Being saddled with the tag of 'hospitality industry specialist' doesn't bother architect Bobby Mukherji. He feels it is good to do work in an industry where people from all over the world can take a closer look and admire it.
However, the tag has come only after his 11-year-old firm, Bobby Mukherji & Associates, continued to redesigns hotels such as Le Meridien New Delhi, InterContinental Kolkata and a few hotels in Bangalore as well.
What's unique about Mukherji's work is that apart from doing projects in the hospitality industry, he also uses materials which are outsourced from foreign shores and uses them in his designs.
The large backlit alabaster panel in the lobby of Delhi's Le Meridien, for instance, was procured from Barcelona. On this design approach, Mukherji, who remembers shuttling between Los Angeles, where he was an associate with an architectural firm, and Mumbai, says, "We incorporate modern concepts and give them a global outlook."
In 1999, he bid for the master plan for Sahara's ambitious Amby Valley project and won it. For three-four years, he worked on the master plan and "built a rapport with the chairman of the Sahara Group". He also designed
lounges at select airports, styled counters and gave them a snazzier look.
Soon after this, offers for designing lounge bars and restaurants started to trickle in. But it was the redesigning of Delhi's Le Meridien which got him and his company the recognition they were craving for.
"Le Meridien had lost some of its old sheen and it was a huge challenge to revive it," he recalls. Ever since, Mukherji claims, the hotel is back in the reckoning and clients are pouring in with assignments.
Lighting is another area, where Mukherji pays a lot of attention as it is an integral part of any hotel design. He advocates usage of glass in a lot of his designs and says that it makes the hotels look more lively. In addition to that, he tries to use technology as well in designs. Like using video graphics instead of traditional wall paintings, something that has been used in many hotels.
His latest project, the Sahara Star in Mumbai, which has run into rough weather, is something he is proud of. Mukherji says he has tried to give it a 'tropical look', which is quite unique.
"It is something which has not been attempted before in the country," he says. There is a 3,600 sq ft aquarium, which has been installed in the private dining rooms. Besides, there is also a water garden feature in the hotel.
In addition to this, there is a huge dome which has been created and is climatically controlled and gives the hotel a completely different look.
The tropical forest design is also replicated in the rooms and stretched across to the furniture. Even the fabrics and textures of materials across the hotel replicate the sense of being within a tropical forest.
Mukherji feels that designing and improving the look of hotels provides him a bigger canvas and allows an architect to express himself better.
"There is limited scope in designing residential complexes," he says, adding, "In a hotel you can provide inputs for something as simple as a centre table in the lobby or where to add a glass sculpture." He suggests that catering to the needs of a larger number of users (or guests) in a hotel is somewhat of a design challenge.
But specialist in the hospitality industry or not, he is still not averse to the idea of doing work for other sectors. For the moment though, he is the architect with the 'hospitality specialist' tag intact.