I recently stayed in this beautiful boutique hotel at the Cool Docks on the Bund. The Waterhouse hotel was designed by architects Neri and Hu, a particularly cool company who also designed the Camphor store that recently opened here in Shanghai.
The design is based on a palette of low-key materials including concrete, corten steel, wood, exposed brick and glass. It’s a fairly small hotel with only 19 rooms, all with individual quirks and layouts. In my room, the sofa sat facing a huge window which stretched up into the height of the cupola. I liked that it faced the outside view, and not the tv like most hotels.
Atmosphere is a difficult thing to measure. It’s the small things. The way awkward joins are prevented by ensuring hand railing ends don’t touch the walls, the way the natural light seeps through the building and the way some rooms have sections cut out to give a more comfortable feeling of openness. These details make such a small difference in theory, big difference in practice. Once you open your eyes to design, you no longer relax in these spaces; you are constantly trying to calculate what produces it and how to recreate it elsewhere.
I saw a few photographers exploring the hotel, marvelling at the views and the texture of the scenes in front of them. I found myself joining in and taking photos at obscure angles to try out some of the shots, with some beautiful results.