Miniview: Aloft Excel opens in London Docklands

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    Does Second Life still exist? Was it just one of those websites that enjoyed a brief flurry of intense use before gently fading away? Why is it at all relevant to Aloft you may ask? Well whilst Intercontinental Hotels Group used focus groups and market research agencies to define Indigo, Starwood set up a virtual hotel in Second Life and invited virtual people to visit and give ‘guest feedback’ on the concept, before anything was created in the real world.

    Not only did the web form a central part of the formalisation of the concept but it also formed a central plank in the marketing of the concept to developer partners. The splendid new Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company financed Jestico & Whiles designed building adjacent to the Excel exhibition centre is the second Aloft in Europe and at the date of this article one of 77 properties the brand is rolling out – impressive given that the first was only launched in June 2008.
    The new building has a prime location adjacent to a DLR station putting it in easy reach of the West End, but also onto a network connecting easily with the Olympic Park and almost on the touchdown end of the City Airport runway. Not only does its triple glazing help energy conservation but it also soundproofs it effectively. Plane spotters will enjoy seeing aircraft on the immediate flare-out prior to touch down at an airport that now boasts transatlantic flights as well as a growing network of links to European cities.

    Externally the building can be approached at several levels from piazzas that act as the spill out areas from the exhibition centre. Clad in a light refracting metal sheeting it continues and develops the same architects ability to make the physical presence of the building add something special to the location, as they did with the new ‘W’ in Leicester Square. This is the third project of theirs that I have had the pleasure of writing about, the other being the majestic conversion of a cotton weaving mill in the city of Łódź, Poland. I mean pleasure too, because their handling of interiors is as assured and stylish as their handling of the exteriors. I can only speculate that Starwood used a different practise on the interiors of ‘W’ Leicester Square because they wanted someone experienced in creating the tiny rooms they have packed in to that supposedly 4 star hotel.

    Continued on page two…

    Daniel Fountain / 10.12.2011

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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