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Caribe Royale Convention Center Expansion An Interview with the Designer


As the Caribe Royale Orlando’s new convention center expansion nears completion, we’re sharing some behind the scenes details from the brilliant minds behind the design. Jennifer Kennedy of TJNG is the interior designer responsible for the expansion. Jennifer has been partnering with the Caribe Royale for several years now and lead the design for our villa renovations and Calypso’s Pool Bar.  We spent some time with Jennifer to learn more about her process.

Q: What was Caribe Royale looking to accomplish?

JK: The goal is to develop an expansion concept that is fresh, contemporary, and classically modern. The new facility needs to have a connection and a continuity of color palate and amenities for a seamless experience for guests. In the design, we play on strong elements of textural moldings and interest contrasted with clean wall and ceiling planes. We kept things simple and clean with wood trims and large size moldings because the spaces are really big. There was also a focus on more natural materials like coquina stone and Florida vernacular elements like bead board to keep the look conceptually bright and consistent.

Q: What was your inspiration?

JK: From a color standpoint we took a strong cue from the existing materials. The carpet colors inspired us to bring some of the stronger elements from the East Wing into the North. We don’t want to make it cookie-cutter so we developed a family of patterns with the carpet manufacturer. We chose smaller scale patterns that can flow easily through the doorways and then expands in the ballroom on a much larger scale. We created strike-offs of the patterns and color inspiration from the current design. Our color scheme includes a range of neutrals including white and cream that feel bright and not dated.

Q: What problems are you trying to solve?

JK: The biggest problem was the connection between the pre-function spaces of the existing convention space and the new. They’re at an odd angle to one another but it needs to feel like a seamless transition. So instead of a doorway, we made the reception area more of a hub so guests can go there and register. We highlighted the reception lobby with curved soffits and octagonal skylights, making it more of a destination than a pass-through. We also included a dramatic backlit stone wall of natural green onyx stone. We’re very proud of the agate pattern in the terrazzo floor that echoes the natural agate and onyx of the backlit panels.

Q: What can we expect from the new ballroom design?

JK: It’s going to have some unique features that you don’t see in the existing ballrooms. When you have an exhibit or a general assembly with classroom seating or high tops, you don’t really see the lower walls of the ballroom, but you really do see the upper portions and the ceilings. Some hotel ballrooms try to use big chandeliers to fill the space, but we created a ceiling system with three different levels. One is tile, one is a bamboo plank and one is metal. We designed these large aluminum rings with LED lights to reflect on the metal ceiling. However the room is divided, you get a multilayered effect. For the walls, the upper sections are acoustical tiles and we used two-story door surrounds with big lighting fixtures that really announce the entrances. The lower part of the walls is block, painted in a dark color so it recesses while the more decorative upper part kind of floats in the space.

Q: Why is this project the best way to grow the Convention Center?     

JK: The Caribe is uniquely positioned in location and size, so they’re large enough to handle mid-range conventions that other hotels can’t. The owners also have the vision to listen to their users and design to fit their needs. With 1,335 suites and villas on property and a convention center, the design puts them in a different league than other Central Florida hotels.

Q: How does the new expansion integrate with the existing buildings?

JK: One of the most interesting ways is the back of house, which guests will never see. We created one long space where service comes in and staff go back and forth. The back of house is the spinal cord of a successful conference center, and ours is noise-proof so the behind-the scenes action is never heard by event attendees. We understand the connections between the two buildings that keep the back of house contiguous; this is not as obvious to outsiders but is key to the design’s functionality.

Q: What is the history of your partnership with Caribe Royale?

JK: We were recommended to contact the Caribe by both an engineering firm that they’ve used for years and an architectural firm in which they have confidence. We were very excited and did a couple of small projects to begin our partnership. The first was to plan a major renovation to the existing convention building in two phases, refreshing the East Wing and then the West Wing. We did a renovation including new wall finishes, restrooms and artwork. We also partnered with the Caribe on Calypso’s Pool Bar, which is a very successful outdoor event space. It’s very exciting to make our mark on this dramatic new convention center expansion, and we are eager to share it with the meeting planner community.

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