Asia's Best Design Hotels
Modern architecture-loving travelers will love the destinations featured by our friends over at Departures . The magazine took a look at Asia's coolest design hotels, which are some of the most impressive properties in Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. These properties are "sleek super towers and seemingly impossible, imagination-defying structures" according to the luxury magazine that is published by American Express publishing.
Today's Asian luxury hotels are influencing Western hotels, while once it was the opposite, according to Edwin Heathcote, architectural critic for the Financial Times. The most significant new hotels each have something that is memorable, the Departures piece explains. In some, it's the restaurant that's the most memorable; in others, it's a soaring sky bar or a penthouse suite. In others it is the structures themselves that are redefining skylines.
According to Departures, Hong Kong has also opened itself up to a host of contemporary international architects who have put their stamp on the city, from Foster + Partners to Cesar Pelli to I. M. Pei. Recently, at the 117-room Upper House (from $425), local Andre Fu-known for doing the home of actress Michelle Yeoh-has created an ideal, almost spiritual, balance of uncluttered spaces. "The design is not Asian in a literal manner," Fu told Departures, "but it reflects a subtle Asian sensitivity." He has achieved this with pools of water, bamboo enclosures, natural timber, shoji glass, limestone and lacquered paper panels. Additional design highlights include the Sky Bridge on the 49th floor, which crosses a 130-foot-high atrium; the hotel's Bedonia stone façade (see photo above) by one of Britain's hottest architect-designers, Thomas Heatherwick; and freestanding bathtubs with panoramic harbor or island views.
Less tranquil but significantly more Pop is the W Hong Kong (from $310) in West Kowloon. "Of all the chains spreading into Asia, W is doing a good job," says Claus Sendlinger, CEO and founder of Design Hotels. And Guy Rubin, of the China travel specialist Imperial Tours, cites particularly inspired elements like the exotically wallpapered bedrooms and digital screens projecting colored patterns above the front desk. "The hotel takes guests on a new journey," says Rubin, "rather than simply offering them a place to rest from one."
According to Departures, a core trend in Shanghai's hotels has been to go higher: The Grand Hyatt Shanghai (from $300) sits on floors 53 to 87 of the Jin Mao Tower, and the Toni Chi–designed Park Hyatt Shanghai (from $400) perches on the 79th to 93rd stories of Shanghai World Financial Center. And if Chi's "invisible design"-a focus on the tactile rather than the visual-is a display of his restrained, contemporary aesthetic, then the new Peninsula Shanghai (from $525) aligns itself with its locale in a more historical way. Located on the Bund, the city's riverfront promenade, the Peninsula emphasizes the Shanghai of the 1930s (polished-chrome details, Deco motifs) as well as a sense of old China (black lacquering, hand-painted panels). "I dreamed of a 21st-century landmark that would also reflect the Bund's halcyon days," says David Wang, the hotel's co-owner.
Another great Art Deco landmark on the Bund, the Peace Hotel (from $390), had an upgrade of its own, reopening in July with Fairmont at the helm. And in 2009, Langham opened the 96-room Yangtze Boutique, Shanghai (from $220) in a Deco hotel originally built in 1934. This old-new China has its place at the new PuLi Shanghai (from $510) as well, which was co-designed by Australia-based Layan Design Group and Indonesia's Jaya Ibrahim; dragon-inspired screens and cast-bronze basins appear in every room. An interior of the shot and another of the PuLi's swimming pool can be seen in the photos above.
For more information about the best design hotels in Asia, including Bangkok and Singapore, see Departures.