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W Hotel, Hong Kong, China

Issue 48 Apr / May 2009 : Architectural : Façade


With the opening of W Hong Kong in the burgeoning West Kowloon district, luxury has finally caught up with 21st century attitude. Boasting the talents of two interior design firms and a lighting designer, the hotel offers guests a feel that is refined as well as being contemporary.

As the third Asian W property to open within the last five years, W Hong Kong had to distinguish itself from the starkly minimal style of W Seoul and Maldives. Developer Sun Hung Kai Properties retained Sydney-based Nicholas Graham + Associates and Osaka-based Glamorous Co to achieve its goal.

It was Glamorous that was responsible for the triple height lobby with a series of suspended tree branches above the glass entrance. Kaoru Mende’s Light Planners Associates were employed to create the lighting for the distinctive W logo on the facade of the building.

“The image we envisioned was fireflies floating between stands of forest trees. Sometimes, in the glass façade at each podium corner, there would be a flutter or glimpse of a few fireflies and, if you blinked your eye, it would become an overflowing accumulation of firefly light,” states Mende.

These layers of light exist between the inside and outside of the hotel, acting like a filter. Inside, guests view the nightscape of Hong Kong through the stand of trees and fluttering fireflies.  Outside, while the activities inside the hotel are transparent through this filter of light, the entire façade becomes a mega-scale, glowing lantern, mesmerising those at the entrance and in the driveway.

During the preliminary stages of the façade design, through many discussions with Glamorous, was mentioned keywords like ‘forest’ and ‘nature’ so Mende’s ideas grew from there.

“We imagined the light from fireflies looming in a dark forest,” remembered Mende. “Our lighting design concept originated from the natural world and continued to develop. The final product is a curtain of branches decorating the façade with thousands of LED points of light to simulate fireflies.”

14,700 custom made LED fittings from Hong Kong manufacturers Hing Fat Lighting International Ltd were used resulting in a curtain of branches decorating the façade with thousand of LED points of light to simulate fireflies.

Under natural daylight the façade expresses two similar planes of glass, but at night these two glass boxes glow like huge lanterns in different way, as In the background of the lanterns, different activities of twin towers are visible through the layers of lighting elements.

At night, the interior lighting needed to be low-key so as not to interrupt the night view from inside out, along with applying suitable brightness for various activities on each floor. However, this tricky space is also visible from the outside as the initial face of the hotel.

“We imagined this entire facade as a giant lantern, showing the activities on each floor, but also being seen from a distance as one solid concentration of light. All of these elements took cooperation and coordination to achieve our envisioned design.

“We believe that this was also a result of selecting suitable light sources, accurate luminance level calculations, being conscious about glare control, and numerous experiments. But as the construction schedule started to get behind, all of the team still wishes that we had more time to do a proper mockup on site so that we could have achieved a more delicate representation of light.”


Kaoru Mende used Hing Fat Lighting International custom made LEDs to simulate fireflies in the façade lighting

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