Online Exclusive - Alegra, DubaiSep 12, 2012
By Alia Akkam
“It's always important for me to create a believable sense of place in space. It's the only way to transport people out of their normal state of mind,” says Charles Doell, founder of Oakland, California-based Mister Important Design, who crafted the restaurant, bar, and lounge located inside the Al Murooj Rotana hotel, near the world’s tallest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa.
Alegra owner John Saliba, notes Doell, wanted to take his multi-dimensional establishment in a new design direction for Dubai, one different from the city’s all-too-familiar looks: “Dubai already has a number of nicely themed interiors.” Alegra on the other hand, he notes, has “an almost visceral effect on you. It's a place that is by turns glamorous, confusing, and oddly enough, comforting.”
At Alegra, guests transition from the everyday to the elegant by warm, golden light that subtly suffuses the space (an angular lightbox cleverly triples as seating and a dance floor), tufted metallic leather ottoman-style chairs, and linear chandeliers, inspired by both candelabra and fluid Arabic calligraphy, made of hand-blown crystal by Il Pezzo Mancante.
Sprawling establishments might be commonplace throughout Dubai yet Alegra is just 2,000 square feet. Doell made the most of the cramped quarters, however, and it turns out the low ceilings are now the center of attention.
“Most of the interior surfaces are made from large shifting planes of backlit beveled black glass with recessed lighting between them. The reflectivity of the material helped us open up what is a very tight space,” he explains.
Mounted within the ceiling is a high-resolution LED screen that captures Alegra’s mood-altering array of graphics, video, and lighting. “The low ceiling was a huge obstacle. We almost went mental trying to decide if LED lighting would help or hurt. Turns out it hurts real good,” Doell continues. “Rather than feeling oppressed by the intense visual display, the LED seems to rip the space open, as if you were in a deep crevasse and looking up through a giant crack to the sky above.”