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The city that never sleeps

The ten-storey W hotel in London has only been open a few short weeks but already it has made its mark on the city’s landscape.

By No author / 05-05-2011

For one thing it has the sort of interiors that will not leave you indifferent (over 660 glitter balls adorn the hotel for instance, including a 3.5m wide one in the hotel’s louche red-and-black main bar); for another it has filled a gap in a terribly touristy part of London just off Leicester Square where good hotels and restaurants (other than fast food chains and Chinatown’s buzzing eateries) are hard to come by.

The hotel was designed by UK-based architects Jestico + Whiles but its glamorous interiors are all the work of Amsterdam-based design firm Concrete. The brief was “to create a concept narrative for W hotel London Leicester Square and design the interiors of the hotel according to the story”, says Jeroen Vester, project architect at Concrete at the time.

The narrative in question is related to the hotel’s location in cinema-studded Leicester Square, the venue for many glamorous premieres. According to Vester the hotel’s 192 guestrooms are designed accordingly, as the “ultimate dressing room to get ready for a night on the red carpet in London’s west end.” Bedroom and bathroom blend into each other with the bathroom further deconstructed through a signature piece of furniture that is part-desk (replete with laptop power points), part-sink and part-vanity table (shower and toilet cubicles are off this space). Vester refers to it as a ‘dressing desk’ and says the warm, light and neutral tones of this area of the room ensure the guest is “the star in the room when they look in the mirror”.

The common areas celebrate the duality of Englishness British culture: Savile Row meets Soho according to hotel manager Kevin Rockey. The main W lounge is filled with a 37m-long double-depth Chesterfield sofa, open fires and a giant Union Jack bookshelf bearing traditional ceramic plates adorned with revealing photos by Dutch fashion photographer Marcel Van der Vlugt. The hotel’s restaurant, Spice Market London, changes gear slightly and is an eclectic blend of the ethnic vintage and contemporary architecture with a two-storey high and 24m-long spice cabinet containing the ingredients the chefs need to make the restaurant’s dishes.

“Imagine a wall of spices containing all the colours, flavours and fragrances of Asian cuisine,” says Vester. “The restaurant’s facade is completely transparent on three sides, so the wall of spices determines the atmosphere in the restaurant and is even visible from the street,” explains Vester. The restaurant’s surprisingly intimate feel and moody vibe is also a result of gold mesh sliding screens, brass screen lanterns, smoky jatoba wood flooring, a brass 'birdcage' spiral staircase and 600 wok-lights that create an attractively low light.

From the outside the hotel is just as alluring too. It features a translucent glass exterior veil etched with an undulating pattern that brings to mind the folds of a theatre curtain or an old-fashioned cinema-screen drape. This frameless second skin changes colour according to the time of day and was produced by lighting artist Jason Bruges and commissioned by developers McAleer and Rushe. “Our brief was to create a public artwork for the veil which would include a frit pattern for the glass veil and the illumination of that pattern,” says Gabby Shawcross, senior designer and project manager at Jason Bruges. “The veil needed to have beautiful appearance from the outside and it needed to diffuse the lights and create a degree of privacy for the hotel guests, and it had to create great views out from the hotel.”

The software that captures the panoramic imagery takes photographs from eight cameras located on the roof throughout the day and night. These are then stitched into a continuous and changing panorama that is displayed across the lights that wrap around the facade to back light the veil. “Each time you visit Leicester Square the veil performance will be unique,” says Shawcross. The colours will depend on the weather and activity around the building in the previous 24 hours. “The hotel was designed to reflect the life in the square and create a sense of theatre. At night the artwork transforms the appearance of the building to digitally and dynamically reflect 24-hour activity in the heart of London. It is part architecture, part cinema and part light.” Quite fitting really.

Click on the images to enlarge

Main image: Spa Suite Bedroom
Other images: 1.- 2. Away Spa 3. W Lounge 4. Bookcase 5. Sweat Room 6. Cool corner room 7. Reception

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