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As the world opens up, recuperating slowly but steadily from the damages of the coronavirus pandemic, so does the travel and hospitality industry. One need not look any further from Bermonds Locke, a 143-room apartment hotel in London, its interiors done by Holloway Li, who cite the changing gradient of desert sunsets as the core inspiration. Arranged across seven floors, the hotel design takes up the space within the concrete shell of a former unoccupied, half-built office block and prioritise circularity, by repurposing, recycling, and upcycling materials at its essence.
Located in London’s Bermondsey District just south of Tower Bridge, Bermond Locke embodies its electric, desert informed and escapist identity, with pots of cacti lining its halls and mirage influenced reflective ceilings, a metaphorical sunny oasis thriving in the cool capital of the United Kingdom. Commissioned by Locke Hotels, Holloway Li was tasked to design an urban retreat, inspired by Californian cultural themes, recalling their trip to the Mojave, and a stay at Joshua Tree.
This project is the first of a series of collaborative projects that will see Holloway Li and home-meets-hotel brand Locke, join forces creatively. With Bermonds Locke, both of them experiment with practically possible sustainable design strategies, presented as a unique aesthetic in tandem with revealing low-cost practices that become an example of how the future of design might evolve into.
The interior design was born of the idea to create something unique on the London hotel scene that strayed away from the city’s vernacular heritage tropes. Both Locke and Holloway Li wanted the venue to possess an unconventional visual character that appealed to their young, country-hopping demographic. The empty concrete shell of the office structure built in 2010 gave them the perfect blank canvas to achieve this.
"We used a neutral palette in the common spaces that recalled the Mojave, using the rough finishes untreated steel, concrete, and clay to recall the hue and tonality of the desert,” shares the London-based consultancy led by interior architect duo, Alex Holloway and Na Li. “The stylish adhoc qualities of the cabin structures in Joshua Tree inspired our design approach – we developed ideas of how we could re-purpose basic construction materials, processes, and waste in unexpected ways to create bespoke insertions and furniture pieces,” they add, reiterating how circularity lies at the heart of this work.
Holloway Li marks a new design direction for Locke by curating a living experience out of recycled construction site materials that decorate and breathe life into the studio rooms, courtyard, bar and restaurant, co-working spaces, gym as well as a yoga room. “The innovative reuse of materials in this project highlights how a circular material economy can generate a unique aesthetic as well as offer possibilities for making the building process more sustainable. We carried this principle into our design approach,” shares Holloway.
The reception thrives in its location, entrenched in moonlight and bathed in a glittering mirage created by the mirrored ceiling, inspired by Olafur Eliasson’s celebrated Weather Project installation to create a fantastical setting. Mixing business and comfort, the open co-working spaces bask in soft light, coming to life with swing chairs, fixed concrete banquette seating and suspended planters that punctuate the space between the bar and restaurant. Designed to serve the local community, the ground floor hosts a free-to-use co-working space in the reception and lounge area along with a meeting room available for hire, that faces the façade of the Tower Bridge Road. Catering to this area is a café operated by Shaman Coffee that will also serve directly on the street right outside.
Locke’s characteristic functional living rooms and suites take up the upper floors, drenched in lazy blues, soft beige, and hues of stormy grey making friends with the vibrancy of red and scorched orange on the floors below. The studio also designed bespoke modular sofas, handmade using sand mixed with resin lay-up, to recreate the desert’s tonality, while rough-sawn timber floors invite a patina that will occur with trodden steps.
Every studio room is fitted with a fully functional kitchen and laundry facilities, unlike the typical typology of hotel rooms, which only contain a bed, wardrobe and attached bathroom. This self-sufficient design lends users the flexibility to live in each room undisturbed, whether for a day or two months.
Besides being ecologically responsible, the bespoke bed frames are a nod to nature’s aesthetic, woven from blackened rebar accented with linen canopies, infusing notions of a concrete jungle with a new sense of sanctuary. “By taking an everyday material in its raw form, and using it for a different purpose, we wanted to create an aesthetic that feels luxurious but humble at the same time,” adds Holloway.
Waste is turned into functional elements within the hotel, as seen with the concrete strength-testing cubes that were recycled to create plinths for a six-metre long terrazzo table in the ground floor workspace, and shaped into a bar frontage at the restaurant, referencing rocky desert outcrops. Each cube has a distinct sand and cement mix, are numbered, and dated with various sets of handwriting to form outlandish hieroglyphs. “The blocks follow a strict 100x100mm form, making them a perfect element to recycle for practical use. We worked with a testing facility who were helpful in stockpiling these for us when they would otherwise go to the landfill,” shares the design team.
Holloway Li also highlight the decorative qualities of basic construction elements and processes within the hotel – reinforcing bar, an inexpensive raw material was shaped into ornamental ironwork and joinery elements, visible in the rooms and common areas. The raised ‘lugs’ on the metal were designed to endorse a strong bond when submerged in concrete but become decorative when exposed as a ribbed finish. “This was used to create the bar gantry, and wardrobes and - most notably - a unique take on the ‘four-poster’, using the rebar to form curved frames draped in linen canopies above the beds,” explains Li.
Holloway Li also aimed to capture the iridescent qualities of zinc passivation, an inexpensive coating that is often used as a protective veneer on exposed chains and scaffold clamps. They got to collaborating with a plating company to create a prominent wall-cladding that recalls the psychedelic experience of Joshua Tree, a location considered to be a pilgrimage for the Californian hallucinogenic travellers. These, when hit with natural or artificial light, react with rainbow reflections akin to mirages in a sand scorched desert and the psychedelic experience of swimming in yellows, pinks, and purples that bleed into each other at fancy. This iridescent finish will be found on bar tops, wall panelling and echoed by fluted polarising glass sliding partitions in the rooms.
To further enhance the desert landscape aesthetic, humble materials such as engineering brick and insulated clay bricks dress the hotel in their naked form, repurposed as embellishment, instead of just a unit of construction. "For Bermonds Locke we developed a low-impact approach to our choice of materials. We investigated how we could re-purpose or re-cycle basic construction materials and processes in new ways, creating a unique aesthetic that gave the hotel an unusual personality,” says Holloway, Creative Director, of Holloway Li.
"We are really excited to be partnering with Locke to pave a new design direction for the brand’s home-meets-hotel concept. By innovating the reuse of materials, we hope to highlight how a circular material economy can generate an incredibly unique aesthetic and a new kind of living experience – doing more, with less,” he adds.
Name: Bermonds Locke, apartment hotel
Location: 153-157 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 3LW, United Kingdom
Year of completion: 2021
Interior Design: Holloway Li
Design team: Alex Holloway (principal designer), Aline Maio (project lead designer), Praveen Paranagamage (senior designer), Diana Darmina (architect)
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