Tahara'a InterContinental exhibit wall panel


Tahara'a InterContinental exhibit wall panel


Wall panel from the 2013 New York School of Interior Design exhibit "Designing the Luxury Hotel: Neal Prince and the Inter-Continental Brand."

In December 1968, the Tahara’a Inter-Continental opened in Pape’éte, Tahiti. The architectural firm Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison, and Tong created an “upside down” building where the lobby and restaurants were on the top floor and the guest rooms were on the floors below. The hotel was dramatically perched on a cliff above one of Tahiti’s famed black sand beaches, with descending tiers of rooms spread out below the ridge of the hill and balcony trellises draped in bougainvillea. Each room offered its own little slice of paradise in its picture-postcard views of crystalline blue waters and soaring emerald peaks.

When Prince was designing the Tahara’a, he was catering to an American fantasy of the South Pacific, formed by movies like Blue Hawaii and the tiki bars of the 1960s. He took his cues from the ocean, working with a palette of turquoise, dark blue, midnight blue, and sea green for the guest rooms and for the accents of the outdoor pool area—everything from the poolside umbrellas and lounge chairs to the towels. In the Captain Cook Restaurant (named after the legendary English explorer who visited Tahiti), bright striped fabrics were hung from floor to ceiling in the double-height bar and lounge, with chandeliers shaped like nautical lanterns and a vintage siren plucked from a ship. In the more casual indoor and outdoor dining spaces, oversized carved tikis, walls of volcanic rock, hanging lamps fashioned from puffer fish, garlands of draped conch shells, driftwood, nautical rigging, and bamboo and wicker seating helped modern castaways settle into the relaxing rhythms of island life. Ironically, these “native” elements, including a 25 foot tiki that stood in front of the hotel’s magnificent thatched-roofed building, had to be outsourced to Oceanic Arts in Whittier, California due to a scarcity of craftsmen—the locals had been lured away by the French atomic energy industry.


New York School of Interior Design


Prince, Neal A.
Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo


New York School of Interior Design




Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts
New York School of Interior Design. Gallery
Hotels--Designs and plans


Neal A. Prince Special Collection & Archives, New York School of Interior Design, New York, NY, United States


New York, NY




New York School of Interior Design, “Tahara'a InterContinental exhibit wall panel,” Designing the Luxury Hotel: Neal Prince and the Inter-Continental Brand, accessed July 21, 2024, https://nealprince.omeka.net/items/show/109.