Away from Home: Designing the Hotel Experience

For over 35 years, Principal Patrick Burke, AIA has led Michael Graves Architecture & Design to create unique hospitality experiences for hotel operators and travelers around the globe, in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East.

As the hospitality industry has shifted — from making travelers feel at home while away to providing more dynamic experiences — boutique hotels have evolved to create hyper-local, immersive environments. Our firm has both witnessed and contributed to this movement. More and more, I am convinced that authentic character that draws on the local physical and social context is a key ingredient in creating compelling hospitality experiences. Valuing the local environment also supports our ever-increasing emphasis on wellness and sustainability.

Designing Interesting Experiences

Interesting guest experiences continue to drive hotel trends. We’ve seen this for years in the food industry as our everyday encounters with food have become wider and more global. Food and beverages that were once sought-out specialties are now widespread. The experience became more than the coffee, the croissant or the sushi, hence the coffee shop, the patisserie, the sushi bar. They are remembered as places, specially designed places that stimulate the senses.

Our firm, like some other designers in the hospitality field, has been working for years on reimagining and customizing guest experiences. Despite all that’s changed, we have consistently found that savvy travelers value memorable experiences unique to the places they visit. They value destinations that embody a sense of place and resonate with history, the environment, and local culture and cuisine. What differentiates these places is the power of architecture and design to create experience.

This expectation of having an “experience” wasn’t always the case.

Overcoming Sameness: the Rise of the Boutique Hotel and the Signature Restaurant

Sameness used to dominate the hospitality industry, in both interiors and services. When we started designing hotels and resorts in the 1980s, hotel chains — like fast food chains — thought consistency of product was paramount. Clearly, there are tremendous business efficiencies to be gained, straight to the bottom line. The industry’s business experts famously characterized hotels as money-making machines, operating with precision, cookie-cutter style. Public relations promoted the value of consistency: the guest experience would be the same no matter where in the United States or abroad, a predictable comfort to weary travelers. Brand loyalty surged. Frequent traveler points became popular. Design was secondary to brand standards. The guest experience was rarely unique since it wasn’t supposed to be.

At that time, hotel operators sought to deliver a sense of being at home while away. That has evolved dramatically. Many of today’s travelers are looking to get away from home. They seek new living, working and dining experiences they don’t have at home, whether traveling for business or pleasure. People want to be surprised. They crave opportunities for new experiences.

Signature Japanese restaurant Kimonos, located at the Walt Disney Dolphin and Swan — by Michael Graves Architecture and Design 

Unique travel experiences took hold when exciting interior designs for boutique hotels and themed interiors were pioneered in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At first, there were just a few eccentric examples. Before long, everyone in the hospitality industry was influenced by boutique hotels and the industry was transformed. Bold and customized designs were much more attractive than standard ones. This phenomenon occurred not only in hotels but also in signature restaurants and affected both the design and the services.

Where Consistency Matters: Services and Details

In the digital age, the physical environment does not have to be predictable, but robust Wi-Fi and reliable cell phone coverage are absolute requirements. Today’s travelers appreciate environments geared to wellness, good food, and concierge services — from pet-friendly services to Zip Cars. There is an explosion of these ideas to the point that the diversity of choices is remarkable. What an opportunity for developers, operators and designers!

I also find that travelers appreciate attention to thoughtful details, especially in guestrooms and their bathrooms. How light falls on the mirror, where to store toiletries neatly, furniture that works with portable technology all matter, down to inches. When those details are done well, we have a better experience.

A Few Examples

I would like to give four very different examples, each of which addresses authenticity and sustainability, and encourages meaningful interaction between people and place, largely as a result of their character and response to context:

· Early work that contributed to the rise of boutique hotels;

· An immersive Egyptian seaside experience that draws on the local architectural and landscape context;

· A modern, engaging and highly sustainable resort in Singapore; and

· An urban hotel in Cairo opening in 2019 that balances modernity with traditional motifs to create a luxury experience.

Boutique Experience Writ Large: The Dolphin and the Swan

Character is important in architecture and interior design, especially in hospitality projects, because it communicates the identity of a place, its personality. Character might be inspired by the history and physical context, but it can also be inspired by a fabricated experience, which coincidentally may be no less authentic.

