Atlantis The Royal, UAE

14th August 2023

With its unique façade, the Atlantis The Royal hotel is the latest addition to Dubai’s ever-expanding skyline. Light Touch PLD was tasked with illuminating the mega structure and its luxurious interiors.

At the edge of Jumeriah Palms, the extravagant Atlantis The Royal Hotel crowns the shoreline as the newest landmark of luxury resorts of Dubai. Its peculiar shape of bridging towers contests the more conventional neighbouring buildings that comprise Dubai’s skyline. Designed by some of the world’s greatest designers, architects and artists fashioned the building on the myth of Atlantis, an underwater world, to create a narrative in conjunction with its sea-front location.

The hotel takes the luxury resort experience to new heights, spanning 406,000sqm across 46-storeys. This is the hotel where guests can live among the clouds in its expansive terrace space, private balconies and pools, and a sky garden supported by the 500-metre-long and 178-metre high “mega” structure positioned on the outer crescent of The Palm Island. Within, the building offers various eateries and leisurely spots among its 795 rooms, suites and penthouses.

A design of this magnitude and grandeur needed a lighting design company familiar with such large-scale projects. Light Touch PLD fit the profile, with an extensive history of resort experience across the Middle East, therefore knew they could be trusted with the brief.

Paul Miles, Partner and Principal Lighting Designer at Light Touch PLD, says: “We received multiple briefs on the basis of the scale and various components of the project, working with a number of world-class architects, interior and landscape designers. KPF New York was the lead architectural firm that had an initial aspiration on how the building should appear by night.”

With water being the focal idea of the building’s design, the lighting design needed to not only coincide with the concept but also link features, aspects and even people in connection with the narrative. Working with globally renowned architects like KPF New York required a close collaboration, therefore the night-time appearance was integral to bring the architect’s vision to life. The hotel has an incredible, unique façade that lends itself well to the use of linear lighting along the straight edges. The lighting is therefore designed to develop layers, to simply light the forms of rectilinear stacks, with the ability to adapt the colour as necessary.

“There was a big reliance on the balcony lighting to offer life and activity on the block ends,” Miles adds. “Due to the organic nature of the building, our role was to offer depth and life to these facias to give the impression that there was life beyond considering these are actually sheer walls. Three lighting treatments were offered to achieve this: the outline to offer the far vista accent, a subtle wall wash to the front of the terracotta slats and integrated LED to the false vision panels to offer depth and life to the facias.”

The building’s balconies played a huge role in how the light was perceived at night. Light Touch PLD created a bespoke product to achieve a soft indirect wash to each partition sheer, where each balcony is naturally controlled by the in-house guest. GRMS systems within the building give the landlord and client the ability to override the local control and have access to change the balcony lighting for specific events.

The Myth of Atlantis was the central theme across all aspects of the project, a task that can be conflicting when trying to harmonise both a theme and an ultra-luxury feel. However, the attention to detail was quintessential to create an experience for everyone inhabiting the hotel, this includes back of house and staffing areas. Light Touch PLD credits both the owner and the developers of the property, ICD and operators Kernzer, who felt the staff areas were just as key as the guest experience.

A project that has been 10 years in the making was bound to face a multitude of complexities and challenges throughout. For instance, time is arguably intrinsic to change; team members and management evolution was inevitable, each bringing new designs and protocol to be implemented and adapted. Time also allows external factors to come into play such as construction complexities and, of course, the pandemic. However, this unconventional project would have the material to create solutions in unconventional circumstances.

Teresa Enroth, Principal Lighting Designer at Light Touch PLD, says: “At the time, developing the lighting market was both a challenge and an opportunity. The main design phases lasted from 2015 to 2019, with updates and changes continuing into 2022. The opening date was pushed back due to the complexity of construction coordination and the pandemic, but Light Touch PLD was present on site with dedicated personnel from 2018 until after the opening in 2023. Having dedicated lighting design construction administration is uncommon but critical for a project of the size and scope of Atlantis The Royal. Considering the specifications were created six to seven years prior to the opening, we are very proud that the outcome still reflects a new project as if it was specified yesterday.”

The other-worldly nature of The Atlantis meant extravagance was taken to max, which came with the biggest challenge for the lighting designers – scale. Miles explains: “Whether it’s lighting the world’s largest jellyfish tank, illuminating a skull DJ booth, or figuring out how to illuminate an acrylic pool… this is only to name a few, as there are so many unique aspects to this project that we could go on forever. With years and years of experience in the market now, overcoming challenges is what we like to do best.”

Sophia Stezenko, Principal Lighting Designer at Light Touch PLD, adds that the nature of the curving architecture, and thus the interiors, required some diligence in alignments and fixture selection. She says: “Some structural constraints, particularly during the post-contract stage, necessitated additional reviews and re-design in some areas, such as the façade and sky pools, to accommodate placement issues.”

Light Touch PLD has said its philosophy is that lighting design is a complimentary factor and that its job is to create an atmosphere and highlight the elements. With more than 40 manufactures supporting the project and hundreds of product types due to the diversity of the design styles within the building, this meant extensive testing of a multitude of aspects in finding the right fixtures. Miles believes that the dimming stability was critical and a major challenge with LEDs. The key was conducting extensive tests on a range of devices to ensure smooth dimming.

After 10 years of diligence, obstacles and external setbacks Light Touch PLD ensured the initial design was achieved. Not only has the lighting designed fulfilled a very happy client’s wishes, but also illuminated the hotel to create the grand palace the designers had envisioned. Located 5km off the coast then, the hotel is a visible focal point from the Dubai Marina, thus taking the crown from the original Atlantis hotel as Palm Jumeriah’s focal landmark. When asked which of the lighting aspects impacts the grandeur of the hotel, Miles says: “It’s difficult to pinpoint one particular component that highlights this building; however, a common hidden compliment is when the most promoted images of the project are at night; the façade tips the balance here.”

Image courtesy of Atlantis The Royal