by Jerry ElengicalFeb 15, 2023
Starkly differentiated from its lighter-toned surroundings, the black monolithic exterior of the new W Hotel in Osaka looms above Midosuji Boulevard in Shinsaibashi at the city’s heart. The 27-storey high-rise building designed by Nikken Sekkei, with a façade designed under the supervision of renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando is the first W Hotel in Japan. It joins a long chain of luxury lifestyle properties launched under Starwood Hotels since 1998 with the first W Hotel in New York. This was later acquired by Marriott International in 2016. To build on the legacy of the globally recognised franchise, Marriott International and Sekisui House, the hotel operator and client respectively, enlisted Concrete Architectural Associates to develop an interior scheme befitting its values as well as the hotel’s larger context within a lively commercial district.
W Hotels have a longstanding tradition of inviting internationally renowned designers, hailing from a different country than the location of the hotel, to develop tailor made solutions in new contexts, providing a fresh perspective that only outsiders can. On observing the various moods and attributes of Osaka’s urban environment, the designers at CAA were struck by the city’s juxtaposition of water and natural elements inherent to Japanese minimalism, with the saturated neon of its nightlife in downtown areas, most notably in the Dotonbori district. Fusing its past, present, and future, while skillfully alternating between extremes of extravagance and simplicity, the Amsterdam-based practice sought to “share the city’s spirit with guests and let the interior of the hotel tell a story that is truly Osaka”.
One of the earliest manifestations of the more extravagant side of the concept lies in the hotel’s signage, specifically the three-metre tall ‘W’ logo emblazoned at the top of the tower's façade. RGB backlighting permits the sign to alter its colours according to the seasons, functioning as a beacon within its urban context. At the street level near the hotel’s porte cochere, hundreds of lustrous chrome spheres are mounted in a freestanding sculpture to form a ‘W’, reflecting the colours around them to create a spectacle for guests as they arrive.
The awe-inspiring entrance tunnel from Midosuji Boulevard is the initial point of contact with the interior scheme, featuring over 3000 circles laser-cut into a metal archway, inspired by delicate cherry blossoms and the ancient paper arts of origami and kirigami. LED backlights behind the white powder-coated metal and grey granite flooring complete the scene, crafting an “otherworldly portal into the world of W Osaka”. It ends in a large open arrival lobby with a bold ceiling covered in an enlarged, three-dimensional version of traditional Asanoha patterns, reflected in the satin stainless steel walls and black granite flooring. A winding hexagonal staircase rises towards the second floor, enshrouded by sakura (cherry blossom) pink metallic tubes.
At the third-floor lobby, W Osaka guests encounter the social heart of the hotel. Here, Concrete subverted the conventional structure of lobby design, making the bar its focal point rather than the check-in counter. Rows of blown-up chochin lanterns are suspended over the bar as lighting design elements, made with acrylic to recreate the warmth of traditional rice paper. Beneath them, a line of chrome sake bottles by Japanese designer Kenya Hara wraps around the mirrored column that forms the centre of the pill-shaped bar design. Clad in stainless steel with a white marble top finish, the counter offers both high-top and table height seating. The VIP area behind this uses even larger versions of chochin lanterns, with curved Osaka-style sofas by Pierre Paulin. A rotating crimson stage built for traditional manzai (double-act) comedy, is placed near the bar, with seating around its edges.
Following the reception and concierge, guests can relax in the hotel’s vast living room, which features playful Lensvelt AVL Glyder sofas, Tacchini lounges and poufs upholstered in hues that range from blue and green to pink, orange, yellow and purple - in an abstraction of Osaka’s neon. Similar references are also prevalent in the cloud of zigzagging white LEDs above the indoor section of the space, enclosed within rectangular acrylic fittings. Marble and wood flooring, laid out in the style of tatami mats, defines both the indoor zone and the covered patio outside.
Beyond this space lies the VIP room where tuck-and-roll pleated crimson leather sofas surround a circular bench, settled beneath a scaled up version of the Raimond lamp by Dutch design brand, Moooi. W Osaka also features a 160-seater French-style restaurant named ‘Oh.lala...’ with décor inspired by the copper vessels used in France’s culinary arts, as well as the now iconic blue and white-striped Breton shirt. Glass pendant lights and copper-toned chandeliers occupy the restaurant’s ceilings.
The fourth floor houses the spa and wellness centre - with an adjoining ‘AWAY’ spa beauty bar serving non-alcoholic refreshments, as well as a swimming pool, gym, and ‘WET’ bar arranged around a courtyard. Kept open to the sky with planting running down the walls of the atrium, the courtyard hosts seating by Paola Lenti, alongside parasols, poufs, and lounges. The ‘WET deck’ and pool area nearby is tiled in grey and cobalt blue travertine, with comfortable day beds offering a spot to lounge under the LED lights that bathe the space in cool hues. At the ‘WET’ bar overlooking the courtyard, the same travertine tiling from the pool design is repeated on the space’s back wall. The ‘FIT’ gym, on the other hand, has LED artwork referencing the neon Glico Running Man - an icon of the city.
A variety of guest rooms and suites are available at W Osaka, rounding up to 337 in total. Over different floors, standard guest rooms alternate between sakura pink and blue colour schemes, with semi-open bathrooms clad in grey marble and partitioned by shoji-inspired screens of translucent glass. Diagonal light strips referencing neon signage illuminate the back wall of the TV area in the main living space, surrounded by wall cabinets covered in a pixorama of Osaka landmarks by pixel art group eBoy, based in Germany.
On the 27th floor, the EWOW (Extreme wow) presidential suite represents the pinnacle, both literally and figuratively, of the hotel’s luxury offerings. Influenced by traditional Japanese residential design, the suite consists of five spaces separated by oak partitions. A zen-style aesthetic pervades the interior scheme, with neon and pachinko (Japanese arcade game) inspired artwork by textile artist, Sigrid Calon occupying the bedroom’s back wall. Additionally, the bathroom, finished in blue tiled walls and marble floors is centered around a stainless steel bathtub.
In an eclectic fusion of the simple and traditional with the contemporary and lavish, the interior design does a stellar job of portraying Osaka’s many characteristics, both as a modern hub of trade, commerce, and tourism, as well as a landscape bursting with natural beauty on the banks of the Yodo River.
Name: W Osaka
Location: Osaka, Japan
Area: 37,000 sq m/ 27 floors
Client & Ownership: Sekisui House
Hotel Operator: Marriott International
Status: Completed in 2021
Interior Design: Concrete
Graphic and Signage Design: Concrete
Architectural Design: Nikken Sekkei
Façade Supervision: Tadao Ando
Lighting Consultant: Lighting Planners Associates(LPA)
Specialist Lighting: Koizumi, Daiko Electric