Hong Kong’s most contemporary luxury iconic landmark on Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List of “best new hotels around the world”
Built in 1969, The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel, open since 2018 as a luxury hotel, won multiple awards over the decades for ground-breaking and energy efficient design. Sir Norman Foster’s team at Foster+Partners accepted the challenge to re-design the architectural and interior finishes and last year brought this magnificent building to life as a celebration of the past and future. This contemporary urban sanctuary features 336 sophisticated suites and guestrooms across 25 storeys and five elegant dining destinations including a glamorous rooftop restaurant and bar with panoramic views. The hotel’s terraces around the arches, an architectural signature of the building also showcase views of the city, Hong Kong Park and Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Editor-in-Chief was invited to sample the hotel’s exceptional welcome, and he was greeted warmly by Managing Director, Duncan Palmer.
OVER US$1 BN WAS SPENT ON THIS PARTICULAR PROJECT, SO IT’S A SERIOUS AMOUNT OF MONEY PER ROOM
It was the first iconic luxury landmark hotel to open in eight years in Hong Kong. You have the old grand dames of Hong Kong such as the Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula, then there is the Grand Hyatt and the Shangri-La, but at the end of the day The Murray is creating something very different. We looked at those brands carefully and what they disseminate and what they stand for and we decided to come up with something new and hence the contemporary chic position positioning of Niccolo Hotels, part of Wharf Hotels, with The Murray. Over US$1 bn was spent on this particular project, so it’s a serious amount of money per room.
Tell us a little more about the building.
Located along legendary Cotton Tree Drive within the central business district and the green oasis of Hong Kong Park, The Murray enjoys a privileged location amongst hotels in Central, Hong Kong. One of the unique things about the hotel is the unique arrival experience, because most hotels in Hong Kong are quite tight on space, so the arrival experience is not easy. Here, we have created something with an air of sophistication… something that is calm, away from the madness of the city. The entrance is graced by a venerable old tree, which was carefully maintained by an arborist every month during construction. Over the past two years, I have been looking at this tree and turning what were originally car park areas into landscape gardens for The Murray lawns, the Cotton Tree Terrace, and the driveway, which is quite unique.
The windows are unique as well…
Yes, the unique windows – now enlarged compared to when the hotel was first built, angled at 45° are a “sustainable” aspect of the hotel, whereby as the sun goes over from east to west it doesn’t at any time shine directly on the windows. The original architect Ron Phillips is still alive. It’s such
a magical story to have had him at the plaque opening ceremony. He’s 90 years old and he designed the Murray Building in 1969 as an office building, receiving an award for the building in 1994, 25 years after it was built. For the 60s this was a very modern building. There were a lot of straight lines and arches. The arches are famous in terms of the style and “The Arches” event space that’s underneath the arches themselves today, which was a driveway, has now been turned into a creative event space. The challenges were to make sure we got the space planning right. The building was altered in respect to the original plan. Before, it was a closed and secure building, so we have actually opened it up onto Garden Road. A subway has also been constructed to the park. We opened it up for Hong Kong like a present to the city, and said “Here we are, come and see us”!
You’ve been working with Colin Ward?
Indeed, Colin has been involved as well. I went down to see him in his apartment and we talked about the floor plates of the building and how it would translate into a hotel. We involved the original architect in the thoughts of the layout, so that’s why, when you go down the corridors in The Murray, the entrances to the rooms are different to other hotels. You don’t go into a square box, you go into each room at an angle.W
What are your personal favourite aspects of this hotel?
I think first of all, the architectural aspects… the windows and arches – our signature aspects. Secondly is the fact that it is a sophisticated hotel with no shopping. It’s not a mixed-use complex; it is a standalone hotel. I think the atmosphere is the other key aspect, with the rooftop bar and restaurant. Then of course there’s the rooms: they’ve been very well done, the public areas are spacious, and even on an overcast day, a lot of daylight comes through. Of course, one cannot ignore the importance of the location. It’s actually only seven right minutes’ walk down to HSBC and Central and you have the same length on the other side to Pacific Place.
Photo: Duncan Palmer, Managing Director, The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel