Alejandro Acebal Canney, through his eponymous company AC Arquitectos & Asociados, takes a bespoke approach to designing large-scale luxury housing and commercial projects. Unlike the ubiquitous cut-and-paste architecture, Mr. Acebal Canney’s unique efforts breathe new life into the Dominican Republic, where he lives and works.
He leaves his mark across the Dominican Republic with elegant and modern mansions, apartment buildings, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers and public spaces.
More recently, as the lead architect behind the St. Regis Cap Cana Resort & Residences, he envisioned a large-scale retreat that almost disappears into its surroundings from a bird’s eye view. The development comprises 200 hotel rooms, 68 condos and a penthouse that blend into the serene Caribbean Sea and the lush Punta Espada golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus.
Mansion Global caught up with Mr. Acebal Canney, 45, to learn more about luxury architectural design in the Caribbean, what his clients are demanding now and what he hopes to deliver in the future.
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Mansion Global: Can you tell us a bit more about AC Arquitectos & Asociados?
Alejandro Acebal Canney: We are not a big company. I’m originally from Mexico and owned a large business, but didn’t want to continue because I wanted to create art rather than commercial architecture. Our theme has been to select customers who really appreciate small aesthetics. Finer things come in smaller boxes.
MG: What has been your favorite project so far in your career and why?
AAC: It’s certainly hard to avoid the one you’re currently working on, and philosophically I’d probably say the next one! For what it means for the Dominican Republic, the St. Regis will have the most impact on the luxury hotel industry. I hope it won’t be my favorite in the future, but for now it is.
MG: Your projects, including the St. Regis Cap Cana Resort & Residences, are large-scale. How can you add your touch?
AAC: As director, I oversee everything from design to construction documents. That’s why I like running a small business, because it’s that personal touch that people are looking for, as opposed to working with bigger companies where the manager isn’t as involved. If you hire, for example, Norman Foster, the chances of your project being hand drawn and designed from scratch will be low. Our company is different in that we are passionate about the personal touch and are committed to taking a different approach to every project.
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MG: What were your challenges when designing the St. Regis around the golf course?
AAC: When we got to the site, I realized there were no blind spots. From the hotel you can see the golf course and all its surroundings. It became my responsibility to design a structure that respects and flows with the neighborhood, the fairways and everything around us. From an aerial point of view, we tried to imitate the design of the golf course in order to obtain a symbiosis between the architecture and the golf course.
MG: How did you distinguish condos from hotel rooms?
AAC: The mixture of these two worlds, the residences and the hotel, was a very satisfying apprenticeship. Hotel amenities and experiences are associated with residences. The exteriors of both are lush and the interiors are sophisticated in terms of design and comfort. From the outside, the building looks the same, but it has two different clienteles. It was a challenge that we loved overseeing, especially the interiors which took it to the luxury level. The interiors are different according to the three types of products: hotel rooms, condos and the penthouse. The penthouse is located in the upper and central part of the building, spreads over two floors and offers a superb 360 degree view of the property. This will be the most sought after and discussed project in the Caribbean. It has a round staircase that connects the two floors and has a beautiful tree in the middle. The condos are separated from the hotel by the pools and gardens. From the condos you can overlook the hotel, but this separation clearly indicates what is residential and what is hotel property.
MG: Looking ahead to the next decade, how will the priorities of luxury customers evolve?
AAC: The luxury residential owner will go from owning two or three gigantic houses to a greater diversity of properties where they can move around the world. We have learned during the pandemic that many people can work from anywhere. Being tied to one place is a thing of the past. All my clients are now asking for nice libraries and offices where they can host meetings. This gives us the idea that people are looking to have experiences and live in the moment rather than having a primary residence where they stay for many seasons throughout the year. In 10 years, the houses will be different. Once upon a time, the concept created by New York’s high society – having a butler and housekeepers – was considered a luxury. You were always served by someone. These days, that’s rare. In the future, technology will supplement this need. Luxury will be defined by how technology is integrated into the home to create a similar experience.
MG: What is your personal definition of luxury?
AAC: My first must-have is an ocean view. If you start with the right site, the finished product can take advantage of sight lines. You may have a nice house in a different location, but you might miss the view. Being on a Caribbean island, my most important priority is location, location, location. Luxury is something that not everyone has, or something that is hard to come by. Owning a property overlooking the ocean puts you in a prime spot to have that view. Second, from an architectural perspective, the space must be open enough to capture the experience of living in the Caribbean. A spacious flow is important to my design. People are looking for experiences within the framework of a luxurious life. For me, it’s important to me to design interconnected spaces, where families can be together in a time when technology separates us.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.