Katie Ewer
Feb 7, 2014

Asian Champions of Design: Taj Hotels

With absolute dedication to authentic design and craftsmanship, Taj Hotels ensures that each of its hotels provides a one-of-a-kind experience.

Asian Champions of Design: Taj Hotels

There are few brands in the global luxury hospitality sector that conjure the same level of opulence, romance and allure as the heritage properties of the Taj Hotel Group. Amongst its diverse portfolio, it is the series of lovingly restored maharajah’s palaces, stately homes and other Indian architectural jewels that have forged this brand’s reputation as a leader in the hospitality industry and as an Asian Champion of Design.

Taj authored the type of luxury hospitality experience that celebrates design long before the term ‘design hotel’ became common currency.  With iconic locations including the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur (pictured above) and the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, this subsidiary of the Tata Group manages some of the most remarkable, unique destinations in Asia.

In an age of identikit international hotel blueprints, a stay at a Taj heritage property is a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The group was ahead of its time in predicting the changing face of luxury when it recognised the value of providing unique, un-replicable and richly storied experiences for the kind of guest who has tired of one-dimensional glitz.

The Taj Hotel Group’s reputation as a company obsessed with ‘authenticity’ is well deserved: Each building’s interior design, materials palette and design detailing are all required to reflect the cultural and historical context of the specific locale against exacting standards of accuracy.  After the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai was thrust to the centre-stage of tragic terrorist attacks in 2008, the group spent more than US$50 million restoring the hotel and its priceless art collection to its former glory. According to the New York Times, “the company tried to closely replicate period details like railings and mouldings—some done by the craftsmen form the northwestern state of Rajasthan—because it wanted to preserve the hotel’s ‘Tajness’”. That kind of dedication to detail and respect for craftsmanship are rare commodities today.


Rambagh Palace Hotel, Jaipur

Zodiac Grill Entrance, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai

Frescoed wall, Sajjan Niwas Suite 2, Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Grand staircase, Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai

Indeed, the Taj Hotel Group prides itself on its efforts to help preserve India’s legacy of craftsmanship. Insisting on absolute authenticity, the company employs local artisans who have been practising their craft for generations to execute countless design details in each property. Where other hotel groups might see value in economies of scale, Taj perceives in the preservation of timeless design traditions a somewhat higher purpose: the preservation of India’s heritage for generations to come.

Champions of Indian art, proud caretakers of a unique architectural heritage, curators of timeless crafts, a brand that’s almost symbolic of India itself—you can call the Taj Hotel Group a lot of things, but certainly not just a room for the night.

Taj Trivia

  • The story goes that Taj Hotels founder Jamsetji Tata was refused entry to the Watson’s Hotel in Mumbai as the hotel did not permit Indians. Ironically, that building (India’s oldest surviving cast-iron building) later fell into neglect and disrepair while Taj Hotels Group went on to become India’s largest luxury hotel group.
  • In 1903 Tata opened his first hotel—the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower in Mumbai. At the time it was the only hotel in India to have electricity.
  • Only 17 guests stayed in the hotel on its first night; the hotel has 565 rooms.
  • The Taj Palace Hotel boasted Mumbai’s first ever licensed bar, the Harbour Bar 
  • The Taj Lake Hotel in Udaipur featured in the 1977 James Bond flick Octopussy and has been voted ‘the most romantic hotel in the world’.

Katie Ewer is strategy director at JKR Global in Singapore.
Check out the rest of the Asian Champions of Design series.

 

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