Walt Disney Dolphin and Swan exterior 

An example of the latter is the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. For its time, it created an interactive and immersive experience. Children could jump from beach blanket to beach blanket along the guestroom corridor carpet. Conventioneers passed through groves of artificial palm trees to enter ballrooms filled with gigantic flower motifs. The hotels surprised everyone who expected a standard large-scale complex with over 2,000 keys and the fifth largest convention complex in the Southeast operated by standard flags.

Instead, these hotels were associated with an entertainment company that saw value in entertainment architecture. They were meant to provoke fun and delight. Boutique hotels and themed restaurants were just being conceived at this time and our designs became a large-scale version of a growing trend. The complex was authentic in that it fit with the neighboring theme parks and sustainably managed the site’s land and water, but it was largely a grand experiential invention.

Character and Context on the Egyptian Waterfront: Sheraton Miramar in El Gouna

While we always strived for designs that fit the surrounding context, we learned a valuable lesson about experiential design in a series of coastal resort commissions in Egypt. Although the Miramar was completed years ago, we have just renovated it within the same imaginative spirit but with today’s eye.

Michael Graves and I were invited to Egypt to see a site on the Red Sea in El Gouna. We were invited, as it turned out, because the developer liked an Art Deco-inspired apartment building that we designed in South Beach Miami. What the client had been building in Egypt were modern hotels that were somewhat “Mediterranean” but mostly they were generic midrise blocks on the beach. They looked like they could be anywhere in the world, even Miami.

On our way to see the site, we passed through small Egyptian towns built for local workers servicing the hotels. They were charming villages, low in scale, built using local vernacular construction techniques with stuccoed handmade brick walls and roofs of brick vaults and domes. We were inspired to create a hotel experience that was just as authentic. Most of the guest audience came from Europe and we sought to create a resort experience that was specific to Egypt.

Sheraton Miramar in El Gouna highlighting the waterways, lagoons, and garden courtyards throughout the site 

We also realized that creating even a low-rise complex on the beach meant that only a few guestrooms would enjoy water views. We therefore created waterways, lagoons and garden courtyards throughout the site, ensuring that the guestrooms were always oriented to water or landscape. Now that the vegetation is fully grown, the experience is one of literally being immersed in nature surrounded by architecture inspired by local vernacular.

Modern Boutique and Sustainable Design: Resorts World Sentosa

Recently completed, this 3.5-million-square-foot integrated eco-resort in the leisure island of Sentosa in Singapore is a destination attractive to families and people of all ages. The intention was to provide obvious public value beyond the large-scale casino that is the development’s economic engine. The attractions — from theme parks to a maritime museum and an aquarium — were each intended to be interactive and immersive. Given Singapore’s location and historical relationship with the sea and trade routes, facilities related to maritime history and marine ecology dominate the experience.

To create variety, the brand positioning and interiors are different in the six boutique hotels, the world class ESPA spa, the many food and beverage outlets (we designed 14 of them, all very different) and the theaters and entertainment venues throughout the resort.

What would give the resort its sense of place? The natural characteristics of the site and climate. The site is located on the waterfront of a tropical island at the base of the steep hills of a heritage forest. Here, architecture and landscape converge to create a special sense of place, a getaway from urban life. We managed the hot and humid, and frequently rainy climate by creating open-air but covered walkways throughout the site. These and other intermediary spaces between the indoors and the open air allow people to be comfortable in all weather conditions and reinforce the atmosphere of being in a resort.

The Most Luxurious Address in Cairo: Nile Corniche and St. Regis Cairo

Nearing completion and set to open in 2019, the 2-million–square-foot mixed-use complex known as Nile Corniche marries the sophistication of the storied St. Regis hotel brand with custom décor using materials and motifs authentic to the region. From the exterior facades to the public interiors and guestrooms, the character balances traditional Egyptian motifs with contemporary international flair befitting the hotel’s location and its flag. The hotel is both cosmopolitan and local, creating an imaginative experience unique to its city and site.

St Regis Cairo by Michael Graves

Guestroom located at the St. Regis Hotel, Cairo

Collaboration Across Generations

In the recent panel discussion involving experienced designers and emerging professionals at Design Connections, Patrick Burke, AIA and Austin Crowley exchanged their respective viewpoints. The audience appreciated their insights and complemented how the culture of Michael Graves Architecture & Design brings different generations of designers together as one team. Here is an excerpt from the conversation. 

Moderator: What is your experience with mentor/mentee relationships and what do you think is important?

