• 08.23.12

New Hotel Looks Like A Mail Boxes Etc. On Steroids

The concept here, from Thomas Heatherwick, was to design an urban hotel that isn’t just another soulless glass tower. Mission accomplished.

New Hotel Looks Like A Mail Boxes Etc. On Steroids

You’ve got to hand it to British starchitect Thomas Heatherwick: His firm never runs out of ways to make a building look downright terrifying. Their latest example: a 40-story, 300-room hotel in Hong Kong that will be covered, top-to-bottom, in giant, haphazardly arranged white boxes–a pattern echoed indoors. I can’t decide if this is channeling an explosion of Mail Boxes Etc. or some sort of architectural bacteria that’s slowly eating its way through the building. Maybe both.


The concept here was to design an urban hotel that isn’t just another soulless glass tower. That, and to make the interior relate somehow to the exterior. Per Studio Heatherwick’s website:

Most hotel projects deal with putting arbitrary new interiors into existing buildings, it is rare to find a connection between the inside and the outside of a hotel. This project, which was to build a hotel from scratch, was an opportunity to conceive the inside and the outside at the same time.

So their big design move was to stack boxes, boxes, and more boxes:

The idea that Heatherwick Studio developed was to interpret the familiar objects found in a hotel room–bed, window, mini-bar, safe and a place to keep the iron–as a series of boxes, of four different sizes. In every room, all the furniture and fittings are formed from a different arrangement of these boxes, making every room unique, while the building’s external façade is composed from the outside surfaces of these thousands of boxes.

We’ve always been partial to the high drama of Heatherwick’s work at Co.Design. His porcupine-like pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo was the most wildly original building we’d seen in years and his cauldron for the 2012 Games–a stand of slender metal rods buttressing the Olympic flame–felt like something out of the Middle Ages (a good thing). But a hotel that calls to mind a flesh-eating disease? I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t exactly make us want to book a room.

The Sheung Wan Hotel is under development, and construction and completion dates have yet to be determined, a Heatherwick spokeswoman tells Co.Design. Read more about the project here.

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.