WATG has practiced environmental and cultural design sensitivity for as long as the firm has been in existence: more than 60 years. Having designed projects in more than 160 countries and territories, the firm respects the unique environment and cultural heritage of each host country, region or community, and works to make a positive contribution to the lives and culture of that area. Our mission is "to design experiences that lift the spirit."
An example of a project that was ahead of its time in terms of environmental sensitivity was the Hotel Bora Bora in French Polynesia. The designers first began work on the project in 1965, and created an unobtrusive resort using indigenous materials and styles. The hotel sits over a pristine coral reef, does not overwhelm its surroundings and is repeatedly rated among the top ten resorts in the Asia Pacific region.
The Tanjong Jara Beach Resort in Malaysia illustrates the incorporation of cultural design sensitivity. The main design motif for the buildings of this 100-cottage resort was found in the indigenous istanas, the elegantly crafted wooden palaces of Malaysian sultans. The resort opened in 1981, and was awarded one of the world's foremost prizes for architecture, the prestigious Aga Khan Award.
Other sustainable projects include the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Leela Palace Kempinski in Bangalore, India; and the Quinta do Lorde Marina and Resort Hotel in Madeira, Portugal.
WATG designed the Serengeti Grumeti Reserves Sasakwa Hill Lodge in Tanzania. Two quarries were set up from scratch near the project, one for the stone cladding for walls and columns, and one for the slate that was used on the roofs and floors. Local villagers were trained to quarry, cut and finish the stone. The intent was that the quarries would continue production to generate local income and job opportunities. A concrete block “factory” was set up on site, where the client produced their own blocks. Transportation impacts, therefore, were diminished significantly, and local economic generation played an important role throughout the project. The project was also designed to merge with the environment in that the colors and building heights match the landscape. Furthermore, not one tree was killed during the entire building process of the project.
The Seattle office of WATG was the full-service architect for Bardessono, a boutique hotel located in Napa Valley, California that opened in 2009. The project is LEED Platinum certified, and uses solar and geothermal energy, sophisticated energy management systems, sustainable building materials, and organic landscape management practices. Bardessono is one of two LEED Platinum hotels in the United States, and the only one on the west coast.
Recently, WATG, in conjunction with innovation firm IDEO, won the first-ever Sustainable Suite Design Competition sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. The contest called for interior designers to showcase the best hospitality design strategies that boast environmental responsibility while enhancing the guest experience. IDEO and WATG dubbed their winning entry "Haptik," a Greek term meaning to experience interactions based on sense of touch. The USGBC said the suite created a juxtaposition between sustainability and luxury, by redefining the guest experience without sacrificing either ideal.