newsletter link
mondo arc

W Hotel, London, UK

Issue 61 Jun/Jul 2011 : Retail : Hotel

Architect: JESTICO & WHILES Lighting Design: MBLD Interior Design: CONCRETE

In February the long awaited opening of the W Hotel took place at the core of London’s entertainment district, Leicester Square, on the site of the Swiss Centre building. MBLD worked hand in hand with interior architects Concrete to design all of the interior spaces, Spa, W suites, Wow suites and Wow Apartments. Rob Honeywill gives a first hand account...


MBLD were brought on board quite late in the design process by the developers McAleer & Rushe and, with the cloud of recession looming overhead, everyone was cost conscious to the extreme. So, from MBLD’s point of view, this meant that we did not have a typical 5 star budget - far from it. 

Our first conundrum: how to deliver a 5 star contemporary hotel, the first W in the UK, to be as original as possible on a fast track programme, satisfy the high expectations of the W team and everyone involved and fit this into an aggressive budget! No pressure, then.
I have to admit that there was a short period of time when we were just staring at each other and shaking our heads looking over the drawings and then more shaking of heads. But, thankfully, this period passed and we started to imagine what the possibilities might be with the view that we just had to make it work somehow and see where this adventure would take us. For me, one of the joys of this type of project is the team dynamics and working alongside the client / architects / interior designers, consultants and contractors involved and what you can learn from them. We were lucky to have electrical contractors McDevits on board as these guys were very proactive and brought many good ideas to the table and a ‘can-do’ creative attitude (which obviously helps on every singe project but with this type of project it was an absolute necessity).

Interior designers Concrete already had a strong vision of how the interior narrative was to unfold throughout all of the public areas and suites. What we wanted to do was help underscore this narrative and try to create more cinematic experiences that would link together but stand out in their own right. Every single space had to be unique and we developed a good dialogue with Concrete to bring the concept to life.
W as a hotel brand aims to reflect the surrounding environment and the British culture. The brand tells us it is not about arriving but making an entrance that counts. The entrance area is announced with the signature ‘W’ LED sign and the lobby is a huge mirror ball sculpture that disappears into the ceiling and re-appears on the first floor wrapping into the welcome (reception) area. The mirror balls are illuminated using narrow beam AR111 lamps and iGuzzini heads mounted within horizontal wall troughs. We trialed this using LEDs but these were rejected by Concrete as a lot more ‘sparking’ was required. However, with black floors and black walls this was never going to be very strong no matter how much we projected on to the mirror balls.

The arrival on the first floor is a continuation of this. There is combination of Modular track and spot and LED to all of the ceiling coffers with custom purple and gold LED from Cooper Lighting with RGB floor recessed uplighters. The principle focus is the mirror balls allowing the ‘sparks’ of light to project everywhere but then we take this away as the sculpture moves to the lounge and the ‘sparking’ stops. The one element that we thought might be a problem was a continuous back lit glass wall that joins all of the spaces together and with the types of spaces and the possible differences in lighting levels needed. The complete wall dims as one with separate circuits for the upper and lower strips.

The spaces are designed to be formal at the beginning and become more intimate as you move through the spaces. The change from day to night is kept simple - by day there is no colour, then by night coloured light is used to create more of a club feel and all of the areas are very moody. The member’s club lounge uses a large internally lit shade that fills the double height void and simple touches of accent to the window shears and signature plate display are used. Here we had to use AR111 again for the height; LEDs simply were not strong enough or narrow enough.

The W Bar is less formal again, with an enormous Chesterfield sofa underlit with continuous gold LED that is reflected in the painted gold LED ceiling. Here we let the two central fires be the heart of the bar surrounded by a raft of candles.

Between this space and the next is the screening room, a small 38-seat cinema that uses custom made Light Graphix warm white LED wall channels that criss-cross creating hoops of light that have a programmed sequence fade to off as a pre-movie scene.

