The boutique hotel “ME by Meliá” recently opened its doors in Dubai. It is the only hotel commission for which award-winning architect Zaha Hadid designed both the interior and the exterior. Her signature features: breathtakingly smooth contours, dramatically angular lines, bold materials and expressive colours.

The building is an artwork whose exterior is a veritable architectural masterpiece. And on the inside – well, that is “where the magic happens”. Bloggers on the website of Portuguese design house Boca Do Lobo are in raptures over it. The new hotel for Spanish chain Meliá Hotels International in “The Opus”, Dubai, is a model of luxury design. Accolades especially from the Arabic-speaking regions have been vying with one another for superlatives.

It’s not surprising, though. At the age of 65, shortly before her sudden death in 2016, Zaha Hadid designed the boutique hotel ME by Meliá from top to bottom. Nevertheless, this luxury hotel was not actually her final project – which was reportedly the Leeza SOHO tower in Beijing.

Opus Melia
The pictures speak for themselves.

ME Melia Dubai
It seems almost impossible to build.

Opus Melia
Creating a harmonic relationship between angular and flowing contours…
Opus Melia ME
…was one of Zaha Hadid’s trademarks.

Completely Zaha Hadid

Still, ME by Meliá is the first and last hotel to bear the distinctive mark of the Pritzker prize-winning architect’s futuristic style on both its exterior and interior: breathtakingly smooth contours, dramatically angular lines, bold materials and expressive colours of lighting and furniture design.

Void in the middle of The Opus Dubai

Since the death of Zaha Hadid, the Zaha Hadid Architects office has focused on preserving her legacy, bringing all her projects to a conclusion as she would have wished. The boutique hotel with its 93 rooms recently celebrated its official opening.

The Opus Omniyat

Due to the unique shape of the building, each bathroom is different. Everything was either designed or chosen by the Iraqi-British star architect herself, notably the objects and furniture in the 19 luxury suites, which include the “Passion Suite”, the “Personality Suite”, the “Vibe Room” and the ultra-luxurious “ME Suite”.

Melia ME Dubai 93 rooms

98 serviced apartments

With a total surface area of approx. 23,000 square metres, this extravagant new hotel also accommodates 98 serviced designer apartments on 19 storeys. The rest of the space is occupied by commerce and entertainment.

Suite Melia ME

Superior civil engineering artistry

Hadid’s visionary “Opus” consists of two towers that would form a cube – were it not for the large void in the middle of the building. This central area offers spectacular views through the heart of the construction. All the glass parts had to be produced individually.

Zaha Hadid
The ME Meliá Hotel in Dubai is situated at the heart of the city.

Zaha Hadid Architects
The sky-bridge joins the two towers.

hadid’s melia hotel
In downtown Dubai

The ME Dubai is the first hotel in the Middle East for the luxury lifestyle brand ME, which belongs to the Spanish hotel chain Meliá Hotels International (MHI). It is also the only hotel project for which Iraqi-British star architect Zaha Hadid was personally responsible for both the interior and exterior design, with the aim of implementing her architectural vision of interlinking spaces in every possible respect. The ME Dubai is situated at the heart of the Burj Khalifa district in downtown Dubai, in the 95m-high “Opus” building that was also designed by Zaha Hadid for the Omniyat real estate group.

Stark contrast

The free-form, eight-storey void in “The Opus” contrasts with the precise orthogonal geometry of the surrounding cube. Harmonizing curves and angles was one of Hadid’s trademarks.

Zaha Hadid was the first woman to receive the prestigious Pritzker architecture prize in 2004, and she was renowned throughout the world of architecture for her unmistakable neo-futuristic buildings. She was also the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Asymmetrical sky-bridge

The gap allows an admiring view of the four-storey atrium at ground level, which links the two towers at the bottom. Above the eight-storey void, an asymmetrical sky-bridge connects the towers at a height of 71 metres, with a width of 38 metres and a four-storey height.

The Dubai real estate group Omniyat was the developer of the striking “Opus” building.

Hadid expressed a sculptural sensibility that reinvents the balance between solid and void, opaque and transparent, interior and exterior.

Mahdi Amjad, CEO Omniyat

The ME Dubai is located in the city’s cultural epicentre, in the heart of the Burj Khalifa district. “The Opus” is only a few minutes from the district’s eponymous landmark: the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.

Three luxury restaurants in “The Opus”

“The Opus” has three luxury restaurants, including one designed by Paul Bishop – the Central. Founded in 2004, Bishop Design LLC has ongoing projects primarily across the MENA region (Middle East & North Africa).

Lobby Melia ME
Lobby ME Melia

Lobby balcony Melia
Reception Melia ME

Besides the Central, there are 15 other dining options in “The Opus”, including Japanese robatayaki restaurant ROKA, which is already well-known in several locations throughout London. High-end cuisine is provided in a contemporary ambience centred around the robata grill.

Bathroom ME Dubai
The impressive bathrooms in this futuristic building contain…

Design by Starck and Duravit
…designs by Starck and Duravit.

During the day, “The Opus” reflects the blazing sun, while in the evening the LED lighting highlights the flowing, vivid character of the structure. Residents call it “the building that never sleeps”.

Vertical café
The vertical café.

Glass Melia ME Zaha Hadid
Glass balls decorate the lobby.

Nonetheless, although it exudes contemporary luxury from every single pore, the first ME in the Middle East is also noticeably sustainable in its operations. Relevant initiatives include a partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) company “No More Bottles“: a drinking water filter system throughout the hotel aims to help avoid the use of plastic. Guests are provided with glass bottles of pure, filtered water in their rooms.

Text: Linda Benkö
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos: Laurian Ghinitoiu, ZHA, Melia Hotels