Patrick: For better or worse, we all rely on our own experiences about how an architectural practice works. When I was an emerging professional working in an office in Chicago, the senior partner mostly stayed in his private office and shared his knowledge on a need-to-know basis. With him, we draftsmen felt that we were just doing a task and had no context for decisions. There were two other partners who sat in the open office with the rest of us. As they explained project decisions to us in detail, we learned about architecture and felt part of the conversation.  I run my studio like those partners, gathering my staff around to tell them about a meeting or trip, or set up the context for the design work. This way, they can more easily understand what makes a 5-star luxury resort different from a 4-star business hotel, for example. And, beyond the project, what you need to know about working in one country or culture versus another. This of course applies to local customs but even effects the definition of a building type: a mall in Asia is night-and-day from one in America.  I want the people on my team to learn how to make good decisions that incorporate many disparate and sometimes conflicting factors.

Austin: Since not everyone can travel to our firm’s projects, it’s invaluable to get Patrick’s detailed downloads after every trip. I’m personally invigorated by sitting in an open studio with designers of varied backgrounds and experiences. The transparency of decision-making means that I’m fully engaged as a team member on the projects I’m working on.  That’s amplified by the indirect learning that occurs by overhearing about projects that I’m not working on.

Moderator:  You’ve just described how the experienced designer mentors the emerging professional. What do the older designers learn from the younger ones, especially since they’re likely more versed in technology and social media?

Patrick:  For someone who still draws by hand, I was initially just grateful for the younger designers’ knowledge and ability to put project information into the computer so that it can be manipulated and turned into renderings. However, with more sophisticated tools, the several generations of designers in our firm are now collaborating more directly in design and adding their ideas to the design discussion.

“However, with more sophisticated tools, the several generations of designers in our firm are now collaborating more directly in design and adding their ideas to the design discussion.”

– Patrick Burke, AIA

Austin: As a co-founder of the firm’s “tech team,”  I have been able to weigh in on visualization and collaboration tools that make the design process faster and more effective for everyone. It’s no longer the case that a sketch was turned into a CAD file and then developed into a 3D model that would be rendering for many hours. We’ve cut some steps out of the process. Since we go so quickly to three dimensions in programs such as Lumion, the design team starts to visualize the building or space quickly and can see new possibilities right away. Basically, we are now designing in three dimensions and everyone — no matter the level of experience — is a participant.

Patrick: This is truly a collaboration in the best sense, and the result is rewarding for all levels of staff.  It’s also exciting for our clients.

Austin: We are also using digital collaboration tools like Bluebeam® Studio to their best advantage.  It’s so easy to mark up a drawing in real time, color code which consultant is making the comment, and sharing it out to the team. This is an efficient tool not only during design but also during construction documents and construction since it simplifies communications and tracks comments in plain sight for everyone to use.  It has helped me learn about the technical side of architecture in addition to design.  Though technology will continue to gain complexity and transform our industry however, we need to remember to think like designers, not computer programmers.  This is especially necessary for the younger generations entering the profession.


Though technology will continue to gain complexity and transform our industry however, we need to remember to think like designers, not computer programmers.

– Austin Crowley

Moderator: How do you build camaraderie among members of the staff?

Patrick: While gatherings, games, drinks and meals are all good for team culture, I have found throughout my career that genuine, long lasting camaraderie comes from working together to achieve common goals. Working hard and succeeding in accomplishing difficult things as a team develop strong bonds.

Austin: Because camaraderie is such a part of MGA&D’s culture, whether we’re socializing or enmeshed in a project, it helps build bonds across all generations and lets us younger ones into the conversation.



MGA&D at Design Connections

Donald Strum, IDSA, Principal of Product and Graphic Design, Karen Nichols, FAIA, Principal of Architcture, and Patrick Burke, AIA, Principal of Architecture will be in attendence at the Design Connections interior design summit this October 7-9, 2018. The summit is an invitation-only event that brings together the brightest minds and thought leaders in each industry of interior design for high level peer-to-peer interaction.

Donald Strum, IDSA

Monday, October 8, 2018, Donald Strum will be co-moderating the inaugural Product Design Challenge for Design Connections participants to experience the power of group creation (Brainstorming) on how to repeat this innovative process in one’s own professional life.

