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Design & architecture: in conversation with Clint H. Nagata

Extremes have always fascinated Clint. Maybe it’s why he’s so compelled to test the limits of luxury design

It is the ability to reimagine luxury and make a mark in that destination that fuels my imagination for what I do. Less is more.

Extremes have always fascinated Clint. Maybe it’s why he’s so compelled to test the limits of luxury design – to buck trends and crossover misconceptions in order to discover something new. Something that leaves a lasting impression.

Ask Clint about the luxury destinations that inspire him most, and he’ll say how fortunate he’s been to travel to some of the world’s most beautiful locations. Clint cites extremes – the breathtakingly remote island of Bora Bora, and bustling New York City.

Speaking of Bora Bora, we asked Clint what he believed was uniquely Blink about Conrad Bora Bora Nui, French Polynesia, setting it apart from other luxury resort on the island. He shared that the luxury approach reflected the geography of the site, the owner and the brand. A bespoke approach, he says which incorporates the local culture into the hotel design while reinterpreting its French heritage with a modern vocabulary.

Clint Nagata (by Paul Lukin)
Clint Nagata (by Paul Lukin)

Bora Bora Nui, French Polynesia sets the stage for a modern romance with the South Seas giving a voice to the island’s rich heritage in an ultra-luxurious getaway.

Sensitivity to local cultures and designs that reinterpret and illuminate the past with modern sensibilities are glorious trends. Clint believes in being sensitive to the site and location as well, but not in a way that mimics local architecture or interiors.

An example Clint gave for just such a vision included the rich tapestry of cultures can often be found in fabrics. He likes to incorporate custom traditional fabrics into his designs. At Tor Regent Jakarta, his team created a screen that was based on Indonesian batik. A similar detail was fashioned at Conrad Bora Bora Nui, using a tapa barkcloth made in the Pacific Islands, which complements the furniture beautifully.

“By creating designs that focus on the local culture and highlight the destination, we are intrinsically promoting sustainable designs. Be it in the use of local materials, or design considerations for the climate, BLINK carefully considers each element in our design work.”

To enhance their comfort, while minimising the use of air conditioning, Clint’s designs allow for natural ventilation and lighting to create openness and an appreciation for the outdoors.

Over and above sustainability and cultural sensitivities, Clint cited other trends he felt were emerging in luxury travel. Hementioned that Asia and the Middle East are trending toward a bigger is better and more is more philosophy in design. The Sanya Edition on Hainan Island, a luxury hotel with 500 rooms, he confided is an example of such a concept.

He said that this type of property feeds into a popular misconception about luxury design––that size is luxury. The larger the room, the more luxurious it is. Clint’s personal philosophy bucks that trend.

Clint sees true luxury travel as intimate and extremely personal where less is more. Luxury does not mean a room needs to be of a certain size. In fact, Clint is developing a prototype of a compact luxury room that’s a mere 21sqm – the Mini Cooper of luxury.

“Luxury travel today is very centred on unique experiences. With so much competition, luxury properties have to really focus on creating unforgettable experiences for the guests.”

Clint believes that every place deserves a unique story, and finds opportunities to create settings that help illustrate this concept. For instance, in Bora Bora he said that none of the hotels have a lounge over water where guests can enjoy the sea. At Conrad, the team was able to create a fun, vibrant over-water lounge with glass floors for guests to enjoy.

“I believe luxury can be created through well-planned spaces using simple, welldetailed and bespoke materials. In Goa, we found a local marble for the guest room floors that was actually less expensive than ceramic tiles, but gave an amazing finish to the overall space.”

So where did this love of luxury begin? Clint’s first job was at WATG where he learned the art of design from one of the design partners, Kevin Chun, who taught him to create buildings from the inside out. Over the last 8-plus years, Clint’s had the opportunity to work with Ralf Ohletz, who helped him understand the importance of being bespoke.

When asked about the project that changed the trajectory of his career, Clint mentioned two – Regent Phuket and Regent Sanur where his team began refining how they approach design. By focusing on the location with a modern sensibility, he felt this experience helped establish an ability to create spaces that reflected luxury guests crave.

Clint is excited about a few new projects. In Costa Rica, his team just started a wellness resort set at the foot of a national forest. Architecturally, there are no significant buildings or styles in Costa Rica, and his team is having to reimagine a design style using only local materials.

On the opposite side of the world, he’s working on an island off the coast of Dubai where his team is creating a luxury resort with two identities. Half of the island, where the sea is rougher, the sea wall is being disguised as a jogging path, dotted with lagoons and landscaping.

“In every project, we learn and grow, and we use this to constantly better ourselves.”

Ask Clint about his favourite project and he always says – the next one. Every project is different. Clients are different. Sites are different, as are hotel brands. Constant travel is a source of inspiration for Clint’s creativity as he always sees and experiences new things.

Clint’s dream about future luxury design projects take him back home to Hawaii, where he grew up. Although a bit cliché, he’s always been intrigued with the idea of designing a luxury resort nestled on a pristine white sand beach in what was once his backyard. Coming home sounds pretty good after designing projects everywhere else in the world. We look forward to his dream come true.

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