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ME Hotel, London, UK

Issue 75 October / November 2013 : Retail : Hotel

INTERIOR DESIGN & ARCHITECTURE: Foster + Partners LIGHTING DESIGN: ChapmanBDSP PHOTOGRAPHY: Francisco Guerrero, Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

ChapmanBDSP worked closely with Foster + Partners on an integrated lighting scheme based on a monochromatic concept of dark and light.

The ME Hotel, located in the heart of the City of London and on the corner of Aldwych, was once the home of the Gaiety Theatre which was damaged during the war and demolished to make way for an office block in the modernity surge of the 1960’s. An elliptical tower on the corner of the hotel defines the end-point for the Aldwych Crescent and marks the main entrance at street level, which is sheltered beneath a wide glass fan. The corner tower is topped by a glass cupola – a contemporary reinterpretation of the Edwardian-style domed roof across the street – that houses the living space for the impressive ME penthouse suite, with its 360-degree panorama of the city.

Meliá Hotels International currently operates more than 350 hotels in 35 countries and four continents under its many different brands. ME by Meliá is the group’s most contemporary hotel brand and, as such, the London version had to conform to the highest design standards.

The hotel, designed by Foster + Partners, is the first flagship hotel in which the architects have shaped both the building shell and interior, resulting in a continuity of the architecture throughout from the load baring Portland stone façade down to the smallest detail within the guestrooms.

Giles Robinson, Partner, Foster + Partners, states: “By designing the hotel inside and out, down to the last detail, we were able to maintain a high level of quality and continuity. Inside, the bold black and white interior palette establishes a strong identity – we defined the individual character of each space through variations in tone, texture and scale. This commitment to quality throughout would not have been possible without the encouragement of our client and our shared goal to create an exceptional experience for guests.”

The design seamlessly integrates the construction of a new 157-bed hotel with the restoration of the adjacent 1904 Marconi House, whose interior has been entirely restructured to accommodate 87 apartments. The new hotel building occupies a triangular site and is clad in Portland stone, corresponding in height and scale to its neighbour.

As well as the guestrooms, the hotel consists of a bar, lounge (Marconi Lounge), two public restaurants (the Cucina Asellina and STK London), banqueting hall, meeting rooms, gym and a roof top terrace (Radio Roof Bar), all over ten dynamic floors.

The attention to detail extends to the lighting design, for which many aspects of the lighting is integrated within the fixtures and furnishings and is embodied with the very fabric of the building. Farhad Rahim of ChapmanBDSP was responsible for the lighting design of the front of house areas in close co-operation with Foster + Partners to deliver a scheme that would unite the building’s architecture with its interior design.

“The lighting design for the ME Hotel was as much challenging as rewarding,” states Rahim. “Having previously worked with Foster + Partners on various projects, this was a great opportunity to provide the lighting design for all the front of house areas of a hotel.”

Much of the feature lighting has been integrated in the bespoke furniture and interior designs, for which a great deal of co-ordination had been taken between the architects, the interior furniture manufacturer (Mivan) and ChapmanBDSP.

The interior concept fuses contemporary detailing with classical traditions, its dramatic monochrome palette a combination of rich textures and luxurious natural materials. The experience draws on the idea of yin and yang, as guests move from dark to light spaces – the crisp white bedrooms are reached by reflective black marble corridors, sculpted by the angled walls of the central pyramid.

The lighting follows the architectural concept with as much attention to the illumination of the vertical plane as to the horizontal and localised task illumination throughout the building. Vertical illumination of surfaces plays an important role in creating volume in the spaces.

External Entrance

The silo-like corner tower forms the entrance at its base, above which floats an elliptical shaped chandelier providing a general subdued ambient level of illumination, two narrow beams of light fall on the sculpture drawing attention to its form. The elliptical chandelier is a bespoke design developed by Fosters and ChapmanBSDP, consisting of a handmade chrome trim, within which sits bi-directional side emitting LED strips with opal diffusers top and bottom to provide both upward and downward light distribution within a very small profile to add a sense of lightness to the structure. The centrally located sculpture is illuminated via recessed directional spotlights to provide vertical illumination. The entrance canopy edge detail is integrated with flexible light tubes to enhance its curvature and supplement the suspended entrance chandelier.

Marconi Lounge

The main hotel lounge area on the ground floor is embraced with curved screens of illuminated polished chrome rods that form a transparent partition between it and the circulation space adjacent. The space avoids the use of downlights to provide a clean ceiling profile and allow the feature lighting to provide visual interest.

The chrome rod screens are illuminated from above and below via the use of integrated fibre optic lighting recessed within the floor plates of the screen structure. Due to the restrictions of access to the luminaires, other lamp sources were not a viable option for maintenance. The light distribution of the fibre optic heads is specifically chosen to provide a ‘sparkle’ from the chrome rods yet avoid any undue glare or visual discomfort to occupants.

