“WHEN WE DESIGN A NEW HOTEL IN A COUNTRY THAT WE DO NOT KNOW VERY WELL, THE FIRST THING WE DO IS VISIT ITS MUSEUMS AND HISTORIC DISTRICTS IN SEARCH OF THE ROOTS OF THE PLACE IN ITS LOCAL ARCHITECTURE.”
What do you think of the circumstances of the sector? What positives can you take from all of this?
For many years now, tourism has been something that generates wealth and a need for humans, who need to have new experiences and get to kn that are not their own. Tourism is also culture.
What is the first thing to be analysed when taking on a new project?
We have been working with hotel architecture for many years. In fact, my studio is called ASAH (Alvaro Sans Arquitectura Hotelera [Alvaro Sans Hotel Architecture]).
I founded it in 1986 and we have specialised in hotels since that time. We have worked in more than 4o countries and prepared more than 240 hotels, both renovated and new constructions.
We take on projects with a massive wealth of accumulated experience and we always use the local culture and climate as a starting point. The environment and culture are the premises of any design. When we design a new hotel in a country that we do not know very well, the first thing we do is visit its museums and historic districts in search of the roots of the place in its local architecture. This architecture is always suited to the climatic and cultural constraints of the country.
Form and function must go hand in hand. Visiting hotels is not something I tend to do beyond those with buildings that are worth visiting, they are not a source of inspiration for us.
And from your point of view, what are the major values that should be emphasised when planning a hotel building such as ME Ibiza? (functionality, eco-efficiency, sustainability, price, human relationships, etc.)
The ME Ibiza was a big challenge as a project because it was a renovation of a hotel that had been around since the 60s, the last century. We were able to build an extension for the suites and place the Nikki Beach in the gardens. The idea was to avoid looking like a normal hotel, avoiding monotone and repetitive facades and designing a ground floor plan that was open to the outdoors without any barriers. The materials were natural and
drawn from the surroundings, linking the building to its environment in Ibiza, which is extremely powerful.
The sea had to be present throughout the hotel as well, visitors want to see the sea, to feel its presence as part of their holiday. Curiously, the budget was not particularly high, which maybe was the key to its success, the simplicity of the project.
How should a new hotel establishment relate to the environment (Ibiza)? And to itsguests? What steps need to be analysed?
Like I said, Ibiza is an island with plenty of personality where the simplicity of the natural materials must not be encumbered. The customer has to get a sense for the place, to be drawn into the local culture and local environment. The hotel is furnished with artwork by photographers and local painters or artists who have been greatly influenced by the island. A guest at the ME hotel cannot avoid getting a feeling for the place in which they are stayi al awards garnered by the hotel for its design vouch for this.
What are the current fields of activity of ME? What does your architecture contribute to other areas? (Decoration, design, etc.)
ME by Meliá is a luxury brand but also one with plenty of life and energy. We have designed other ME hotels, such as the one in Milan (in partnership with Arassociati & Nicola Gallizia), the one in Miami (in partnership with Proffetional) and the design of the ME Barcelona (in partnership with Mur arquitectos) and advising the ME in Dubai and the ME in Sitges, currently under construction.
In these difficult times, what should the priority of an architectural studio be? Is internationalisation the future of the sector? Or, on the other hand, is renovation and refurbishment the area that should be given a higher priority?
I think that it is only possible to work with something if you are highly specialised in it, a universal studio is very difficult to put together and the large firms who do so generally require help from consultants, given that they do not reach the level required nowadays, either in terms of costs or results. For me, the hiring of my daughter, Adriana Sans, to the company in 2012 was fundamental. She is an extraordinary architect who has given a new momentum to the projects seen in the numerous awards that we now receive.
What major elements make the ME hotel project a clear example of environmental sustainability?
Sustainable energy sources, materials always drawn from the area. Recycled materials, etc.
In conclusion, what is your studio working on at the moment?
On several projects. America in the Caribbean (Cuba, Domin lic, Aruba, Mexico, Miami), in Spain, Italy and several countries in Asia.