Karen Nichols, FAIA and Patrick Burke, AIA

Tuesday, October 9, 2018, Karen Nichols, FAIA and Patrick Burke, AIA will be giving a joint talk about the hospitality industry titled ‘Like Nowhere Else in the World: Designing the Guest Experience’. The talk will present the 30+ years of firm experinece in the industry as a case study project.


Today’s savvy travelers seek unique experiences that resonate with history, culture and a sense of place, and promote wellness and even learning.  Financial experts note that spending on travel and dining experiences is outpacing demand for goods and personal consumption.  This shift is driving growth in the hospitality industry worldwide. In response, owners and operators, architects and designers look at forecasts and trends to stay ahead of the market. In this session, two architects and interior designers from Michael Graves Architecture & Design will draw on their 30+ years of experience in hospitality design to discuss three trends that continue to shape the guest experience: context and character; sustainability and wellness; and integration of design at all scales.  They will also describe how hospitality trends have influenced design for the workplace, healthcare and education.

Learning Objectives

1. Identify long-lasting trends that have transformed hospitality design and influenced the workplace, healthcare and education

2. Explore how to capitalize on the physical and cultural context of a resort locale to influence design, construction and ultimately the guest experience

3. Understand the continuity between sustainable design of sites, buildings and interiors and personal wellness

4. Learn how the guest experience is considered at all scales, with emphasis on functionality as well as appearance

About Design Connections

The goal of this event is to provide an intelligent option for education designers to meet with suppliers and exchange new and relevant information as well as share the latest in new products for the marketplace. Suppliers connect with decision makers for their products. Both suppliers and designers are provided relevant content for the education design industry.

This is not a trade show event…it is designed for professionals on both the supplier and design sides to connect in an intimate setting and exchange significant information that will impact the way the education design industry grows.

Back to School at Don Bosco Preparatory High School

Welcome back to school! It has been one successful year since students at Don Bosco Preparatory High School began using the new facilities designed by MGA&D. The new buildings and landscape transformed the center of the campus from a parking lot to a collegiate-style quadrangle defined by existing and new buildings on all sides. It took several steps to get there, starting with a comprehensive master plan for the 35-acre campus.

Aerial view of campus before construction (left) and proposed masterplan (right)

Because we started with a comprehensive phased master plan for the campus, our building strategy produced the greatest immediate impact and value, and a clear framework for the future.

Don Bosco knew that they needed to expand dining facilities and classrooms housed in Immaculata Hall, an older building in need of renovation. Since renovating a crowded occupied building would impossibly compromise the school’s operations, MGA&D proposed a campus-wide master plan that concluded a new building produced the best economies and efficiencies Phase 1 interventions within the central 11 acres resolved outstanding issues with vehicular circulation, wetlands, and stormwater detention. Relocating parking was key to clearing the way for a new building site.

20-year master plan

The 20-year master plan sustainably balances buildings, site circulation and landscape. Wetlands preservation, stormwater management and infrastructure improvements complement the revised vehicular patterns and provide good stewardship of the land.

Savio Hall, a new 32,000-SF building, with new dining and kitchen facilities and 2 upper levels containing 16 well-lit classrooms, completes the fourth side of the academic campus and defines the new quadrangle. Third floor terraces overlook the campus and surrounding hills.

Savio Hall (left) and St. John’s Hall viewed from Savio Hall (right)

The form and articulation of Savio Hall draws on the traditional architecture of the adjacent 1915 landmark St. John’s Hall, balancing the rhythmic forms and proportion and scale of the brick arches with strong sense of transparency from the large expanse of glass. The glazed double-height dining hall acts as an extension of the outdoor quadrangle, enlivening both spaces.

Savio Hall detail

Savio Hall brickwork (left) and dining hall (right)

Replacing a former parking lot, the new quadrangle visually and physically unites the central buildings and becomes a hub for student activity. Its formal axis connects the dining hall in Savio Hall, the Founder’s statue and the new Sacred Heart Chapel, providing a sense of community and purpose.

View from the dining hall to the quadrangle (left) and view of the quadrangle toward the chapel (right)

Abundant natural light in classrooms and views of nature are known to enhance students’ ability to learn and their sense of wellbeing at school.

Upper level classroom

Sacred Heart Chapel is a 1,500-SF addition to Immaculata Hall on axis with the Founder’s statue and Savio Hall. Inspired by the scale and form of Tuscan hillside chapels, it rests on a stepped plinth and raised linear plaza for social gatherings.