The central space of the lounge is resident to three handmade feature chandeliers again made bespoke to designs by Foster + Partners and ChapmanBDSP and manufactured to their specific requirements by Aktiva. Providing both upward and downward illumination, the beam angles were specifically chosen to project rings of light onto the ceiling to replicate the chandeliers and also provide an ambient illumination of the space below. The lighting is supplemented with wall recessed luminaires (Viabizzuno Dagli Retta) adding illumination to the dark finishes of the perimeter walls, in between which sits illuminated chain mail curtains (by XAL Jane fittings). The bar counter includes an illuminated surface with integrated LED Light Sheet from Applelec with overlaid frosted glass. A chrome bezel edge provides screening of the individual LED modules to provide a completely even distribution of light.

STK Restaurant

The STK restaurant skilfully combines a modern steakhouse with an elegant lounge. The vertical ribbed textured surfaces of the perimeter of the space are illuminated with linear LED profiles integrated within bespoke furniture and seating to conceal the light source. Optic fibre lighting provides illumination of the chrome rod screens. The general space is illuminated via the use of adjustable narrow beam downlights to pin spot and highlight each individual table, whilst medium beam downlights provide a general ambient illumination of the floor space allowing the feature lighting to be the main attraction and provide a theatrical type lighting to the space with a play on darkness and light.

A large suspended Willow Lamp Fuschia chandelier dominates the central space and is complemented with sprinklings of Bocci pendants floating in mid space. Concealed light sources are integrated within the furniture to provide upward illumination of glass flower holders and clusters of flowers. The bar counter again contains integrated Applelec LED Light Sheet that illuminates the bottles displayed on top yet, due to the nature of installation, does not pose a problem with heat dissipation on to the bottles.

The Cucina Asellina Restaurant

In contrast to the SKT restaurant, the Cucina Asellina restaurant is a brighter room with a rustic Italian take. General ambient lighting (supplied by iGuzzuni) is provided via recessed adjustable downlights that are complemented with large Kunstlicht Cup 80 lampshades located around the glazed perimeters of the space and hang above each of the dining tables. The shades have a dark outer coating and a copper metal finish internally to complement the interior’s colour scheme.
Integrated lighting within the bespoke wine bottle rack provides subtle illumination of the collection of fine wines on display, whilst still maintaining transparency though the wine rack. Directional downlights are integrated within the slotted wooden ceiling to provide a general ambient light throughout the space.

Main Reception & Champange Bar

The main reception, which also entertains the Champagne Bar, is located on the first floor within the soaring volume of a nine storey high pyramid. It is visually striking with the triangular shape extending through the entire height of the building to a small opening at the apex through which daylight penetrates into the space.

Upon entering, it is immediately apparent that the lack of any visible luminaires provides a clean space, allowing the architecture to take precedent. The perimeter of the area is illuminated with iGuzzini linear LED profile luminaires recessed within the floor to avoid direct visibility and to give the optical illusion of a floating floor.

To add visual interest to the already dramatic space, the vertical surfaces of the pyramid are illuminated by digital projection mapping from two chrome pillars located either side of the entrance. Various digital images (such as jellyfish swim up towards the opening to the sky above or lines of light following the structure) provides a unique guest experience when checking in.

There are a number of bespoke lighting solutions in the reception area built specifically to suit the requirements of the ME Hotel. This includes the champagne ice tray, where the perimeter edges are illuminated (again, with Applelec LED Light Sheet) and the ice itself which is illuminated from below with fibre optic lighting heads located within the drain holes.

Guest Corridors

The guest corridors continue the concept of the contrast between dark and light with only the vertical surfaces of the black marble walls being lit with supplementary lighting to the individual guest room entrance doors. This highlights each of the guestroom doors and guides guests from a dark, moody and intimate corridor into a light, crisp, white room.

The corridors, arranged in a triangular format, are an extension of the pyramid reception space with the reception’s internal pyramid space clad in white marble with the outer skin of the structure forming the sculptured inclined black marble corridor walls, again continuing the monochrome concept and extenuating the triangular shape and form of the building.

The lighting of the guest corridors consists of a perimeter wall wash detail using a bespoke manufactured system of fluorescent battens with specially designed louvres to hide the light sources from the highly reflective marble clad internal wall surfaces. Something that was difficult to achieve. “The desired concept for the guest corridors proved to be a challenge to implement technically,” admits Rahid. “We had to be very brave to adhere to low levels of illumination, but we stuck to our guns and the results stay true to the original concept of dark and light, black and white, ying and yang. Opposites sometimes provide the greatest attraction.”

Radio Roof Bar

The Radio Roof Bar located on the roof provides amazing views over Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Pauls, Somerset House, the London Eye and other prominent buildings and sights on the London skyline.

The internal lighting is mainly provided by onyx wall panels back-lit by Optocore LED SMD sheets that are offset to provide a uniform illumination throughout the surface of the panels. Small pinhole directional spotlights illuminate the structural beams for the opening from the main reception area below on the first floor. The levels of lighting are generally dimmed to provide a low ambient level of illumination to minimise internal reflections for views outside.

The external area of the roof bar is illuminated indirectly with iGuzzini LED profile luminaires that graze the opaque glass canopy with localised candle lights on tables, creating an imitate and relaxed atmosphere, allowing the external view to take precedent.

Rahim concludes: “It’s a pleasure to work with architects who have such a clear vision of their intentions and such appreciation of lighting and the lit effect together with the levels of detail to which the lighting is incorporated.”


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