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Luxury travellers, it is time to book a journey in Hong Kong’s latest hotel
Foster+Partners shake up historical building soon to be inaugurated: let's discover a promising landmark for luxury in the Chinese metropolis
This is not the average Hong Kong luxury hotel, but an historical building originally designed by Modernist architect Ron Philips in 1970 and soon turned into iconic landmark for the city’s urban history. Nowadays, it has been restyled by prestigious firm Foster+Partners and, although still under completion, it is ready to become the metropolis’ most stunning luxury hotel.
(Foster is also author of the Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminal is the largest and most technologically advanced single cargo terminal in the world. Read also → Il nuovo salotto di Hong Kong)
Topping the chart of the most popular touristic destinations worldwide, Hong Kong is undergoing a wild architectural facelift which yet doesn’t go hand in hand with an equally developed high-end hospitality sector. Indeed, The Murray – that is the name of the hotel featured in international chain Niccolo Hotels – is “the first luxury hotel to land to the city in eight years”, so General Director Duncan Palmer is keen to point out.
In sight on the inauguration in January 2018, we met him and Armstrong Yakubu together with Colin Ward – creative partners at Forster+Partners who are in charge of the project – to discover why such luxury hotel is destined to be a not-to-be-missed hub for any luxury traveller out there, whether coming from the adjacent neighbourhood or the opposite corner of the world.
READ ALSO: → Hong Kong, 9 mete di design imperdibili
Honk Kong is an increasingly hot destination, both for leisure or work purposes: describe the average visitor.
Duncan Pamer: Nowadays, Honk Kong is a sophisticated blend of East and West, a cultural melting pot able to shape a constantly evolving and attractive city for people of all ages and nationalities. The Murray targets tourists as well as those undertaking business travels for three major reasons: prestige, design, services.
Architecture lovers will enjoy sweeping views of Hong Kong skyline, while the most adventurous are going to make the most of Dragon’s Back hiking trails. The city is vibrant, funny and imbued with ancient history. We brought such culture within the premises of The Murray, and yet created an essential contemporary environment.
Hong Kong combines tradition and contemporaneity: it is a high-tech city crammed with futuristic skyscrapers which still indulge in Asian long-standing culture. What shall we expect from an hotel stuck in-between such opposite polarities?
Duncan Palmer: This is the first luxury hotel to land to the city in eight years, and it is part of Hong Kong’s Conserving Central Project. We are struggling to preserve an outstanding example of 1970s Far-East architecture, in order to both keep the icon untouched and shaking it up with a fresher, more vital twist. To this end, the hotel is going to provide world-class services along with a modern approach that still lacks to many Hong Kong’s high-end resorts.
By staying loyal to the building’s historical legacy, we aim to provide the most avant-garde contemporary design and celebrate Ron Philip’s unique and pioneering modus operandi.
Why did you appoint Foster+Partners to implement the restyling of a 1970’s iconic architecture?
Duncan Palmer: Headed by one of the greatest architectural masters in history (Norman Foster, NdR), Foster+Partners has already delivered a generous number of adaptive restoration projects which encouraged a dialogue between the past and future while radiating a strong sense of reinvention. They successfully design brand new buildings that smoothly blend with all preexisting surroundings – a key quality we were definitely looking for The Murray.
Our main goal is to re-connect an iconic urban reference with the city itself.
The Murray is a contemporary hotel settled inside a 1970s architecture. How did you intertwine the venue’s double soul?
Armstrong Yakubu and Colin Ward: We always wanted to shape a dialogue between the old and new, so that an old, familiar building could be seen from a utterly new perspective. The whole architectural response was built on the unearthing of that romantic experience of staying in an hotel. The vast majority of big city-hotels has quite an impersonal look and feel nowadays, and yet Ron Philips and his Architectural Services Department’s 1970s building gives The Murray a truly special soul. You see, the hotel owns its own driveway and private forecourt with the historic cotton tree so to reveal an actual sense od arrival. It also features a series of arches at the base of the hotel aimed at symbolising the welcoming nature of the building. The guest suites are arranged at the upper levels, where the bold geometry of the façade allows for sweeping views of the Honk Kong skyline and flourishing gardens that border the site.
How did you infuse The Murray’s social halls and rooms with the “understated glamour” style?
Armstrong Yakubu and Colin Ward: We wanted our design to deliver a sense of integrity. We have brought the building back to its original state, so to expose the essential lines and volumes that are characteristic of the Murray Building. We carefully intervened within its historic texture to make the building reach modern-day environmental and technical standards without sacrificing its unique touch. Our design also takes advantage of the building’s geometry to create uniquely orientated room layouts that will give The Murray a very peculiar character. The base of the building, once meant solely for the motor car, was totally reshaped to improve the link with the surrounding landscape, together with a series of social spaces. The interiors are open, breezy and transparent, with carefully considered proportions, and enriched with precious materials, furniture and art that evoke an heady sense of sophistication and beauty.
Apart from being an hotel, The Murray also includes a selection of restaurants, bars, gallery spaces and event venues: are hotels leaving the boundaries of mere hospitality to become culturally relevant landmarks addressed to both travellers and the citizenry?
Duncan Palmer: While working on the whole concept, the key goal was to attract both tourists and local residents in order to create a central hotspot and gathering place in the heart of the city. Along with the hotel itself, 5 more restaurants and bars are due to open their gates: The Murray Lane, posted to be go-to bar venue for after-work meetings; The Tai Pan, serving modern dishes inspired to European culinary traditions; The Aviary, a private dining room with a striking glass façade; and Glou Fou Lou, the city's premier Cantonese dining destination in its stand-alone pavilion run by a well-renowned Michelin-starred chef.
What does “exclusive luxury” mean today?
Armstrong Yakubu and Colin Ward: The concept was to showcase the inherent beauty of the materials: there are no applied finishes such as paint, and all the materials are expressed honestly and intertwine together to redefine luxury. We used a lush palette of materials throughout that provides a sense of exclusivity and elegance. To evoke a contemporary aesthetic, white and black marble floors are matched with polished metals and feature a signature “bronze” stainless steel finish. Moreover, we contrasted handmade glass with exquisite fabrics from Italy and Asia, adding a touch of craftsmanship to the interior layout. Each element was carefully selected so to integrate with the holistic vision of the environments.
Niccolo Hotels is a luxury hotel chain controlled by brand Wharf Hotel: what is their shared mission?
Duncan Palmer: Being inspired to legendary pioneer and explorer Niccolò Palo (father of best-known Marco, NdR), Niccolo Hotels wants to offer seasoned travellers the chance to delve deep into luxury experiences and lifestyles though always new encounters and pleasures. The company unfold around the main concepts of contemporary design and custom-made hospitality. Strictly located in illustrious neighbourhoods, these hotels celebrate the best of local life and welcome luxury travellers in great fashion.
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