Amanwana, Designed by Denniston

An Exemplar of Design

  •   28 July 2021

In the world of design there are few that can lay claim as an exemplar practitioner however, architect and designer Jean-Michel Gathy, Founder and Principal Designer, DENNISTON, is one such individual. With a career that has spanned some 40 years, Gathy is known around the world for his creative expertise that raises the bar on hospitality design and elevates the projects he undertakes to another level.

Belguim born, Gathy left Europe when he was 25 to travel to Asia. He began in Hong Kong where he worked for 11 years, moving to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia where he and his global design practice DENNISTON have been creating outstanding hospitality projects for the past 29 years.

Jean-Michel Gathy, Courtesy of Denniston

From the moment Gathy set foot in Asia the love affair began. It was the mood, the feeling and the people that touched him and stays with him to this day. In his own words, “Asia really gives space for creativity, to have connection to people, to be adventurous and I love that.” Adventurous indeed, as in his early years in Asia, he took time to explore China, Myanmar, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Japan where he cycled for four months – from Kobe in the south to Wakkanai in the north – just to discover the country and its people.

These days that intrepid spirit is ever present, through his travels to various countries, to meet clients and survey potential project sites, however he always returns to Asia. Of course, commissions take him to every corner of the Asia-Pacific region but also beyond to Europe the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and even to Russia.

Amanwana, Designed by Denniston

Over the years Gathy has acquired a stellar reputation through a burgeoning portfolio of projects that cement the practice as a design leader. Is there any group or business of note that Gathy and DENNISTON have not connected with to produce an extraordinary hotel or resort? It appears not.

While Gathy has a passion for all his projects, two were pivotal in his early career; Amanwana (Aman Resort), Indonesia which was the first hotel completely designed by the rising superstar and which remains a classic for adventurous travellers; the second, the ground breaking One&Only Rethi Rah in the Maldives which has kept its glamour to this day.

One&Only Reethi Rah, Designed by Denniston

Gathy’s style is detailed and refined, luxurious and sophisticated. In commencing a project, it is first and foremost about the site suitability for the project and then the client, the hotel Management Company, the country and then the commercial viability of the project. Each design is an individual interpretation of Gathy’s own passion for his work that always includes drama, intimacy and soul. This trilogy of ideas and feelings combine to bring a certain charisma to every project and ensures a design of distinction that have guests returning time and time again to experience his vision. He designs from the inside out and the process guarantees a hospitality venue that is totally equipped for client and guests.

There have been countless hotels and resorts designed for the most prestigious brands such as Aman, Four Seasons, Chedi, St Regis and Banyan Tree among many others and, just occasionally, Gathy will work his design magic on a private residence. However, the breadth of his commissions is truly all encompassing and there seems to be no end in sight for his prodigious talent.

For many iconic designers there is the inevitable branching out into product lines and an online shop. Gathy designs bespoke furniture and objects for his projects as an integral part of his offering, but does not envisage this as another stream of the business. His total focus is designing a hospitality venue where every aspect of a project is considered, to make each hotel or resort perfect. Gathy says, “As a practice we are, resourceful, solid, genuine, committed, knowledgeable and skilled,” and this is why the practice is constantly busy.

Aman New York, Designed by Denniston

Gathy is a stand out from the crowd not just because he works with the most prestigious hospitality brands, or because there are hundreds of completed projects by the practice; Or that he is personally involved with every project undertaken by the studio, with at least 30 projects on the drawing board at any one time. These are all astounding facts but the real difference, the Gathy touch, is the passion that he has for his craft, the eye for every detail and the knowledge that informs the most beautiful designs for beautiful places. This is what an exemplar is, and Jean-Michel Gathy epitomises this to his soul.


Catch Jean-Michel Gathy and Denniston at the upcoming INDE.Awards Digital Gala. Register for your free ticket today!

INDE.Awards Digital Gala

August 5th, 2021

from 7:30pm AEST