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Drone footage of Sacred Heart Chapel

The large colored glass windows and crosses clearly define the chapel’s purpose at the heart of the campus and the school’s mission.

Chapel interior

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Don Bosco Preparatory High School Construction Timelapse Video

Throughout the process, we worked with the Board of Directors on fundraising strategies and provided branding, renderings, a fly-by video, a campaign marketing video, and donor recognition. Because of the thoroughness of our planning and concept design, and our sophisticated digital modeling tools, our renderings are often hard to distinguish from the finished building. This is powerful for fundraising, allowing our clients and their donors to visualize the results.

[…] Our renderings are often hard to distinguish from the finished building. This is powerful for fundraising, allowing our clients and their donors to visualize the results.

Savio Hall rendering (left) and built (right)

With the initial transformation of the campus complete, future phases will include renovations to the existing buildings and eventually, a new fieldhouse for the school’s distinguished athletics programs.

Tata Housing – Colombo Square

In the heart of Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, Michael Graves Architecture & Design is spearheading the design of what will be the preeminent sustainable landmark development in the city. This 4,000,000 square foot mixed-use development will be spectacularly sited in a prime area of the city. Located immediately adjacent to the oceanfront promenade known as the Galle Face on one side, and the incredible Beira Lake on the other, the project affords unparalleled views of both Biera Lake and the Indian ocean. Moreover, unit layouts and building orientation have been organized to provide both maximum privacy and maximum views, while also taking into consideration prevailing climate patterns to allow for natural ventilation and daylighting as part of the sustainability and design approach. Colombo is both the political and commercial capital of Sri Lanka and is poised for continued growth with business investment in finance, IT, and tourism all driving up demand for high-end residential, commercial, hospitality, and retail space in this city of 5.6 million. The project has been phased to allow for eventual completion of five towers (three residential, one commercial, and one hospitality) as well as a low-rise “jewel building” to mediate between the scale of the towers and the adjacent neighborhood. In addition to this function, the “jewel building” helps to define and shape the public space and retail shopping lanes of the project.


Three core principles underlie this effort: resource conservation and protection; creation of both walkable and livable environments to promote environmental and personal well-being; and engagement and integration into the community and fabric of the local neighborhood.


The design of the project, from landscape, to architecture, to interiors makes reference to the local colonial architecture, which, in turns, takes its cues from classical design which provides clear and orderly organization of space into a legible and navigable design. This design language has been mixed with local influences of climate, connection to nature, color schemes (as beautifully illustrated in the local “stupas”, or vernacular Buddhist temples), and textiles. It is through the measured balance and blend of these elements that the design team has been able to create an engaging and contemporary solution for the client.

This building features 4,000,000 square foot mixed-use development.

Centrally located, with easy access to multiple transportation options, including road, air, rail and water, arriving at Colombo Square will be a breeze. The five-acre master plan of this development will ultimately be composed of five new towers, hosting residential, hospitality, and commercial programs. These towers, in conjunction with the masterfully designed landscape and public areas will complement and supplement the dense surrounding urban fabric which has existing amenities and features such as robust public transit, places of worship, parks, amusements, hotels, hospitals, and colleges within walking distance.

The design of the project, from landscape, to architecture, to interiors makes reference to the local colonial architecture, which, in turns, takes its cues from classical design which provides clear and orderly organization of space into a legible and navigable design.

Colombo Square will also provide an enhanced environment for all who live, work, shop, stroll, overnight, visit, or simply come across the project. Most prominently featured will be Heritage Plaza. Located at the corner of the site, Heritage Plaza provides a welcoming “open door” to the project. Designed in partnership with world-class landscape architects Sasaki Associates, this public plaza faces and invites in the city. Instead of the typical approach of creating a street wall with the façade of a building, the design team recognized the critical importance of Colombo Square’s role in the civic life of the city and its inhabitants. As such, rather than building an edifice up to the street line, it was determined to create a multi-use plaza that would allow for flexible and varied programs in order to create the maximum interest, activity, enjoyment. The plaza will also feature moveable furniture, landscape elements and water features and will solidify Colombo Square as a cultural gathering space. Additionally, the open space design and approach was carefully and fully coordinated with the overall sustainability approach of the project and required the coordinated efforts of the entire design team from structural and building systems engineering, to landscape, sustainability, and architecture. Three core principles underlie this effort: resource conservation and protection; creation of both walkable and liveable environments to promote environmental and personal well-being; and engagement and integration into the community and fabric of the local neighborhood. In order to conserve resources Colombo Square has a robust water capture strategy that aims to recycle water and uses natural ventilation and shade to reduce the energy needed for day to day operations and the overall orientation of the massing promotes the southern prevailing winds to blow through the development. To integrate the existing urban fabric Michael Graves Architecture & Design was careful to fine tune the master plan layout, allowing for natural flow of people. Combining these elements, Colombo Square stands to make a strong positive impact on the local community.

