Construction Update: The Langham Place Hotel 
03.13.2015
Aleksandar Sasha Zeljic in Design in China, Hospitality, Hotels

KIC Development Design proposal 2011, Yangpu, Shanghai, Image © Gensler

In 2011 Gensler design team had opportunity to collaborate with Shui On Land, a prominent developer operating in China, on the design for the boutique hotel located in the large new development and future mixed use neighborhood in Shanghai Yangpu district - the Knowledge Information Community or KIC. The new development will contain office space for technology start-up companies and small scale corporate offices – also designed by Gensler, university buildings, housing, retail, and hospitality uses. This new development is one of the several ongoing projects that Shui On Land Is doing across the China, in major cities and in collaboration with government planning authorities with idea to spur creative technology company start-ups and create true business incubator zones. The idea is to link existing and growing university population with on-site start-up office space, and then, as company mature expand that into corporate offices with high end residences next door. The desired “vibe” of the new development is intended to be hip, current, and charged with excitement and activity. The centerpiece of the development will be the Langham Place Hotel.

KIC Development Design proposal 2011, Yangpu, Shanghai, Image © Gensler

Shui On Land team tasked Gensler design team to lead the design for the future hotel exterior architecture and to work together with Langham Hotel Brand and Planing team in incorporating their brand standards in to the overall design. Shui On Land has also hired local firm of Neri & Hu to work together with Gensler and develop planning of the hotel and the design for the hotel rooms interior. Together with Local Design Institute – Tianhua Architecture, team has collaborated intensively in developing final design proposal. Decision was made very early that hotel program will be driven by the Boutique hotel criteria, due to its limited expected visitor population. It will tailor to hip and young guests, visiting KIC district for business meetings, lectures and conferences at universities. Program will be distributed at about 144 rooms and will have limited luxury amenities focused mostly on the two story podium component of the building. Podium will also house high end restaurants with private dining on the second floor, and small scale retail at the ground floor. Podium will also feature exclusive roof terrace with garden amenities and pool area. Hotel tower will have eleven floors, nine of which will be occupied with rooms, with low mezzanine and last floor serving as a mechanical zones.

The outline program was intended to be fitted in very modern and simply planed “box.” Gensler design proposal suggested to create a facade image for the new hotel that will set the tone of the entire new development with careful accent on its central piece. The proposed design solution was developed through several iterations and is a pattern of stone, glass, and light boxes that create a sparkling quilt – “Tuxedo” as design team initially named it, that covers box and transitions to the base.

Design Proposal, December 2011, Image © Gensler

Using the historical iconography of the tuxedo as inspiration, the design proposal employs simplicity; a dark gray and bright white color material selection is used to exude a discreet elegance. The dark stone cladded podium opens up with two story high glass wall and large glass canopy at the entry to welcome arriving guests. A plane of polished dark gray stone caps the podium on the top, with its edges turning down on the north and south sides with carved window openings. Sitting on this dark gray platform, the hotel tower rises as an elegantly proportioned cube. It is clad in a dynamically patterned facade of reflective dark gray stone with clear and white translucent glass. Some of the translucent glass panels are lit from behind as light boxes, creating glowing white panels. This glowing white squares and rectangles, along with the lights in guests’ rooms being turned on and off, and the dark gray stone panels create a black and white façade with an ever changing pattern of light – a Tuxedo. Regardless whether the building is fully or only partially occupied, the façade reads as a visually compelling and always live tapestry of pattern and light. Together with warm and inviting interiors of arriving spaces, this elements will give strong emphasis on exclusivity of the hotel and perception of hip attitude of its users.

Over the last three years since entire KIC mixed use development project broke ground, I have been visiting construction site several times a year and meet with the Shui On Land team and construction crew. In Jun of 2013 Gensler and the Shui On team visited our visual mockup setup and made final selection for the stone, glass, aluminum and light boxes.

The Design Proposal (August 2012) and photo of Construction Progress (October 2014). Images © Gensler

During my most recent visit to Shanghai in October of 2014 I had a chance to tour the site with the Shui On Client, and was very excited with progress of construction on Langham Place hotel, façade execution, and attention to quality. Project is now in the final stage of the exterior construction and initial stage of interior room fit-out.

One of the very intriguing design constraints in the façade design process that resulted in becoming key design innovation driver was Shanghai Light pollution ordinance that prescribes percentages of glass (reflective) surface to opaque stone surface ratio depending of the context that surrounds it, and primarily its use. This ratio ranged from 40% of glass on west and south facades where we had residential buildings to 70% of glass on North and East facades where we had office and university buildings. This constraints have established clear but challenging framework with which to work, however the initial idea of uniformity and simplicity of the cube design from the exterior remained. Gensler embraced this constraint and our design team employed it in developing innovative strategy to address this very stringent requirement by developing a unique, cost effective, unitized curtain wall system with glass, aluminum, stone and light boxes that staggers across the floors and creates interesting appearance. We have than manipulate with components of this system, to create efficient panels that together will create needed percentage ratios, yet leaving appearance of uniquely elegant façade pattern (i.e. vertical translucent glass panel to be replaced with stone to increase solid ratio).

Construction Progress, North Façade, October 2014, Image © Gensler

Langham Place Hotel will be completed in the late 2015 and will open its doors to the first visitors on January 2016. This boutique hotel will serve as vibrant centerpiece integral to development of entire new Knowledge Innovation Community. A new image for this complex will be set by a unique and innovative building façade design.

Sasha Zeljic is a regional practice area leader for Commercial Office Buildings in Gensler's Chicago office. With a strong emphasis on research and implementation of sustainable design, Sasha is particularly interested in exterior envelopes and conceptually advanced high-performance building façades. Contact him at aleksandar_zeljic@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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