When CL3 Architects of Hong Kong was tasked to design a business hotel called East, located in a residential/commercial neighborhood in densely populated Hong Kong, the firm knew exactly which challenges it would face. “In Hong Kong, space and view are the two greatest luxuries. One would pay millions for a harbor view,” notes William Lim, director of CL3 Architects. “Ironically, space is not visible and view is on the outside, so the only way to focus on them is to simplify the design and create an uncluttered environment.”
The hotel’s developer, Swire Properties, wanted to market East as “something different” from the other hundreds of hotels in the city. To help achieve this, Swire appointed CL3 early in the design process to create a coherent plan from the inside out, and had the structural engineers team up with CL3. As a result, the entrance, lobby reception, all-day dining, health club, 339 guest rooms, six suites, and rooftop bar were all designed as an integral part of the architecture.
“We want people to feel a difference the minute they arrive. A sense of space and airiness may be this difference,” remarks Lim. As such, the design team opened views from all the public spaces via north-facing, full-height glazing. The most unforgettable aspect of the open-plan guest rooms is a 16-foot-long window onto Hong Kong, also maximizing daylight in each room. To top this off, the design team created a rooftop bar called Sugar that opens onto a terrace and offers tiered seating.
The hotel’s interior is designed with Hong Kong’s context in mind. According to the developer, the name “East” refers to the contemporary Oriental travel experience. In this property, that translates into an experience of world-class standards, efficiency, modernity, playfulness, and a touch of Chinese culture. For instance, Chinese characters subtly indicate the hotel’s floor numbers, and instead of traditional artwork that might be seen in other Asian hotels, East’s reception area boasts a backlit contemporary Chinese landscape painting. Modernity is emphasized by the 35-foot-long illuminated reception desk, which cantilevers from a column as opposed to resting on a base or legs. Opposite the reception desk, a labyrinth of steel and wood resembles a deconstructivist sculpture, but is actually the support for a grand glass staircase.
Throughout the project, limed elm and classic walnut woods mingle with white and mocha-tinted limestone—a consistent palette that unifies all the various functions and outlets. “We want a sense of Asian serenity and materiality to contrast the busy urban environment in which the hotel is located,” explains Lim. “We want the visitors to be impressed by the spatial quality rather than the decoration.”
In addition to evoking Asian zen, the natural palette provides a neutral backdrop for the many colorful and inspired contemporary art installations, for which the designer worked closely with the art consultant Alison Pickett.
“Our goal has always been to create different and surprising experiences that complement the lives of our guests and neighbors, and enhance their lifestyle,” says Warren Tam, general manager of East, “while meeting social responsibility and supporting the local community through art and design.”