Case study: French Riviera glamour influences Sofitel Tamuda Bay Resort in Morocco

Inspired by French Riviera Glamour, French-Lebanese architect Galal Mahmoud designed the Sofitel Tamuda Bay Resort in Morocco.

Located on the northern coast of Morocco and set against the backdrop of the Rif Mountains, the Sofitel Tamuda Bay hotel’s design effectively combines aesthetics of traditional Moroccan culture and French Riviera glamour of the 1950s.

Spanning a total floor surface area of 38,128m2, the five-star resort opened this summer and offers 104 bedrooms and suites, eight bungalows and five villas.

Beirut-based GM Architects, under the leadership of Galal Mahmoud, were commissioned as architects and interior designers for the resort. In line with his approach of “contextual immersion”, Mahmoud made a preliminary study of the site and the surrounding landscape, integrating contextual references such as climate, geography and even topography.

“Visiting the site in person and immersing myself in the location is at the heart of my philosophy,” explains Mahmoud. “When it comes to the Sofitel Tamuda Bay, I took the cultural references of northern Morocco and reinterpreted them in a contemporary language, and then integrated them into the final design. Tangier is punctuated with wonderful contrasting strokes of cobalt blue and white, and these have been a vital source of inspiration for this new project.”

The Sofitel Tamuda Bay’s architecture and interior design were entirely conceived by GM Architects to allow for a smooth and seamless transition between indoors and outdoors.

“It’s a comprehensive and holistic design approach creating a seamless design vocabulary throughout the outdoor and indoor spaces. There is a continuous play with the boundaries that link the beautiful and natural sea views with the interiors creating a true sea front experience with a real sense of place,” he says.

The challenges were continuous, says Mahmoud, as the design team was developing an entirely new concept in a new touristic area of Morocco despite difficult access to the site.

“Bringing modernity in such a remote location was a great experience to all the team members,” he adds.

Resolutely contemporary in his approach, Mahmoud drew inspiration from 20th-century artists whose paintings were highly influenced by their stays in Morocco, such as Matisse and Rouault.

The hotel’s internal spaces pay tribute to the influence of these artists in the choice of pigments, the rounded shapes reminiscent of Moroccan crafted objects, and even the blue birds of the Mediterranean Sea. In the hotel’s various spaces vivid colours contrast sharply with the bright white used in the marble chosen by Mahmoud and his team.

“Having made the choice of a resolutely contemporary approach, I decided to draw inspiration from artists who stayed here and their paintings, in particular, the rounded shapes, pigments, colours and, of course, local objects,” says the architect.

The very essence of the project is based on a subtle mix of modern and traditional. This combination was the overriding principle, which guided Mahmoud in the design of each of the Sofitel Tamuda Bay’s internal spaces.

“We worked in close collaboration with Sofitel to capture and recreate the deep connection that exists between France and Morocco. Our aim is for each guest to embark on a voyage of colour, history and culture,” he explains.

The use of new materials allowed him to reinterpret this traditional lifestyle into a contemporary language. A telling example is the use of plexiglas to create the mashrabiya screens.

“Moroccan culture and craftsmanship are rich in colour and texture and, as far as I’m concerned, are highly characteristic of this Mediterranean civilisation which has evolved over many centuries. They are, for me, an endless and permanent source of inspiration for each of my projects,” he concludes.