SO/ Maldives, Accor's Latest Venture Overlooking the Beautiful Emboodhoo Lagoon
The Maldives is at no shortage of luxury escapes, a rich and diverse island-scattering destination for the most discerning travellers. SO/ Maldives will comprise 80 breathtaking villas overlooking the Emboodhoo Lagoon at CROSSROADS Maldives, the Indian Ocean's first multi-island integrated leisure and lifestyle hub and we couldn't be more excited. It's set to open in 2023, but we've got the scoop – here's what to expect on the new opening, as told by Calvin Sim, the founding partner and director of eco.id.
Could you tell us about your design process?
We started by analysing the information from the site location, the brand identity and the project brief. This helped us decide how to approach the project, create the narrative and execute the design. It was important to tie in the overriding narrative of the project with the various resort activities and facilities, as seen from the user’s point of view – from the first arrival point to the overall guest experience. Each project must understand its target audience.
The initial master-planning stage that set out the resort experience was decided by studying the site and looking at the various activity zones around the island. We needed to consider the views and relationships between the buildings, their interaction with landscaped areas and aspects of privacy. To finalise the main design concept, we integrated all the various elements of the narrative, architecture and interior design, and brought everything together as a holistic composition that highlighted the big ideas. We kept in mind functionality and all technical elements that need to be coordinated with the other project consultants to ensure that everything was ready for construction.
How did you get into the industry?
We were invited to pitch for The Metropolitan Bangkok project and won the commission. This marked our first hospitality project and it allowed us to get an understanding of hotel branding and creating guest experiences, as well as working with tight budgets.
SO/ Maldives is set to open in 2023. Could you tell us more about the project and the design?
The SO/ brand DNA is all about being rebellious, playful and audacious. It is bursting with energy. With our bold, avant-garde design, we have been able to infuse this DNA into a contemporary resort setting within a tropical location. Working with the distinctive SO/ style, we wanted to create bold designs that are tasteful, eye-catching and evoke a sense of exploration and adventure. We aimed to create spaces that can be looked at from outside and from within.
The stairway leading to our elevated specialty restaurant was conceived as a vertical fashion runway – an architectural feature that celebrates the boldness of SO/ and adds to the user experience.
This project gave us the opportunity to think outside the box and push boundaries, in terms of the aesthetics and use of space. The SO/ DNA was always at play; we considered the users – both guests and staff – as being fashionistas strutting their stuff throughout the resort. For example, the stairway leading to our elevated specialty restaurant was conceived as a vertical fashion runway – an architectural feature that celebrates the boldness of SO/ and adds to the user experience.
What are some exciting facilities and things to do at the resort?
The main feature would be the two-storey arrival building that integrates a specialty restaurant on its upper level, elevating the viewpoint of the main lagoon while also framing the all-important sunset views. The arrival building then becomes a central hub for the resort; somewhere guests return to during their stay, rather than just being a place for arriving and leaving, which happens at many Maldivian resorts.
The all-day dining restaurant and beach club command the entire stretch of the main beach, overlooking the lagoon, providing a full range of activities throughout the day and a social hub for the resort at night. This will also become the venue for the famous SO/ parties by the main pool. The second island is designed to be more private, with beach villas and an exclusive spa set in a secluded corner. The bridge connecting to this second island is animated with overwater netting for lounging around, and at night it becomes an amphitheater for outdoor cinema screenings. Children are not forgotten; there is a kids’ zone where young guests can play inside or run around within a secure outside garden area. And of course, the signature Maldivian overwater villas are designed for privacy with direct access into the lagoon.
What sets SO/ Maldives apart from other resorts in the beautiful atoll?
From a design point of view, the bold and contemporary aspect of the SO/ brand provides a definite contrast to the other resorts in the atoll. For instance, Hard Rock Maldives, the resort’s immediate neighbour, has a more family orientated and, in some ways, rustic feel with its thatched roof aesthetics, while SO/ is all very contemporary and clean-edged.
The design and use of space of each villa are also bold and distinctive. Each has a very open-plan layout where areas for relaxation, eating, sleeping and bathing flow seamlessly and overlap each other.
The two islands curve around the SO/ lagoon, creating a cocoon effect with its own vibe, while also contrasting the bustle of the main hub at one end with the quieter private zone at the other. As part of the CROSSROADS Maldives family of islands, the connection to The Marina @ CROSSROADS also provides a unique chance to go island-hopping and offers access to a wealth of additional activities and attractions.
Who are your designer inspirations?
We are inspired by the local vernacular, the distinct culture of the Maldivian people, as well as their authentic arts and crafts.
What are your proudest projects to date?
SO/ Maldives would certainly be one of our proudest projects. Prior to this, our fondest project would have been W Maldives. It was W Hotels’ first resort property worldwide and the brand encouraged us to infuse tropical island living with W Hotels’ contemporary mantra of “whatever and whenever”.