certain recently retired basketball player is on the wait list) shared their design love story as they detailed the inspirations behind the design elements used throughout the S Hotel.

“There was trepidation coming into a culture as strong as Jamaica, so we were very, very cautious about not recreating Jamaica... It was a challenge, but we hope all the subtle nuances were captured and you feel them as you make your way throughout the hotel,” said Ramirez.

“We used details traditionally found in Caribbean crafts and added modern twists,” added Antrobus. An example of this is the 'caning' details used in the oversized décor seen in the hotel's lobby and on the bathtubs in the guest bedrooms. Ramirez said it was a challenge capturing a layer of authenticity that remained fresh and modern, but the duo managed to get it done successfully. “The tubs truly represent how you can take a contemporary element in design and make it authentically Caribbean,” explained Antrobus.

“We're living in a world that is becoming less and less designers we do have the ability to impact cultures and day-to-day living in a very positive manner, so the more that we can use design as a medium to celebrate the human connections, to celebrate the simplicity of human relationships, then that's what we're going to do,” concluded Antrobus.

The event wrapped as guests were invited to tour the property which features designs from Antrobus and Ramirez, as well as other local artisans like Tamara Harding and Fiona Godfrey, and enjoy tasty treats at the buffet or live pasta station courtesy of resident cooks Romaine Thompson and Oshane Dixon.

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