EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: A LEGEND OF HOTEL DESIGN

Face-to-face with Michel Gicquel, who for two decades was global artistic head of design for the Accor group.

Each of our meetings with Gicquel has enabled us to benefit from his forward-looking, but pragmatic, regard on a rapidly changing world. During this interview, the visionary and passionate Gicquel reflects upon his vision of the hotel industry of tomorrow, his new meetings and his prospective gaze on the Comoros. We asked him firstly to remind us of his background.

Engineer, architect, interior architect, designer… I designed and carried out emblematic projects around the world and it was in this capacity that I was asked, by the founding presidents of the Accor group, to create and animate the was Global Director of Artistic Design for the Accor Group, which I did for two decades. This unique experience allowed me to decide and oversee the construction or renovation of some of the world’s most beautiful hotels, palaces (Old Cataract, Scribe, Winter Palace, Santa Clara,…), Sofitel (New York, London, Rio, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Beijing, Los Angeles, Vienna,…) in more than 100 countries with the greatest architects (J.Nouvel, J.P.Viguier, Pei,…), Interior Architects (A. Puttmann, P.Y. Rochon, Hertrich & Adnet, N. Froger…), Designers (Norguet…), Stylists (T. Kenzo, C. Lacroix, …).

How do you always remain at the forefront of the hotel business?

I imagine and conceive concepts and products for the hotel industry, for today and tomorrow, as I always did when I was working for the Accor group where I invented the idea of the “concept room”: rooms of the future with products or technologies such as My Bed, television in the mirror, home automation, holographic screens, olfactory diffusers, etc.). I was thus honoured to be asked to create and animate the World Architects’ Day, to train them to cater for the challenges and prospects of societal mutations.

What are you currently working on?

In general, I am currently impassioned by the problems of the still-virgin destinations, where it is essential that building be done in the respect of the exceptional local cultures, materials and environment. This is one of the biggest challenges of our profession today; designing projects that respect man and nature in still pristine environments.

What are the conditions for meeting such a challenge?

First of all, there must be a strong political vision and will of the leaders who want to take their country in this direction.

Take the case of the Comoros, the vision, the spirit of President Azali to project the Comoros in the 21st century, to make it a model of a stable democracy for the region, seems to me a perfect example.

This vision, that benefits from the aura of President Azali, is able to be realised thanks to the team that surrounds him, and especially his Vice-President Djaffar, but also of young and brilliant advisors like Idrisse Ahamed who are able to make promote and share the new approach with the younger generations of Africa and the Indian Ocean. This policy is gaining recognition on an international level, in particular with the World Tourism Organisation*. Again here a strong political capacity is essential, and that is why I was highly impressed by the will of Vice President Djafar for the Comoros to become a member of the World Tourism Organisation, and the success of his efforts.

Any evolution is induced by constraints, but is only possible if there are answers. That is exactly the case with the Comoros.

So the Comoros is a new Eldorado for the development of a “sustainable” tourism industry?

It’s a magical place for this. It is imperative that these almost virgin islands be respected and that any construction there respect the culture, the materials and this exceptional environment which corresponds very precisely to the expectations of tomorrow. Few destinations still have this opportunity, and I will be delighted to participate in this beautiful story, which is currently being written and being able to lend my know-how in any way I can to this wonderful destination.


* After several years of negotiations, Comoros this year gained entry into the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as 157th Member State and 51st African country to be admitted. The nation’s admission, along with the admission of Somalia, was announced during the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China, after securing a two-thirds majority vote.