The Taste with Vir: Elizabeth Kerkar’s contributions to Taj Hotels created new school of Indian interior design – opinion

In the 1950S and the 1960s, the big American hotel companies looked as though they would take over the world. Such chains as Hilton (owned by the eponymous family and then by TWA), Intercontinental (owned by Pan Am) and a little later, Sheraton (owned by the multinational conglomerate ITT), opened in many of the world’s capitals.

Some of these hotels were not bad looking structures (though it later became fashionable to dismiss them as ugly skyscrapers) but it is fair to say that they had no sense of place about them. There may have been a few token nods to the city they were located in, but most days, if you suddenly woke up in a Hilton or an Intercontinental, it was hard to tell which city you were in.

That began to change a little from the 1970s onwards but it continues to be a problem for many global chains even today. They use the same service model, the same systems and often, the same architects and designers no matter where they build their hotels. So there is very little to distinguish one property from another. Nor is there much sense of art or aesthetics.

Indian hotels have always been different much to the bemusement of foreign chains. I have heard it said that when the Tatas did not know what to do with the Taj Mahal Hotel in the 1950s, they asked Hilton if the chain would run it. Hilton said it would. But the existing building was too awkward and had to be pulled down. A huge new skyscraper would be constructed in its place.

The Tatas said goodbye to Hilton and decided to run the Taj themselves. They were up against the Oberois, India’s leading hotel chain who had collaborated with Intercontinental in Delhi and were about to collaborate with Sheraton at a brand new hotel in Mumbai. It should have been a no-contest. But against the odds, largely thanks to the genius of JRD Tata and the team he entrusted the Indian Hotels company (which owned the Taj) to, the Taj brand grew from one Mumbai hotel to rival the Oberois as a national chain.

Though the Oberois worked with the great American chains, they retained an Indian sensibility. Such great Indian artists as Krishan Khanna and Satish Gujral created works of art specially for Oberoi hotels and Rai Bahadur MS Oberoi, who built the chain, was keen to imbue it with an air of Indian-ness.

At the Taj, JRD Tata and Ajit Kerkar, the man who turned the Taj into an all-India chain, worked to a similar brief. Their combined efforts helped create the Indian hotel industry: one reason why India is probably the only non-Western country where the top hotels in each city are still run by Indian companies and not by foreign chains.

At the Taj, at least, a key element of the planning of each hotel was the design. Kerkar had worked in London before he was headhunted by the Tatas

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Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen hotels housing the most single homeless adults by far

The vast majority of single homeless adults moved from shelters to stop the spread of COVID-19 were relocated to hotels in Manhattan, the city’s Department of Homeless Services data shows.



a close up of a busy city street with tall buildings: The Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, New York City.


© Gardiner Anderson
The Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, New York City.

Of the 8,969 single adults assigned to “COVID-relatedhotels, more than 5,400 are living in 32 Manhattan hotels — with at least 3,000 concentrated in Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea.

Those numbers are a stark contrast to other boroughs.

Staten Island hotels haven’t housed any single adults as part of the city’s effort to reduce the density in shelters and prevent the spread of COVID-19, city data shows.

As of July 31, 1,600 single adults have stayed in 15 Brooklyn hotels, 1,719 in 14 hotels in Queens and 240 in two Bronx hotels.

More recent data suggests there’s a bigger homeless population in Midtown hotels — up to 4,300, according to Barbara Blair, head of the Garment District Alliance. The numbers are consistent with a wave of complaints from borough residents fearful about the influx.

“It’s terrifying people,” said Dan Biederman, president of the Bryant Park Corporation and the 34th Street Partnership, which represents local businesses. “I have never seen such vociferous comments from owners and tenants.”



a pile of luggage sitting on top of a building: A homeless encampment along W. 39th St. between Ninth and Tenth Aves. on Saturday in Manhattan. (Barry Williams)


© Provided by New York Daily News
A homeless encampment along W. 39th St. between Ninth and Tenth Aves. on Saturday in Manhattan. (Barry Williams)

A homeless encampment along W. 39th St. between Ninth and Tenth Aves. on Saturday in Manhattan. (Barry Williams) (Barry Williams/)

The Garment District Alliance, which represents local businesses, wrote in an Aug. 17 letter to Mayor de Blasio the situation has “degraded to a crisis point.”

“Since the arrival of the temporary shelters throughout West Midtown, there has been a precipitous increase in crime and antisocial behavior on our streets,” the group wrote in a letter signed by dozens of businesses and residents.

“Open drug use and sales, drinking, fighting, aggressive behavior, panhandling, verbal altercations, urinating and defecating in public and loitering have become commonplace.”

“None of these issues existed at this level and intensity before the use of area hotels commenced,” the alliance added.

Some of the most vocal backlash has come from the largely white and upper-middle class Upper West Side, where for weeks residents railed against the relocation of about 300 homeless men to the Lucerne Hotel.

De Blasio last week said the men would be moved from the Lucerne — not because of the political pressure from residents or Randy Mastro, the high profile lawyer and former deputy mayor who promised to sue the city over the controversy — but because it was part of a broader city policy goal, first outlined in 2017, to phase out hotels as shelter for the homeless and disperse the homeless more evenly throughout the city.

COVID-19 put that plan on hold as the city scrambled to slow the virus spread in homeless shelters by transferring people to

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‘Getting home does wonders for your creative brain’ – meet the Irish interior stars designing homes and hotels across the globe

It’s not paradise, we definitely have our moments,” laughs Bryan O’Sullivan, referring to his marriage and working relationship to husband James O’Neill who is also commercial director at his studio BOS Studio, in London.

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