Luxury debut

The tea and juice bar ... features a large sculptural light fixture.

RIYADH will welcome its first luxury boutique hotel early next year when the Nobu Hotel Riyadh opens its doors in the first quarter of 2015.

The hotel also marks the debut of Nobu Hospitality, ranked among an elite selection of global luxury hospitality brands, in the Middle East market.

The property, which will stand out for its contemporary design, has been designed by Rockwell Group Europe, in collaboration with Dhaliliyah Establishment.

The hotel is located in a modern, 23-storey skyscraper on King Fahd Road in the heart of Saudi capital’s financial centre, close to major cultural and shopping destinations. Its distinguished contemporary design artfully blends Nobu’s cutting-edge Japanese style with subtle and poetic references to the magical landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition to the hotel’s 90 guestrooms and 44 suites, Rockwell Group Europe is designing all of the hotel’s public spaces, including a teahouse on the ground floor, an all-day dining restaurant on the first floor mezzanine, a VIP lounge with sweeping views of the city from the 16th floor, banquet facilities and meeting rooms, and the hotel’s 770-sq-m signature Nobu Restaurant.

The project reflects the collaborative design vision of Rockwell Group Europe and Dhaliliyah Establishment, and builds on the group’s many years of experience with Nobu Hospitality, a partnership of acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert de Niro, and film producer Meir Teper.

“The design of Nobu Hotel Riyadh is a progression of various concepts that Rockwell Group has developed with Nobu in the past, emphasising natural materials and craftsmanship and visually connecting different spaces to create a fluid environment and experience,” says Diego Gronda, managing and creative director of Rockwell Group Europe, who also worked on the design of the flagship Nobu Fifty Seven restaurant in New York, US, which opened in 2005. “We’re building on the distinctive Nobu aesthetic while anchoring the hotel in its specific Saudi Arabian context, which was accomplished by weaving together abstract references to Japanese and Saudi cultural and natural elements and setting up these dynamic design dualities.”

Nobu Restaurant ... one of the private dining rooms.

Nobu Restaurant ... one of the private dining rooms.

“Rockwell Group Europe’s approach combines contemporary design and manufacture with Japan’s artisanal traditions, featuring raw materials like wood and stone, warm earth colours, and custom lighting features inspired by origami,” he says.

A porte-cochère comprising a double-height rectangular wood frame, wrapped in natural fibre rope, will mark the hotel’s entrance, creating a sense of warmth and intrigue upon guests’ arrival.

In the double-height entrance hall, visitors will be greeted by a sensuous ribbon of stacked horizontal wood slats, about 5 m wide, inspired in shape and structure by the binzasara, a traditional Japanese percussion instrument. This custom wood feature will curve up the wall and along the ceiling and floor of the hotel’s ground floor in one continuous, flowing gesture, guiding visitors from the front door to the reception, elevators, and other areas. It will also arch upward to the all-day dining restaurant on the mezzanine and along the restaurant’s ceiling. A special fibre-optic rope will tie together the wood slats at both ends and exude a festive light.

In the entrance hall, guests will further encounter a large glass disc by Venezuelan artist Manuel Mérida – one of a series of commissioned artworks placed throughout the hotel. The kinetic disc is about 3 m in diameter and holds tiny, sand-like loose grains. Rotating slowly, it plays with the notion of a sandstorm as the grains collapse into ever-changing formations. The reception desk will consist of a massive, horizontal floating glass case that is supported only by a stone column. Special installations inspired by organic sand patterns shaped by desert winds will be displayed in the vitrine.


Signature restaurant

The 770-sq-m signature Nobu Restaurant on the second floor will be accessed through a wooden pathway framed by two large Japanese gardens. Rockwell Group Europe has designed a large, sculptural light fixture for the restaurant’s tea and juice bar — finished in natural coconut fibre and evoking a luminous piece of twisted rope.

The ribbon of wood slats curve up the reception of the hotel.

The ribbon of wood slats curve up the reception of the hotel.

An undulating wooden fish scale structure, manufactured by Brad Oldham International, will envelop the entire space while defining different dining areas and providing a sense of intimacy and human scale. Made out of hand-size, hexagon pieces of wood, held together by metal brackets, this double-curvature membrane will be punctured along the window façade by small triangular apertures, to let in natural light. It will create a warm environment contrasting with the restaurant’s highly polished stone floor.

Comfortable banquettes with patterned textiles, designed by Rockwell Group for Jim Thompson – the renowned Thailand-based company known for its high quality silk textiles and beautiful designs – will add to the restaurant’s welcoming and vibrant feel. Guests may sit at the sushi bar facing the show kitchen or opt for a quieter dining experience offered by two private dining rooms seating 16 to 20 people each.



The hotel’s guestrooms and suites are designed as oases of tranquillity and rejuvenation, a concept that will be underscored by nature-inspired, organic shapes and patterns and pastel colours with accents of gold.

Eclectic furniture will mix classic, modern, and contemporary shapes, while several live edge pieces will add a touch of Japanese craftsmanship. The sumptuous 230-sq-m Royal Suite will boast a dining area with a natural root table for six people and a show kitchen where chefs will prepare food to order from the Nobu restaurant.


Rockwell Group

Rockwell Group Europe is an award-winning design firm that creates distinctive environments for innovative, established and emerging brands in hospitality, retail, culture and entertainment worldwide. Gronda and his team are currently working on projects in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America, such as the interior of the first Virgin Hotel in Chicago (US) for Sir Richard Branson, new guestrooms and public spaces at the legendary Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, Mumbai (India), and the new W Suzhou, China. Recent projects include the Embassy Diplomat Screens in Bangkok (Thailand), W Paris-Opéra in Paris (France), two Gordon Ramsay restaurants at St Regis Doha in Doha (Qatar), and Le Méridien Oran in Oran (Algeria).

Set up in Madrid, Spain, in 2005, Rockwell Group Europe is the European headquarters of Rockwell Group, the international architecture and design firm founded by David Rockwell in New York in 1984.