Colombo Square will also provide an enhanced environment for all who live, work, shop, stroll, overnight, visit, or simply come across the project.

Tata’s Colombo Square will be the development giant’s first foray into the Sri Lankan market, and as such, Michael Graves Architecture & Design is proud to have been the selected architect to design and deliver this world-class project. Colombo is truly a city of opportunity, growth, and fervent belief in the strong and exciting future that is laid out before it. Colombo Square is a project that embodies these themes and will make them visually and physically apparent as an iconic addition to the ever-growing skyline of the city.

MGA&D receives John Cotton Dana Commemorative Medal Award

At the Newark Museum’s Legacy Gala on May 12, 2018, Karen Nichols, FAIA accepted the John Cotton Dana Commemorative Medal Award on behalf of Michael Graves Architecture & Design. Citing the firm’s pivotal role in the Museum’s development for more than 50 years, Co-Director Ulysses Dietz remarked, “The Newark Museum would not be the institution it is today without the vision and guidance of MGA&D.” Nichols in turn described how this extraordinary collaboration between architect and client fulfills the legacy of Newark Museum founder, John Cotton Dana, who succeeded in creating America’s first modern museum.

 “Our ongoing collaboration with MGA&D has not only helped establish the Museum as one of America’s leading institutions for art, science and education, but has also served as a model for urban redevelopment.” – Newark Museum




Photo Courtesy of Newark Museum, Karen Nichols, FAIA accepted the John Cotton Dana Commemorative Medal Award on behalf of Michael Graves Architecture & Design

Photo Courtesy of Newark Museum

MGA&D’s longtime partnership with the Newark Museum began in 1967 when Michael Graves first met then Director Samuel C. Miller. Since that time, MGA&D has worked side-by-side with the Museum in creating dozens of design projects. The most transformative project, a master renovation plan conceived in 1982, was completed in phases over 20 years.

MGA&D led the recent effort to reopen the Washington Street entrance and revitalize key interior spaces, including the Welcome Center and several galleries, completed in early 2018. The Museum said, “Their team has created stunning spaces that enhance our exhibitions and invite visitors to explore and learn.” By making barrier-free access to the Museum possible for the first time, from the main entrance, this major renovation advanced the Museum’s commitment to be an inclusive, welcoming institution that is accessible to all. The project built upon the beauty and historic details of the Museum’s original architecture, preserving the past while ushering the Museum into the future.

Women in Architecture: Paths of Opportunity

Members of the AIA-CNJ are ready to kick-off the new year with a panel discussion that is open to anyone this February 27! The evening will begin with the installation of the 2018 AIA Central New Jersey Board followed by a panelist discussion. The theme of this discussion will be “Women in Architecture: Paths of Opportunity.” Karen Nichols FAIA, Principal of Architecture at Michael Graves Architecture & Design, will be a panelist in the discussion. Other panelists in this event include: Megan Pritts, Assoc., AIA, Liz Cook, AIA, Martina Decker, AIA, Verity Frizzell, AIA and Kirsten Sibilia, AIA. Karen and her fellow panelists will be sharing their own experiences and what they see as challenges and opportunities for women in architecture today. (A CEU presentation at 1.0 to 1.5 LUs)

The AIA-CNJ 2018 kick-off event will be held on Feb 27 at Eno Terra, 4484 Route 27 in Kingston, NJ from 6:00pm to 8:30pm and will be open to both members and non-members of the AIA-CNJ ($40 for Non-AIA-CNJ Members). Seating is limited, you can RSVP to by February 16th. Please contact Sean Cuddahy: 609-791-7269 with any questions.

