Studio Gaia

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What is Studio GAIA Style?

The Studio GAIA style evolved with three projects: Republic, Cafeteria and BondSt restaurants in New York, and which we designed in succession from 1996 to 1998. The style has become, for me, like a modern version of the baroque—so many levels of details, all incorporating drama, movement, vitality, tension and energy.

In 1995, when we started, much of the work being produced in Manhattan was already quite dated, the aesthetic rather ’80s in style. It was no longer appealing to audiences—or it was just not appealing to us. The premise and outcome of Republic, our first project, was simple, functional, youthful and trendy. People mixed together in a dynamic, communal, fluid space.

I’ve come to realize that the guiding principles have been an understanding of function and audience. All three projects were breakthroughs in how I understood the social dynamics of people—how they interact with the space, how the space becomes experience.

In all three projects, a strong modern sense was present, but we found ways of making the restaurants warm and comfortable, rather than sterile. The furniture that we used—or the furniture that we created specifically for the interiors—have always been simple, but with a twist. Over the course of our projects, there hasn’t been a single furniture type or lighting treatment that we didn’t try to create for the sake of shaping the collective experience.

Our style has become a philosophy that creates a strong reaction and an emotional exuberance through bright, vivid colors and strong visual statements. In every detail and facet, our projects encompass travel, discovery, and surprise. Its geometries evoke movement. There is always a very strong sense of theatrical lighting. In that sense, everything was simple and spare; there was never any room for decoration. The style is most definitely modern, yet not minimalist at all—it is warm, casual, and comfortable.

When I am given a commission, I spend lots of time just thinking, and not sketching. During this time, I am thinking about the project all day—while I eat, drive or sleep. Slowly in my mind, the design philosophy and the ideas start to take shape. This is when I am ready for the drawing board. The project comes directly from my mind, then I sketch it and write a descriptive text to see if I’ve answered the client’s criteria.

In those hours dreaming about a project, I’ve come to realize a few things:

—The style of architecture and design has to be wholly your own.

—A designer cannot be afraid of trying something new, of taking a risk.

—A successful work should bear a designer’s style but not be repetitive.

—Compromises are unavoidable, but it is solely up to the designer to decide which concessions to make, and how far to go.

—One of the greatest challenges for Studio GAIA as designers is the question of being modern and contemporary while simultaneously creating a language that will stand the test of time.

—Ultimately, design means research, planning, and invention. Often times, it means having conjure up things or places that don’t exist, creating them, and making them perform or function according to your intentions.

In the beginning of the 21st Century, Studio GAIA had an opportunity to design, from top to bottom, two major hotels in South Korea and Mexico. In the projects for W Mexico City and W Seoul, the details and beliefs of Studio GAIA really came together. Everything, with regard to furniture, details, materials, and audience, was a culmination of everything that we had done so far. Both projects were casual, but dressed up; refined, but simple; chic, but not overdone. The design made its own statement and did not mimic other styles.

For W Mexico City, we traveled to Mexico to learn the culture, habits, history, materials fashion, and colors that are native to the country. When were there, we stayed near the Parque de Chapultepec, at the Camino Real. One of the classic masterpieces by Spanish modernist Ricardo Legorreta, the Camino Real has stood the test of time and became a real touchstone for what we hoped to do with W Mexico City.

And what did we learn about making a luxury hotel? We’ve learned that hotels must be a place where the traveler can obtain privacy and relaxation at his or her destination. A home away from home, certainly, but a night in this hotel should be like an overnight stay in an art museum—where, perhaps, the guest is treated like the artwork. Using colors, materials and shapes in ways that go beyond the ordinary, the hotel should be an innovative, dream-inspiring space.

We are living in an era where consumers’ appetite for originality are increasing. People are after places that are intimate, comfortable, open, and ultimately, places that encourage togetherness. The first impressions of our hotels are always the entrances—part night club, part lobby. Immediately, one senses people all around. While this new model has elements of a club, the emphasis in our hotel design has always been on the quality of personal spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms—which we’ve spent considerable energies on designing. All of which, in its disparate functions, should create a fantasy for the senses.

This is just one of the many ways of how design has dramatically changed the hospitality industry today. It is one of the main reasons—if not the only reason—by which people choose a place to stay, or how they distinguish one brand from another. We travel to escape the daily routines of our lives and experience new sensations. With more leisure time and money available to spend on travel, easier options for reaching destinations, and a global business culture that is dependent on the world coming together, the travel industry has heated up in recent years, a very reflection of how dramatically life is different than they were 10 years ago. 

The social diversification of recent years has generated new clients who are anxious for new projects and new ideas. Such a moment has created the desire for new establishments that offer personal attention, in not only service but also in material and spiritual comfort. The settings and ambiences enjoyed in these hotels are true celebrations of the senses, which stay with the traveler long after he or she has departed.

We’ve spent the last 10 years working hard to refine our brand, the Studio GAIA Style, and we hope that it’s something that will remain with you as well.

HOTELS RESTAURANT BAR CLUB DESIGN by Studio GAIA was published in June 2006. An exclusive GAIA Furniture Line taken from our projects that will be available to the general public soon. 

Waisbrod summarizes his company's philosophy: "At Studio GAIA, we continually seek clients with whom we can explore the possibilities of architecture and design while challenging the conventions of a genre, be it hotels, restaurants or retail projects. By focusing on our passion and the creative potential of our work, we will continue to thrive as designers and human beings."

Studio Gaia Team
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