Grape and Grain

Four years after the grand opening of the 138 metre high, 35-storey Fairmont Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, a new dining and drinking concept was visualised.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  March 2, 2006

|~|Cin-Cin-Body-1.jpg|~||~|Four years after the grand opening of the 138 metre high, 35-storey Fairmont Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, a new dining and drinking concept was visualised. When the hotel opened in the Summer of 2001 the vast hotel reception was open to the atrium above which was a business lounge, a coffee station and a small bar. The space was under-utilised, principally because of its lack of intimacy and privacy and the bustling lobby noise below.

Commercial interior designer, Paul Bishop, was brought in to transform the space into a fluid hospitality section where a wine bar leads into the existing Exchange Grill Restaurant and the perennially popular Cigar Bar. Bishop explains: “What I wanted to do was to create a floor with generic spaces for entertainment, that were completely autonomous but flowed into each other as well.” He continues: “The Fairmont didn’t want to change the Cigar Bar, so Cin Cin had to have the same synergy – it harmonises, but the décor of the Cigar Bar never dictated what route we would take with Cin Cin.”

The concept behind the new wine bar, Cin Cin, The Exchange Restaurant and The Cigar Bar is that the three outlets are meant to guide you through your evening. You start with a glass of wine, followed by food, ending with a brandy and a cigar. The Fairmont wanted to create a floor where these events could happen together. “The first challenge was one of spatial dynamics. The original use of space hadn’t worked because it was so open, thus the first design element was to cover up the atrium by using staggered glass panels.” Bishop says. From the ground floor looking up, the panels by Ozone Glass are unobtrusive, and from the inside they provide added light and atmosphere in addition to the much sought-after privacy.

The focal point of Cin Cin is the domineering five metre high wine bar, which showcases more than 200 different labels, and they actually offer over 2000 bottles. Richard Schestak, f&b director, Fairmont, explains: “We stipulated in the original brief that the wine had to take centre stage and we are really happy with the way it is showcased.” Bishop adds: “We used highly-lacquered Chinese wood, we were thinking of having chrome or frosted glass which would reflect the under-shelf lighting more vividly, but actually the finished effect is not overpowering, the lights are reflected in the underside of the shelves very subtly, which would be too much if we had used chrome.”

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The giant wine wall backdrop aside, the other principal focal point is the LED lighting panels that make up the bar and the two wine cabinets flanking the bar on either side. “LED lighting provides an additional stimuli. The panels can be programmed to sound, to pulse in time with music, to temperature, to time, and even to temperament, to mood.” The polypropylene flat-filled screens were from Mood Light in the Netherlands, available locally through BeLight Dubai.
In addition, if you order wine or champagne it arrives in a ‘mood bucket’. By having an individual LED wine cooler, it provides a personalised touch for the guests. “It is an added bit of theatre, that complements the LED bar and provide a bit of a talking point,” Bishop says.

The buckets, the bar and the side panels can all be programmed to pulse in tandem with each other or independently. Additional lights from a glass panel are built into the bulkhead. The majority of the lighting, including the Hollywood-inspired bulb lighting, was from International Vesoi whilst ‘The Drop’ lighting was by Anta.

The Exchange Grill was a basic remodelling exercise. “We were limited in what we could do as we were not allowed to change the existing furniture or floor finish and had to work around this to achieve the designed ambience.” One way in which Bishop achieved this was through controversial lighting decisions. The retro spiral triple SP3 silver light is plastic with a chrome-mirrored finish and is suspended on transparent wires. It was designed in the early 60s and fits in with the retro revival, available from Verpan in Denmark, but locally through Four Frontiers.

The bare wire chandelier in The Exchange is from the same company as the bulb lighting — International Vesoi. Bishop says: “This chandelier caused a huge amount of controversy as you either love it or you hate it, some people think that it’s too contemporary. It’s a paradox of being in the Fairmont, people think that you couldn’t possibly have something so modern in the Fairmont, but it works in the space. I think individual talking points are good things in a commercial design. Some people ask me, but why are there different coloured wires and bulbs, did you run out? When is it going to be finished? We’ve had a very mixed reception!”

“The Fairmont wanted to create something young, exciting, fresh and creative yet elegant too. They didn’t want an overly formal environment. The clientele is eclectic, much like the design.” Bishop explains that the design decisions were based around the projected customers: “The décor was purposely chosen to be monochromatic in shades of off-white to off-black, the people that socialise here should provide the colour.” He adds, “I didn’t want to create a theme bar, I wanted the atmosphere to be generated through subtlety. Everyone has preconceptions of what a wine bar should look like, and this breaks the boundaries.”

||**|||~|Cin-Cin-5.jpg|~||~|The actual bar covers a large surface area, almost 400 sq.m. thus the creation of specific spatial zones was needed. This was principally achieved by creating stage areas and clusters of different seating arrangements. Stand alone leather armchairs, and soft leather ‘love seats’ were bought from Rossi Di Albizzate through local agents Al Aqili in Dubai. The cream sofas were existing Fairmont furniture re-upholstered with slight design modifications and all other furniture was bespoke and made locally in Dubai by the contracting firm Crestwood. “I wanted to create a variety of seating choices that would complement each and every function or use. From business meetings conducted on high-level bar stools, to the relative informality of the sofa clusters, to the jovial love-seats for couples or friends, there is a wide range of options,” Bishop says.
Other ways he played with the spatial dynamics includes covering some of the walls with fabric: “I wanted to create the environment of a total movie canvas. Light is incredibly important, you can create a spatial awareness through light; it becomes an interactive area. There is a staggered colour scheme on the walls and the refraction of light draws you in, whilst the cream leather-clad columns of light create an interesting entrance and adds a mystical touch with the fairy-light look thanks to the studded holes.”
In The Exchange Bishop has chosen to make focal accent walls. One wall has a large piece of original 3D art with all the blocks made with a different thickness. In addition, the flower wall is a key focus and very unique — it has a wall full of individual metallic test tubes that each hold a single stemmed flower that are inset into the wall. “The thinking about this was that we could alternate the type and colour of flowers we display — red roses for Valentines Day, exotic red lilies for parties etc,” he explains.
Further more, the carpet throughout is heavily textured, having four layers, which gives a 3D effect and adds texture and opulence. The use of absorbent materials provides ample soundproofing against the lobby noise below whilst the grape design is subtle yet obviously complementary to the purpose of the space as a wine bar. It was hand-tufted in Thailand by Siam Carpets and available through Carpet Land in Dubai.

Finally, the dripping wine units bring another sensory dynamic into the space — the element of water. “It reminds us that this is not a static space, by including kinetic energy, it evokes a different ambience.” Bishop explains.
Richard Schestak sums up the design of Cin Cin by saying: “The bar feels like Manhattan, but we could easily be in London or Hong Kong too; it is a very sophisticated space that we think will have a wide appeal.” ||**||

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