Future Luxury Clients Will Always Be on the Go, Says Caribbean Architect
Alejandro Acebal Canney is turning his architectural focus to creating cozy works of art within large-scale, mixed-use developments
Alejandro Acebal Canney, through his namesake firm AC Arquitectos & Asociados, takes a bespoke approach to designing large-scale luxury housing and commercial projects. In contrast to ubiquitous copy-and-paste architecture, Mr. Acebal Canney’s one-of-a-kind endeavors breathe fresh life into the Dominican Republic, where he lives and works.
He leaves his mark across the Dominican Republic with sleek and modern mansions, apartment buildings, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and public spaces.
Most recently, as the principal architect behind the St. Regis Cap Cana Resort & Residences, he dreamed up a large-scale retreat that almost vanishes into its surroundings from a bird’s eye view. The development includes 200 hotel rooms, 68 condos, and one 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 asking for now and what he expects to deliver in the future.
Mansion Global: Can you tell us a little about A.C. Arquitectos & Asociados?
Alejandro Acebal Canney: We’re not a large firm. I’m from Mexico originally, and I used to own a large firm, but I didn’t want to continue with it because I wanted to create pieces of art instead of commercial architecture. Our theme has been selecting clients that truly appreciate small aesthetics. Finer things come in smaller boxes.
MG: What’s 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 would probably say the next one! For what it means for the Dominican Republic, St. Regis will have the most impact on the luxury hotel industry. Hopefully, this will not be my favorite in the future, but right now, it is.
MG: Your projects, including the St. Regis Cap Cana Resort & Residences, are large in scope. How are you able to add your touch?
AAC: As the principal, I oversee everything from conception to construction documents. That’s why I enjoy leading a small firm because that personal touch is what people are looking for, as opposed to working with larger firms where the principal is not as involved. If you hire, for example, Norman Foster, the chances that your project will be hand-drawn and designed from scratch will be low. Our firm is different in that we’re passionate about the personal touch and we’re dedicated to taking a different approach to every project.
MG: What were your challenges designing the St. Regis around the golf course?
AAC: When we arrived at the site, I became aware that it didn’t have any 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 perspective, we tried to emulate the golf course design in order to achieve a symbiosis between the architecture and the golf course.
MG: How did you distinguish the condos from the hotel rooms?
AAC: The mingling of these two worlds—residences and the hotel—has been a very satisfying learning experience. The amenities and the experiences of the hotel are joined with the residences. The exteriors for 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 clientele. It was a challenge we loved overseeing, especially the interiors that brought it to the luxury level. The interiors are different across the three types of products: the hotel rooms, the condos, and the penthouse. The penthouse is at the top, the middle portion of the building spans two floors and has superb, 360-degree views of the property. That’ll be the most sought-after, talked-about project in the Caribbean. It has a round staircase that connects the two floors and has a beautiful tree in the middle of it. The condos are divided from the hotel by the pools and gardens. From the condos, you can oversee the hotel, but this separation makes it clear what’s residential and what’s the hotel property.
MG: Looking ahead to the next decade, how will luxury clients’ priorities change?
AAC: The luxury residential owner will move from owning two or three humongous houses to having more diversity of properties where they can move throughout the world. We learned during the pandemic that many people can work from anywhere. Being tied to one location is a thing of the past. All my clients now are asking for beautiful libraries and offices where they can accommodate meetings. This gives us the idea that people are looking to live through experiences and live in the moment rather than having one primary home where they stay for many seasons throughout the year. In 10 years, houses will be different. In the old days, the concept created by the high society of New York—having a butler and maids— was considered a luxury. You were always served by someone. These days, that’s rare. In the future, technology will supplement that 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 a view overlooking the ocean. If you start with the right site, the finished product can take advantage of the sight lines. You can have a beautiful house in a different location, but you might be missing the view. Being on a Caribbean island, my most important priority is location, location, location. Luxury is something not everyone has or something that’s hard to get. Owning a piece of property overlooking the ocean puts you in a spot of the privilege of having that view. Secondly, architecturally speaking, the space has to be open enough to grasp the experience of living in the Caribbean. A spacious flow is important to my design. People are looking for experiences as a part of a luxurious life. For me, it’s important to me to design spaces that are interconnected, where families can be together in a time when technology keeps us apart.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.