Leading on from the screening room is the Ignite operated WYLD bar on the corner of the building overlooking Leicester square. This comes alive after 9pm when ERCO projectors are mounted on the concrete columns to light a 2m diameter mirror ball whilst red LEDs create accents to underlit glass tables and ceilings. In this space we used the projectors and iLight dimming system to project varying degrees of ‘sparking’. The early scenes have maximum projections and animation that casts directly into the corner of Leicester Square and becomes less intense later in the evening. The seating is bounded by using ‘vintage’ cracked fibre optic drapes at the window line. 

The Spice Market restaurant, headed by 3-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has two main ambient sources. One is from custom made 3W LED bronze wok pendants produced by Frandsen Design and the second is the LED back lit decorative columns. The column lights are brighter in the daytime; in the evening they are dimmed down so that they just illuminate from below allowing the ceiling woks and display shelves to stand out.

There is also a small spa called Away that was kept as simple as possible. Treatment rooms have very subtle colour tones to match the treatments offered.

With all of the interior areas our aim was to keep the lighting as minimal and as simple as possible and to carry out as many trials and site mock-ups as possible to make sure that LED brightness and colour temperature was correct and consistent which leads to ensuring a successful design.


Jason Bruges Studio created artwork for the the W hotel exterior, London’s first responsive and illuminated façade. The integrated public art installation, commissioned by developers McAleer & Rushe, captures the skyline via eight cameras mounted on the hotel roof. The panoramic view is recreated on the façade of the building using 300 Barco LED battens diffused through fritted glass.

The Barco fittings, which use four times less energy than traditional neon lighting, offer a unique colour rendering, allowing the artwork to portray pastel colours. This subtle but illustrious effect creates a new landmark in the busy Leicester Square vicinity.

The dynamic artwork records the changing lights and colour of the surrounding buildings and skyline 24 hours a day. The content is interpreted as short performances on the facade during the hours of darkness. The performances will be unique with every visit, automatically responding to seasonal change and special events around the building, such as film festivals, premieres and the Chinese New Year.
Gabby Shawcross, the project designer says, “The combination of film and architecture on such a large and prominent site in central London is extremely exciting.” Shawcross adds, “The genuinely innovative and ground breaking piece, in London’s historic and premiere filmic location, captures the essence of the changing skyline on a daily basis.”

The piece reflects and celebrates the unique character of the location which changes dramatically from day to night and from season to season according to cultural events taking place. The site has a long history in such cultural diversity dating back to the 19th century when Burford’s Panorama and Wyld’s Globe were open for visitors to experience scenery and imagery never seen before in such scale.


Project Details
W Hotel, London, UK
Client: McAleer & Rushe
Architect: Jestico & Whiles
Interior Design: Concrete
Lighting Design: MBLD
Façade Lighting Design: Jason Bruges Studio

Lighting Specified
Fontana Arte Lampara + MO6 track; Lucent lighting – Prospex soft trimless gold reflector; Light Graphix – Screening room, custom LED channel; Mike Stoane Lighting – Baby Badger, Bay, Dichrow Remote; La Conche / Frandsen / Oldham – Custom fabric shade to members lounge, Spice Market LED woks, wonderful rooms, suites, and Wow Suites, fabric pendants; Cooper Lighting – LED striplight; XAL – Meeting room custom Mino100 T5,  Nano 3. Sasso Up; iGuzzini – Trimmer Spot; Viabizzuno – Scarica; ERCO – Eclipse; ACDC – Magna LED; Meyer – Mini Gobo projectors
Lighting control: iLight
Lamps: Cooper Lighting LED striplight all areas; OSRAM MR16, AR111
300 x Barco Versa Tube v3x LED fixture


Related Articles


Follow us on…

Follow Mondo Arc Magazine on Twitter Follow Mondo Arc Magazine on Facebook Follow Mondo Arc Magazine on Linked In

mondo arc india

darc awards DWLF IALD PLDC LRO