Friday, August 3, 2012


Scape Design Associates, renowned designers of landscapes for the hospitality and luxury lifestyle community, has created a first in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, with a breathtaking setting for the monumental new JW Marriott Absheron. Overlooking the historically significant Azadliq (Freedom) Square and adjacent to Government House, the new building and
gardens combine in making an imposing statement of the nation’s emerging status and confidence in its future.

Respectful of both the new architecture and its historic location, Scape’s design for the landscape on the west-facing frontage of the hotel provides for an experience that guides its guests along a processional route from Freedom Square, climbing through a public water garden awash with cascades and water rills up into the hotel environment. At the head of the public gardens, hotel guests follow a further ceremonial covered walkway that leads up between two water hugging covered granite cuboids to the large stylish outdoor terraces of the hotel’s main restaurants, Oro Nero and Fireworks, and finally into the hotel’s bars and restaurants beyond. This entrance is designed as a covered “catwalk” bridging the space between the terraces and providing a touch of glitz and glamour on arrival to the restaurants, embodied at night by fire bowls the reflections of which shimmer across the surface of the surrounding water.

The public gardens rise above Freedom Square like a stepped pyramid created over a series of garden terraces, rising in total five metres above the surrounding streetscape. Throughout these gardens, water – a favoured ingredient in Azerbaijan’s parks – flows and cascades, as a complement to the landmark fountain in the adjoining seafront parkland to the west of the hotel. A central water display and parallel canals, adorned with an array of dancing jets, together with the lines of trees and shrub planting, mirror the lines of the glazing to the hotel exterior and the oval apartment wings flanking each side. The planting has been set out to heighten the drama of the ascent and endorse the sense of exclusive retreat as guests arrive at the restaurants’ terraces. “It was a fundamental requirement that the elevation facing Azadliq Square had an imposing symmetry and our axial response to the design of the building completes this narrative,” says Phil Jaffa, Managing
Director of Scape Design Associates. “Essentially, we have created a modern urban water garden, a new landmark in Baku that shades and celebrates some of the city’s most sought after wining, dining and function destinations.”

Choice of plants was also subject to Baku’s notoriously strong winds, and foliage was selected to shelter guests as they walk or sit on the terraces and to protect them from the dust whipped up by the winds. Planting also acts as an effective acoustic barrier to the noises of the traffic in this central area of downtown Baku. As a result, clusters of hardy bushes at lower-ground level are intermingled with climbing species and a number of large olive trees provide especially good shelter for the windiest north-east corner. Flowering plants surround the restaurant terraces. Many of the plants and trees introduced into the JW Marriott site are already species familiar to landmarks in Baku: the eunonymous hedging, for example, which is associated with Government House and the London Plane trees which
also line the city’s corniche.

Since the majority of the guestrooms have a bird’s eye view of the landscape, Scape’s scheme has not only considered issues of human scale at ground level but also visual pattering from above. The ballroom roof, in particular, which extends out at third floor level has been planted with a variety of flowering species. The main entrance to the JW Marriott Absheron is to the east-facing elevation where Scape has created a dramatic granite-clad water feature. A combination of rough-faced cube grids and ridged panels play with the water to produce, at the same time, both mist and shimmer before the water tumbles at speed over a rough stone wall to achieve a white water effect that drowns out the sound of passing traffic. Two majestic evergreen Thuja trees tower over the water feature, forming an impressive frame to the entrance doors and the hotel within.


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