12.12.12 : Four Seasons Opens in Baku
The new and palatial Four Seasons Hotel, designed by specialist hotel architects, ReardonSmith, has opened in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. In a city where East meets West and where sculptured high-rise towers co-exist with centuries-old buildings, the Four Seasons building references the French Beaux-Arts style of the late 19th Century – as directed by the owner. It is a jewel in the crown of Baku architecture befitting the Four Seasons brand and is an exuberant building of classical proportions appropriate to its location near the president’s office. At the same time, it is a building designed from the inside out to ensure that the hotel’s operating performance and guest experience match its visual promise.
Conrad Smith, Managing Director of ReardonSmith Architects, explains: “The external appearance of the building was as much influenced by its internal requirements as by the desire to create a certain style of façade. So, while this happens to be a quite traditional building envelope, we very much observed the mantra of ‘form follows function’. That said, we carefully researched the Beaux-Arts period to make sure that the detailing is authentic and, in this way, to avoid pastiche.”
Situated on a prestigious but constrained plot at a crossroads overlooking the Caspian Sea, the key to unlocking the site proved to be the location of the main entrance on the sea-facing elevation, together with the creation of a colonnade the length of the façade. This eliminated the potential of traffic congestion around the arrival point since limousines could cruise through the colonnade to the hotel entrance and then to the underground parking entrance carefully accommodated within a rotunda on the corner of the building. The efficient street level plan was a significant influence on the scale of the building; it also achieved the all-important ceremony of arrival for a hotel destined to host numerous state and celebrity occasions. Classically detailed bronze door and window frames as well as iron railings and balustrading to the guestroom balconies embody the decorative charm of the Beaux-Arts movement.
The ground floor plan inside flows from the exterior. Designed on a primary and a secondary axis, the layout means that guests arriving in the entrance lobby in the centre of the building can see at a glance the key public areas to each side, including the all-day dining restaurant, a bar and lounge areas, and the lift lobby ahead.
A feature staircase takes guests to the first floor which is entirely dedicated to banqueting. The value in Baku of being seen to arrive at glittering occasions meant that there was need for only one grand entrance, allowing guests to promenade through the hotel and on to their event in either the ballroom or the banqueting suite. The ballroom is 600 sq metres and without central columns, necessitating a rigorously calculated solution for the space that is both lightweight and immensely strong in response to the seismic character of the region.
There are a total of 175 guestrooms and suites. All the guestrooms are very generously sized with an average footprint of 52 sq metres and, since the corridors are single loaded, each room offers a view of either Baku or the Caspian Sea, completing the luxury experience.
This plan resulted in a space in the centre of the seven guest floors within which ReardonSmith has designed a stunning “Roman basilica” soaring to a height of 12 metres under a vaulted ceiling and housing a large swimming pool.
The rooftop spa with its numerous treatment rooms, a hammam and wet areas nestles under a glazed roof with a marble-encased hot tub area extending into one of the domes. A speciality restaurant and bar as well as a number of private dining rooms are also accommodated on the top floor capturing more unforgettable views.
The building is clad in local, pale-toned stone and has a pre-patinated copper roof. “Our design of the Beaux-Arts style Four Seasons Baku, coming close on the heels of the modern glazed tower also in Baku which we designed for JW Marriott, amply demonstrates how we successfully work within all architectural styles to create world-renowned hotels,” says Conrad Smith. “What our buildings have in common is a simple and efficient form that means front and back-of-house are seamlessly integrated and they function effectively.”