Great Scotland Yard Hotel, UK

April 23, 2020

HBA and Illuminate Lighting Design collaborate to reinvent London’s Great Scotland Yard into a hotel that moves away from conventional design.

The new Great Scotland Yard hotel in Westminster, London, is part of the Hyatt brand’s Unbound Collection. The former headquarters of Britain’s Metropolitan Police has been converted into a 153-room hotel and away from the conventional hospitality codes, it expresses individuality – a burst of colour within the monochromatic and conventional Whitehall. While catering to meet the needs of a luxury hotel, the destination is one with various experiences, as opposed to a collection of spaces.

Exquisitely sculpted interiors and sophisticated details set the background for the eclectic decorative elements that pay tribute to the past times of Great Scotland Yard. It creates a destination, which reinvents a London landmark – inviting international visitors to journey through various aspects of local culture. The building is an icon, hiding more than a century of dark and infamous secrets.

Interior design studio HBA was challenged to keep the soul of the building and pay homage to the heritage rather than just bringing new life to old walls. Guests are invited to experience the rich history through new eyes as they enter a place where the past and present merge to tell a new chapter of this building’s history. An unexpected play of Edwardian inspired colours and patterns relive the timeless elegance and sophistication of the era with a flair of contemporary details.

At the hotel entrance, a decorative Preciosa Lighting piece titled ‘Exploding Clock’ signifies that the guest is entering a place full of history. As they enter, they step down to a lounge that leads to various social venues – a parlour, bar, restaurant and club room coexist, along with two reception desks created from antique luggage.

For HBA Partner David T’Kint, the biggest challenge on this project was designing a suitable space in a landmark building, in the highly competitive market of London. The team had to develop something that really made a statement and was different to anything already out there. “We came up with a strong narrative from the start,” he tells darc. “’Unlock the secret’ – in reference to what occurred behind the closed doors of the Great Scotland Yard, which was then interpreted into the interiors that tell a story in-line with its long legacy.

“The property is designed as a collection of food and beverage outlets orchestrated by celebrity chef Robin Gill, as opposed to a regular hotel,” continues T’Kint. “It has co-working areas downstairs and 153 guest rooms upstairs. The atmosphere of each outlet is unique, however each one has to connect to the others – lighting plays a key role in achieving this.”

HBA worked closely with sister brand Illuminate Lighting Design on the project; Rikus DeKock from the lighting arm explains the lighting design in a bit more detail: “The decorative lighting forms part of the overall interior design as it is in such close proximity, so it all had to flow together. With this in mind, the same inspiration for the interior design flowed through to the decorative lighting selections as well. We worked closely with the interior design team to ensure the aesthetics were in-line with the technical requirements and that we could control these with the architectural lighting.”

Hotel bar Forty Elephants is an unexpected play of Edwardian inspired colours and patterns and the space is a nod to the 19th and 20th Century all-female London crime syndicate who specialised in shoplifting – the gang was known for its longevity and skill in avoiding police detection. A notable element of the bar is the stunning feature chandelier created by Czech lighting brand Lasvit, which has been created through a series of broken glass, signifying the way the female gangsters would break into stores in the London area. Buried in the centre of the installation is a jewel-toned necklace representing the members of the Forty Elephants gang. The spirit of the thieves is also signified through glass engraved portraits hung high on the walls.

Within Sibin Whiskey Club, which is hidden behind a secret door disguised in a bookshelf, the alcoholic beverage is celebrated through a warm, reckless and unexpected space. Taking a contemporary twist on classic interiors, Sibin is sculpted into three spaces with the bar at the heart of it all. The spaces are divided by whiskey-filled display cabinets on wheels rolling above the copper-leafed, distressed wooden floors. In terms of lighting, HBA and Illuminate again worked with Lasvit to create a ‘bottled ceiling’ feature.

The Yard is a local restaurant destination that feels like an escape to the countryside; a sophisticated yet informal restaurant. The space boasts a barrelled ceiling, vintage lamps and various off-the-shelf lighting pieces from UK-based Chelsom – these set the scene of a comfortable environment making guests feel at home.

Elsewhere in the hotel, The Parlour bar creates an atmosphere of the West Indies through tropical landscapes, which is emphasised with a wicker barfront. Juxtaposed with a black and white chequered floor and an oversized fireplace, a warm setting with a colonial twist is created for afternoon tea or cocktails.

The apartment downstairs – Grace and Favour – reinvents the typical working space, providing a way to do business within the comforts of home, providing various sized meeting rooms, games, a kitchen, a lounge corner to relax and a fitness room to re-energise.The wall panelling has a playful twist adding a contemporary moulding full of surprise, complemented by the herringbone pattern floor that conveys the apartment atmosphere. Each area is properly curated for the guest’s needs and is complemented by Ingo Maurer’s Tu-Be light fixture.

As you would expect, each of these individual areas have their own lighting requirements. “All bars have been designed to be quite moody even during the day,” says T’Kint. “While the restaurant atmosphere varies at different times of the day, the co-working space is brighter because of its function. For the guest rooms we have given each space multiple pre-sets that the guest can choose from.

“Without lighting there is nothing – lighting, both natural and artificial brings depth to a space. Beyond functionality, lighting also creates the atmosphere – nobody wants to have a late-night drink in an over-lit bright space, or write a letter on a table in the dark!”

Upstairs in the guest rooms, preserving the Edwardian and Victorian architecture of the 1820s Grade II listed building was taken into consideration. Typical for London, the guest rooms have a small footprint of 19-21sqm, however they include all amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel.

Paying homage to the police history is seen through the carpet design integrating concepts of badges and uniforms creating a modern pattern, along with a custom-designed wall-covering with hidden messages of a past era. A warm colour scheme helps bring in as much light as possible, while decorative lighting fixtures from Chelsom add to the interior design.

Great Scotland Yard also houses 22 suites as upgraded extensions to the guest room experience. These suites include a marble-cladded fireplace, a relic kept from the existing architecture and in rooms where space allows, the suites are complete with four-poster beds. Guests walk into the luxurious bathrooms to find fully clad walls of book-matched stone running through the shower and washroom. As well as the suites, the hotel also features a standalone townhouse and presidential suite.

While physically connected to the hotel, Number 1 has its own street entrance and is an eclectic and unique expression of the Edwardian and Victorian style that is seen through the architecture. There is a residential feel to the suite as it is equipped with a kitchen, dining room, and study while fully catering to the accommodations of a 5-star suite. The fully customised carpet and one-of-a-kind furniture pay attention to detail and add to the unique experience, with the final touches of the artwork setting this suite apart.

In terms of challenges on this project, for DeKock the main element the team had to work around was the space itself. “Working on an existing building we were limited by the layouts and workable ceiling heights,” he says. “We had to rely a lot on the decorative lighting fixtures to add functional light to areas and had to use a lot of integrated lighting to balance the overall lighting scheme.

“There were a lot of structural limitations. Some areas had very minimal to no desired lighting effect and in most areas the decorative and architectural lighting is in such close proximity it made it very difficult to balance the overall lighting design. We used some unconventional lighting details and some special lighting fixtures to achieve this balance.

“My final impressions of the overall design are good. I believe in the end we captured our original design intent. The decorative lighting enhances the interior design to bring focal points to each space but still captures the overall flow and quirkiness of this project. The architectural lighting adds the correct lighting levels where needed and highlights certain design elements; as the decorative lighting is the main source of light, the final design is a balanced mix of functional and purely decorative lighting.”

Images: Will Pryce