Karen Nichols, AIA

Karen Nichols, FAIA

Principal, Architecture

With the firm since 1977, Karen Nichols has been an integral member of multiple project teams. She was the Principal-in-Charge for the renovation and expansion of The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, the master plan of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2003, Karen was elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the practice of architecture. Karen sits on the NJIT School of Architecture Board of Visitors. She has designed more than 35 exhibitions, and has edited seven monographs on the work of the firm.

Newark Museum’s Washington Street Entrance Dedication

Michael Graves Architecture & Design is pleased to announce the dedication ceremony and celebration of the reopening of the Newark Museum’s Historic Washington Street Entrance February 21st.

View of the Newark Museum entrance from street level.

View of the Newark Museum entrance on Washington Street.

Newly renamed in honor of Louis Bamberger, Newark’s beloved innovator and philanthropist, this grand entry will once again serve as the main entrance to the Newark Museum after its closing nearly twenty years ago. The new entry and plaza will welcome visitors to one of the country’s most distinguished art and science collections. The new entry and terrace will welcome visitors to one of the country’s most distinguished art and science collections.

Historic Photo of Newark Entrance (left), Entrance Rendering (right)

Historic Photo of Newark Entrance (left), Entrance Rendering (right)

The Michael Graves Architecture & Design team worked diligently to bring the vision of a new, inviting, and accessible entry portal to life while simultaneously reinvigorating the streetscape of downtown Newark. As part of a $5.5 million plan to expand exhibition space for the museum’s extensive collection of African art while enhancing visitors’ arrival experience, the Museum will dedicate the entrance February 21st.

Newark Museum Entrance Rendering

Newark Museum Entrance Rendering

MGA&D and the surrounding community see the Newark Museum as an integral cultural anchor which will serve as a catalyst for further future investment in a city poised for renewed development and growth. A spokesman for Mayor Ras Baraka has called the main entrance’s reopening, “another milestone in the renaissance of Newark.”

The beaux arts main building was designed by Jarvis Hunt and constructed in 1926 with funds from Louis Bamberger, the Newark department store mogul. Hunt also designed Bamberger’s flagship store in Newark. The museum includes other, independent structures that have been incorporated into the overall structure, including the former YMCA, which has since been converted into the current primary entrance and which will remain a secondary point of access for those arriving by car. Michael Graves Architecture & Design has worked on the museum’s expansion and capital projects for over 40 years and is a proud partner in celebrating this milestone.

Click here to register and attend the event.


Newark Museum
Washington Street Entrance
Dedication & Celebration
Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 11:30 am

Historic Photo of Newark Museum Entrance

Historic Photo of Newark Museum Entrance

Statue of Unity Hits Major Milestone as Construction Progresses

Since its ground breaking 36 months ago, progress on the record-breaking Statue of Unity project has made significant headway as site work, infrastructure and construction of the monument itself have all taken shape. MGA&D, the Design Architect and member of a multi-firm consortium tasked with delivering the project, is responsible for design and construction oversight of what will be, when completed, the tallest statue in the world – The 182 meter tall Statue of Unity. The statue is being built at the Sadhu-Bet Island, approximately 3.5 km south of Sardar Sarovar Dam in the Narmada district of Gujarat, India. A significant portion of the project entailed engineering and significantly reinforcing this rocky outcrop in the middle of the Naramada river bed in order to accommodate the massive sculpture and the base on which it sits which will, when complete house visitor services, and a series of display halls dedicated to Saradar Patel, the history of India’s struggle for and ultimate achievement of independence, and the construction of the statue itself. Of note is that Sadhu-Bet Island is not currently an island; it was an island prior to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, upstream some 3.5 km from the site of the Statue, and it will be returned to its island state via the construction of a downstream weir that will serve to aid in the control of the flow of the river and provide the 6 m rise in the waters of the river to submerge enough of the river bed to make the island a true island once again.

The above section of the statue shows the structure of the statue itself as well as the building beneath.

Rising waters, are in fact, a superb metaphor to the life and work of Vallabhbai Patel, in whose likeness the statue has been formed, and to whom its construction is dedicated. Vallabhbhai “Sardar” Patel was a prominent statesmen and social leader best known for his role in India’s struggle for independence and the state-building effort that followed. Sardar Patel grew up in the countryside of Gujurat State, first practicing law prior to becoming one of the preeminent political and social leaders in India’s history. It is in reverence to the immeasurable contributions of Patel that Prime Minister, Nahendra Modi has spearheaded the effort to erect the monument to the man and his accomplishments.

