JWM Absheron

The much anticipated JW Marriott Absheron hotel designed by ReardonSmith Architects has opened in Baku. A striking symbol of national regeneration in a city that is seeing unprecedented growth and is eager to take its place on the world stage, the building makes a significant contribution to the architectural transformation of the city’s skyline.

An existing Absheron Hotel was demolished to make way for the new 21st Century icon and the new building has been constructed on the approximate footprint of the old hotel with previous façade lines respected, allowing an increase in the landscaped elements of the development to create an ‘oasis’ environment. The JW Marriott Absheron is part of a high-rise mixed-use development comprising 16 floors of private residences, serviced apartments, retail and offices as well as the 23-storey hotel – all of which have been designed by ReardonSmith Architects.

Since the building is adjacent to Government House and overlooks Baku’s significant Azadliq (Freedom) Square, the brief called for a prominent landmark with an imposing symmetry onto the square. It was also a principle objective to provide one of the most extensive and sought-after food and beverage offerings in the city and to accommodate the JW Marriott feature of a multi-use ‘Great Room’.

The result is a contemporary building sited on a formal axis within a newly landscaped park, relating to and reflecting the monumental Azadliq Square. The park flows into gardens and these rise up a stepped incline providing a ceremonial promenade through a landscaped urban garden to the restaurant terraces and onto the entrance to the restaurants, bars and function spaces at first upper floor level. The outdoor area also creates a tiered seating amenity from which to watch the festivals and events that take place in the square. The main hotel entrance is placed to the opposite, east-facing façade.

Inside, the public areas continue the flowing narrative with use of double-height volumes, glazed elements and staircases to create a seamless linking of lobbies, pre-function areas, ballroom, restaurants and bars. Since a principal objective was to satisfy the local wedding and events market, a 1,200 sq metre column-free ballroom was achieved that can be subdivided with each space enjoying independent service access. The ‘Great Room’ has been created by bringing together the ground floor reception areas to the east of the hotel with the first upper level bars and restaurants to the west, the structural design of which, sitting below a 21-storey building, had to be carefully considered in order to create a flexible hub. As a result, transfer trusses have been introduced to allow the central columns to be grouped, creating a monumental gravitas that responds directly to the architecture of Azadliq Square.

The brief also required that all the residences would have prime views over the Caspian Sea and that visual clutter, such as car parking, was to be resolved. At 24 metres below sea level, excavation was restricted, allowing only for a single basement level that would be needed for car parking. Operating plant has therefore been housed on the ground floor within the stepped podium. The additional concept requirement of hotel entry, reception and concierge on ground level to the east side, gave further logic to elevating wining and dining areas to the first upper floor with the advantage of giving these spaces direct views onto the square and affording uninterrupted views of the Caspian Sea beyond.

The total building form is dramatic with the residences and serviced apartments segregated in two oval balconied ‘wings’ which frame the central fully-glazed component, crowned by a roof that curves in its own plane.

The impression is of a building that appears to be fluid and in motion. The façade is 50% glass, coated and triple glazed for energy efficiency with perforated trusses introduced at podium level to stabilise the fascia against Baku’s high winds. A balance of horizontal and vertical elements creates rhythm to the building while the cast stone panels and frameless glazed elements have been assembled in a minimal manner to ensure simplicity of construction and appearance.

The JW Marriott Absheron has 243 large guestrooms and suites, ranging upwards in size from 40 sq metres. There is also a double height rooftop pool hall and spa.

“The completion of the JW Marriott Absheron marks a very special moment in the evolution of ReardonSmith,” says Managing Director, Conrad Smith. “We are well-known for award-winning hotel restoration and refurbishment projects and now this new hotel, designed to compete with the best in the world, demonstrates that we also deliver modern new buildings fit for leading international hotel brands.”

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