Competition tends to bring out the best in people and allows them to show their best work. The competition to design the Four Seasons Guangzhou in China proved just that. The winner: HBA. “It was because we were able to beautifully communicate a visual presentation that upholds the integrity of the Four Seasons brand coupled with innovative design and sensitivity to location,” said Ian Carr, CEO of HBA in Singapore.
The hotel occupies the top third of the 103-story Guangzhou International Finance Center, which looms over the Pearl River. The project is architecturally distinct for its triangular tower, diagonal lattice, and soaring, 30-floor-high atrium. HBA’s interior design concept looked to push the boundaries of design and challenge perceptions of the classic hotel interior.
“Our objective was to create a space that is instantly recognizable as belonging among the roster of elite properties around the world and to challenge the perception of luxury as being bound up in traditional, classic design,” Carr said. “We think the hotel gracefully bridges the gap between the brand’s ultra-luxury standards and the avant-garde architecture of the building. HBA’s design creates a space that is sumptuous and soaring in scope.”
In a location so high up in the sky, HBA looked to give the hotel a true feeling of loftiness and flight. “The minimalist interior creates an ethereal experience, as if one were among the clouds, floating within a delicate and brilliantly lit diamond,” Carr said.
Carr said the most daring feature of the property is the internal atrium, which begins at the Sky Lobby on the 70th floor. “Guests look up to see 35 floors of tapering, diagonal glass, running to the very top of the building,” Carr said. “Gradually narrowing from the wide expanse of the sky lobby’s footprint, the faceted, fractal design and the structural diagrids create interesting refractions and reflective surfaces, which informed faceted crystal themes used throughout.”
For instance, the shape of the IFC tower influenced the design of the lobby furniture, which carries forward the characteristic rounding of sharp angles. And, as Carr said, “The grand staircase unites the crisp jewel-like facets of the atrium with the softer, organic shapes of the lobby. In the beguiling shape of a double helix, the twin staircases rise and braid around each other as if on a column of air.”
A key challenge for HBA was to match interiors with the complex structural columns featured in all public spaces and the hotel’s 104 guestrooms and suites. Each boasts a unique floorplan as a result, with the building narrowing as it rises and columns intersecting at different points. The only constants in HBA’s guestroom interiors are the bathrooms and beds, positioned to offer views of the Pearl River Delta and cityscape. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows additionally encourage guests to “look right down,” said Carr.
“The overriding objective was to try and create a harmony between the interior design and architecture, because this building was so extreme, daring and bold,” Carr said, alluding to many comments from people who applauded HBA on their ability to do just that.
“We had to ask ourselves how to humanize it to a degree, certainly in the more intimate public spaces, corridors and guestrooms, but also how to express grandeur, impact and futuristic imagination from certain vantage points,” Carr said. “We had to pick our moments of when to go for the knock-out shots, but also when to make it more relaxed and serene, allowing guests time to focus on themselves rather than their environment.”
|Corridor of Yu Yue Heen restaurant|
Carr said one of the biggest highlights of the hotel is the series of massive screens—each nearly half a soccer field in scale—which crawl up the height of the lobby. The patterns for the screens take their inspiration from rice fields in spring, playfully capturing the first shoots of the season. As the screens progress higher into the hotel, they reflect the maturing rice plant, the harvest of the rice plant and the security of having grains safely stored for the winter.
Summer, fall and winter continue up through the atrium with seasonally themed works by artists Han Ying Ling and Wu Xiao Xun.
Name of Project: Four Seasons Guangzhou Interior Designer: HBA Architect: Wilkinson Eyre Owner: Guangzhou YueXiu City Construction International Finance Center Co., Ltd. Operator: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Carpeting: Tailing Carpets and ICE International Lighting: Light Directions Ltd, Hong Kong Art: Canvas Art Consultants Artwork/Photography: Matthew Harding, Clare Belfrage, Richard Hutton, Jeremy Newman and Allison Ciancibelli, Yun HeeToh, Yang Don Dong, Lee Man Seng