Pictured above is the primary steel erection that serves as the core access within the statue.

In addition to the statue itself, MGA&D designed the master plan for the entire project, including the phased development of a hotel, convention center, memorial garden, visitor’s center, a quarter mile long bridge connecting the visitor center to Sadhu Island and the statue, and miles of roadways and bridges that connect the statue to the town of Kevadia.

Birdseye view of progress to the Statue of Unity construction.

After a much-anticipated completion of the foundation and reinforcement of the Sadhu Island rocky outcrop, the full silhouette of the statue is taking shape. Once completed, it is anticipated that The Statue of Unity will become a highly sought and prominent travel destination for both domestic and international audiences. The project will provide an engaging and memorable experience which will include architectural and experiential features such as a visitor’s center with cable suspended stretched skin canopy, interactive museum, expansive food and beverage market and a breathtaking viewing deck 160 meters above the waters of the Narmada River. A notable construction milestone has been reached in the completion of internal twin concrete cores, thus meaning the main structural support is now complete. The twin cores will serve as both primary vertical circulation and structural support. Completion of this work has paved the way for commencement of the erection of secondary structural steel scaffolding which will serve as the support system for the individual bronze panels.

The broze cladding process has begun.
Artist and sculpture, Ram V. Sutar, first modeled the Statue of Unity as a 30-foot tall “miniature” version in his workshop. From this model a full-size digital model of the sculpture was realized, an intensive process of translation which required the skilled hand and eye of sculptors and fabricators well-versed in the manufacture of massive statuary. This model was then divide into roughly equal sized to form the outer “skin” of the 466-foot tall statue. The exterior of the statue will consist of a series of cast bronze segments called micro-panels. The micro panels are arranged in a series of rings that are supported on the structural steel scaffolding that will be hung from the internal twin concrete cores. These rings are first tested for fit at a nearby mock up area; they are first assembled on the ground to form a complete ring (as seen in the image below) to allow workers to make final adjustments prior to craning the pieces into place. Once the section is measured, adjusted and approved, the panels are separated into manageable sections and lifted one by one into place. Documented here is the erection and final placement and installation of the first micro-panel.

The final placement and installation of the first micro-panel.

The primary viewing area will be located in the chest of the statue, providing not only panoramic views, but the opportunity for visitors to experience and explore the internal structure of the statue and to witness first-hand the detailing of the micro panels and their assembly. The observation deck and will provide sweeping, picturesque views of the nearby Sardar Sarovar Dam, Narmada River, as well as the lush Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary that surrounds the site and extends for miles around. We look forward to watching the statue develop and take form as the final portions of construction are finished. The Statue of Unity is scheduled to be completed in 2018, we are eagerly anticipating the final product.

St. Regis Cairo Among Marriott’s Luxury Brand Opening in 2018

The St. Regis Cairo, the brand’s flagship property on the African continent, is slated to be Cairo’s most luxurious address. The project, designed by Michael Graves Architecture & Design, is one of nearly forty new luxury properties set to open in 2018 under the Marriott umbrella. The nearly 40 new hotel properties coming in 2018 span the hospitality giant’s eight distinct luxury brands—The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, EDITION and JW Marriott. The six-star St. Regis Cairo, is perched on the bank of the majestic Nile River and offers glorious views of the ancient waterway and vibrant city through which it courses. Offering a distant presence in the city’s skyline, the project is composed of a 37-story tower that was designed to maximize the seductive views along the Corniche, provide state-of-the-art accommodations, and support St. Regis’ goal of providing intuitive and truly bespoke hospitality experiences.

The Nile Corniche / St. Regis

The Nile Corniche / St. Regis Guestroom

The Nile Corniche / St. Regis

The Nile Corniche / St. Regis Guestroom Bath

While contemporary and chic in design, the character of the architecture and the interiors recall Arabic motifs and features that include the use of screens, echoing the traditional mashrabiyas of traditional Arabic architecture, arched and vaulted forms, and roof gardens accented by gurgling water features which serve to physically and psychically cool those who partake of the spaces.

This property is the embodiment of Michael Graves Architecture & Design’s philosophy rooted in unique designs that reflect their physical and cultural contexts.

The St. Regis Cairo combines contemporary luxury and elegance with regional influence to capture the spirit of the city and region and provide an experience for guests which will be forever, indelibly etched in their memories.

Click here to learn more about The St. Regis Cairo

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