Interiors Awards 2015: Hotel

Photography by Eric Laignel

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Andaz Maui at Wailea
Designer: Rockwell Group
Client: Hyatt, Starwood Capital Group, and Kobayashi Group
Location: Wailea, Hawaii

“Exhibiting masterful restraint, this hotel brings a timeless, understated elegance to its tropical locale. What’s most striking is the skill with which the designers developed a contextual solution that imparts a sense of place while being thoroughly modern and contemporary.” -Jury

Andaz is the Urdu word for personal style, and Hyatt wants its Andaz boutique-inspired hotel brand to be responsive to different locations and varied guest expectations. Hyatt commissioned New York–based Rockwell Group to create the first Andaz resort, located in Wailea on the island of Maui, Hawaii, following that firm’s success in designing the Andaz Wall Street in New York. Located on 15 acres adjacent to Mokapu Beach, an existing hotel from the 1980s was transformed by Rockwell into a sequence of open spaces that capture the spirit of this earthly paradise.

“We kept three existing towers, re-skinning them, and renovating the 297 guestrooms,” says Rockwell Partner Shawn Sullivan, “but we removed the heavy waffle slabs and porte cochères, replacing them with airy pavilions that connect all the public spaces ina casual, friendly way. The weather is so spectacular here that indoors and outdoors blend together.”

The concept of traditional Hawaiian architecture was largely invented by mainland architects decades ago, and had become a codified typology. Sullivan, in contrast, sought inspiration in the Polynesian vernacular, heeding the concerns of the local community and aiming to give travelers an authentic experience. To achieve a stylish, seamless experience, Rockwell consistently incorporated a few simple materials—including teak, walnut, oak, and limestone—throughout, and all furniture was custom designed. “People have made long journeys to this oasis and they should find something that produces a ‘wow’ factor,” Sullivan says. “We were allowed to reinvent everything from uniforms to landscaping.” 

General Manager Michael Stephens was closely involved in the design process. “We want guests to feel as if they were in a contemporary beach house, with the reception area as the living room,” Stephens says. “It’s a departure from the clichés, and a model for subsequent developments.”

Guests enter Andaz Maui on a bridge of reclaimed teak paved with Ambrato marble that crosses an infinity-edged pool and leads to the lofty but intimate 8,000-square-foot lobby. Bronzed rods enclose a central sandpit beneath a skylight, and pocketed glass doors open on each side to allow for cross-ventilation. Off the lobby, the concierge is within a reclaimed walnut–lined alcove. A sequence of infinity pools steps down the slope beyond the lobby, creating a blue path to a lagoon and the ocean. A staircase leads down to the 14,000-square-foot spa, which was inspired by a Hawaiian apothecary with 10 treatment rooms, a full-service salon, and three relaxation rooms. “Our firm has designed many spas,” Sullivan says, “but we wanted this one to be fresh and original: a place where guests could chat with the staff and customize their treatment.” 

That spirit of interaction, drawing on local hospitality traditions, is carried throughout the resort’s public areas. Ka’ana Kitchen, a two-meal-a-day restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, accommodates a crowd at peak hours but never looks empty thanks to divider screens. Serving stations are scattered around so that diners can talk to chefs as though they were gathered around the kitchen island in a friend’s house. Ka’ana Kitchen’s setting offers views of the infinity edge pool, lagoon, and ocean.

In the inventively planned spacious guestrooms, sliding glass doors open onto balconies, further connecting guests to Wailea’s beach and the ocean. Bathrooms with shuttered wooden screens in a whitewashed oak finish open up on each side. Nautically themed wall lamps are shaded by knotted ropes that cast intriguing shadows, and communal wooden dining tables in each suite offer flexible seating. In place of wildly colorful materials often seen in a Hawaiian hospitality setting, colors and patterns here are restrained to achieve a sense of serenity, and patterns in the suites derive from traditional island tattoos.

With Andaz Maui at Wailea, Rockwell created a property that feels rooted and timeless, yet free-flowing and refreshing—a model of what modern Hawaiian hospitality architecture can be.