I spend 25 years in practice trying to make sure the interior layout of hotels worked for our clients, frequently battling with architects whose only concern seemed to be the building. So when I walk into a new hotel that brings gasps of delight from me it is galling to find the interior was done by an architect as well as the exterior. Just lately this has been happening too much for comfort – first with Magdalen Chapter in Exeter and now with the stunning new ME in London’s the Aldwych.
For years no 1 the Aldwych has been the competitor for the Savoy in this area. Both now will have to look to their service to compete with this new boy on the block.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste but Norman Foster’s practise has created an hotel that has given me the most aesthetic excitement I have had from an hotel in ages. Yes Foster – no wonder a hotel representative moaned that this was the most expensive hotel build in Europe in 2012. But boy, do you get what you pay for! Pared down black and white interiors sparkle with a feast of visual delights totally in tune with my own aesthetic. From the showing of my favourite movie playing silently behind the concierge desk (the black and white wonder that is Orson Wells ‘Third Man’) to the black granite reception area this is an hotel that every designer must visit and see.
The visual impact starts with the approach from the Strand. passing the entrance to the Savoy I realised that the white Portland stone tower I was looking at could only be the new hotel. Still obstructed by contractors fencing as the exterior paths etc. are completed, it glowed in the evening light, the Portland stone showing how brilliant other buildings around could be if cleaned. I remember this building as part of the BBC World Service, but it was previously Marconi House and in the early 20th Century it was London’s first radio station (and previously the Gaiety Theatre). The ME London hotel is the very first flagship property in which everything, from the shell of the building to the bathroom fittings, has been designed by Foster + Partners, created by Sir Norman Foster (echoes of the original Arne Jacobsen Royal Hotel in Copenhagen).