From Morocco to Bahrain and across the world

Internationally famed for his hotel designs, Galal Mahmoud is one the most exciting architects. With a vibrant, forward-thinking firm, GM Architects, Mahmoud has created world-class hotels and resorts in the Middle East and beyond.  Here IFDM talks to Mahmoud about his life’s work, his focus and his latest project, the Rotana Banader in Bahrain.

You’re known for creating upscale resorts and luxury hotels, how did this happen?

I have always been drawn to large-scale projects where I can create holistic design experiences. Resort design is where you really need to think pathways, visual connections, environment and seamless connection with your natural surroundings.  This is where I have the possibility to choreograph and tell a story that will speak the context and provide guests with a true sense of wellbeing.

You once said you create architecture that is infused with a sense of wellbeing, emotion and mystery… Tell us more.

My responsibility as an architect is to create an environment that provides my clients with a better life. This is carried through my play of space, light, volume and integration that will infuse this sense of emotional connection to the space.

How would you define your style, your philosophy in architecture?

Our style is definitively contextual as it draws its inspiration from the location’s characteristics such as the geography, culture, history, landscape and most of all, the local lifestyle. My philosophy is about creating spaces and buildings that tend to blend and disappear within the environment and that are in constant harmonious dialogue in a quiet and elegant ways with its surrounding.

As a Lebanese who is successful abroad, why are you based in Lebanon?

We have projects in Lebanon such as the upcoming Tortuga Real estate development in Batroun, the renovation of Le Bristol hotel was recently completed and many others. Lebanon is my country, where I feel good, and its people are so talented.

Tell us about the latest Rotana Banader in Bahrain.

We asked ourselves how to make business travel enjoyable and fun. We tackled the question by introducing a twist of color, visual entertainment and cool spaces that are both pleasing for the eye and relaxing for the mind. For all of us frequent travelers, business travel and airports have become such an enduring, stressful and boring experience, we wanted to provide a business hotel with some fun and color while keeping it calm and relaxing. Here we’re playing with the thin line between trendiness and the corporate world. Who said business travel had to be slick and boring?

There’s another project making waves: the new Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach & Spa in Morocco…

This is a true GM Architects project, where we handled all aspects of the design from architecture, to interior design, art, hardscape and signage. It’s a complete and holistic design and we would like to do more and more.

What are you working on now?

A large sea front residence in Morocco, A Le Meridien in Saudi, A Sheraton in Dakar on the sea, and residences and hotels in Mykonos.

To what do you owe your success today? 

Tons of hard work, perseverance, a great team around me and most of all, enjoying life and having fun with what I do.

If you’re not designing a new hotel, what are you doing?

Racing classic cars, traveling to discover new lifestyles and cultures and enjoying my family.