ME Hotel, London

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ME London is the flagship property for the ME by Meliá group.  The hotel is Foster + Partners’ first UK hotel project and the first for which they have designed all of the interiors and exteriors. Situated in Marconi House, the original London home of BBC radio, ME London offers a collection of 157 rooms, including 16 suites, and ultra- luxurious Suite ME, a two floor penthouse in the turret of the building. The interiors fuse contemporary detailing and classic traditions, with a dramatic monochrome palette, as guests move from dark to light spaces.  The brand has been built on first-rate service, and ME London will be no exception. Each guest’s stay will be orchestrated by the dedicated Aura Manager, whose job it is to know the city back-to-front and use this knowledge to make the hotel’s service truly bespoke, satisfying their wishes, anticipating their needs and connecting with each individual.  From business and leisure travellers to celebrities, the team are on hand to go the extra mile.

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DESIGN
Completing the grand sweep of buildings that make up the 1920s crescent, ME London repairs the urban grain and restores a little lost glamour to the heart of the West End. The project is the first flagship hotel in which everything, from the shell of the building to the bathroom fittings, has been designed by Foster + Partners – the result is an elegant fusion of interior and exterior design that signals a new contemporary approach for London’s boutique hotels. Interestingly it is Foster + Partners’ first UK hotel.  The design seamlessly integrates the construction of the new 157-bed hotel with the adjacent 1904 façade Marconi House. The new hotel building corresponds in height, scale and materials to its neighbour. Its minimal detailing, simple, triangular oriel windows and Portland stone give a sense of cohesion, and the setback of the hotel’s upper level terraces follows the mansard roof of Marconi House. 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 canopy. The corner tower is topped by a glass cupola – a contemporary reinterpretation of the Edwardian-style domed roof of One Aldywch opposite – that houses the living space for the ME penthouse suite, with its 360-degree panorama of the city.   Projecting from the façade, the hotel’s triangular bays reveal long views of the Strand, while maintaining similar proportions to the windows of Marconi House – their shape also hints at the geometry of the hotel’s centrepiece core. The glazing utilises pioneering technology to create an invisible joint, while ensuring acoustic and thermal insulation. Internally the windows can be screened by two layers of opaque glass sliding panels, rather than curtains, in keeping with the minimal, elegant design of the rooms.

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The arrangement of functions establishes a natural hierarchy of privacy, which extends from the public spaces at street level to the guest terraces and roof garden at the very top of the building. Arriving guests pass through the ground floor Marconi lounge, and ascend to the dedicated hotel lobby and champagne bar, the Atrium, on the first floor. The Atrium is a minimalistic but remarkable space housed within a nine-storey high pyramidal space, clad entirely in white marble with impressive light shows bringing the space to life.  The interior concept of the hotel 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 hotel offers a variety of room types and layouts, from rooms with private terraces on the upper two levels, to individual suites with large, separate marble bathrooms. Suspended from the white leather walls of each room, there is a black lacquered cabinet, which incorporates a television and entertainment system, back-lit onyx shelves and the mini bar. Discreet lighting and services are seamlessly integrated, including the FLO table light by Foster + Partners.  On the top floor, the hotel’s rooftop terrace Radio is an urban oasis, with a sky bar with spectacular views of the river and Westminster skyline. The light, white interior of the bar creates a relaxed environment and draws the focus outside, while onyx wall detailing and a bold black counter continue the hotel’s interior themes. Further guest facilities are located directly beneath the central atrium at lower ground level and include versatile conference suites and a well-equipped gym.

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ARCHITECTURE
David Nelson, Head of Design, Senior Partner, Foster + Partners:
“The project represents a number of firsts for our practice – ME London is Foster + Partners’ first London hotel and the first for which we have designed everything, inside and out. We have also collaborated with STK, integrating their unique identity and service in all food and beverage locations.”  “Our intention has been to make sure that the hotel will be a unique experience, efficient to run and appropriate to the level of service that ME London wishes to deliver. We put ourselves in the guests’ position to make sure that their experience would be exceptional – we extensively prototyped the rooms and made many changes to improve design and to stay within agreed budgets. The result combines a high level of functionality with a simple, refined aesthetic.”

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Nigel Dancey, Senior Partner, Foster + Partners:
“We took the city as our inspiration: the grand scale of Aldwych, the detailing of neighbouring Marconi House, the views over the West End from the roof and drew on these to give ME London’s guests a unique experience of London. The site is right in the heart of Theatreland and has a fascinating history, most notably as the home of the Gaiety Theatre – we tried to recapture a little of the spirit and glamour of the stage.”  “Foster + Partners has an unusual approach in that we bring together architects, engineers, interior designers and a range of in-house teams from the earliest stages of a project to deliver a completely integrated design. The opportunity to define both the interior and exterior experience of ME London meant that we could focus on quality in every detail. The result is uncompromising.”  “The design balances a contemporary interior with a more monumental, more outwardly traditional exterior – there are clues about what is happening behind the façade, but the full drama of the lobby and reception spaces is not revealed until you step inside.”  “The nine-storey atrium is the hotel’s elegant internal focus. Its pyramidal form follows the triangular footprint of the building – everything radiates from this core: the black marble corridors wrap around it; the rooms extend from the centre towards the street to take advantage of views; and the angled windows project outside, flooding the rooms with daylight and hinting at this underlying plan.”

Giles Robinson, Partner, Foster + Partners:
“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.”

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