Heatherwick Studio has been asked to design a forty-storey hotel with three hundred rooms for a district of Hong Kong famous for selling unpackaged dried fish with stinky richly textured seafood hanging from shop fronts and piled high in baskets. The atmosphere of streets like these can be wiped out when a row of small shops is replaced by a single flat, shiny building.
Because most hotel projects deal with putting arbitrary new interiors into existing buildings, it is rare to find a connection between the inside and the outside of a hotel. This project, which was to build a hotel from scratch, was an opportunity to conceive the inside and the outside at the same time.
The idea that Heatherwick Studio developed was to interpret the familiar objects found in a hotel room – bed, window, mini-bar, safe and a place to keep the iron – as a series of boxes, of four different sizes. In every room, all the furniture and fittings are formed from a different arrangement of these boxes, making every room unique, while the building’s external façade is composed from the outside surfaces of these thousands of boxes. Making them protrude to different extents gives the hotel a very different architectural texture from the smooth, shiny frontages normally seen on new buildings and breaks down the scale of the new development so that it relates to the scale and grain of the existing street.
The building is a concrete structure, filled in with metal boxes, which are manufactured with the folded-metal technology used to make air conditioning ducts and water tanks. Inside the building, boxes are lined with bronze and sprayed directly with rigid insulation foam or upholstered to make beds and seats.