At No.100 King Street, Manchester is Hotel Gotham. Housed in one of the city’s grandest listed buildings and the former premises of Midland Bank, it stands tall and proud amidst architectural nods to the Grecian and Baroque. Drawing inspiration from its surroundings, Gotham aims to be nothing but unique. Speaking to interior designer Oliver Redfern, darc discovers how intrinsic the lighting is to the hotel’s design.
Since graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Interior Architecture, Oliver Redfern has amassed seventeen years of industry experience, a large part of which was spent with UK retailer Laura Ashley where he headed up the Commercial Design Service. Having worked on a varierty of commercial projects throughout the UK and Europe, including Alladale Lodge, a wilderness reserve in the Scottish Highlands, which featured on the BBC documentary The Real Monarch of the Glen in 2009 and ranked in Tatler’s Top 100 Places to Stay, Redfern went on to establish himself as an independent interior designer in 2006.
What was the brief for Gotham? I was introduced to the project via Robin Sheppard, chairman of Bespoke Hotels, his brief was simple, create a fun, witty and a little bit of a naughty hotel inspired by the Art Deco period.
What appealed to you about the project?
The building was just so striking; towering up from street level with a quality and presence I associated to a New York skyscraper. Having studied Edwin Lutyens at university and visited many a time his Castle Drogo project on Dartmoor, I felt that I had some understanding and experience I could draw upon.
What was the design concept?
For me, the initial challenge was to ensure the interior had the same wow factor as when you approached the building. This sense of drama was created with decadent finishes, muted palette and of course, clever use of lighting, all ensuring a moody nostalgia.
What role does lighting play in the design?
Whit and mood…
From the beginning it was clear that lighting was key to ensuring the building’s past was told, along with providing the guest with an almost fantasy experience, making them feel part of something special.
There is in-fact a story told within the lighting; the inverted umbrella pendants in the lobby represent the arrival of the old banking staff on a wet Manchester morning, while the sixth floor Honey restaurant lighting is all about the banking staff offices, with traditional green glass wall lamps and adjustable nickel spotlights. The journey ends in the private Brass bar on the seventh floor featuring bespoke antique leather briefcase pendants as you enter. These are lined in a gold effect and were originally meant to represent the office worker throwing off the shackles of a hard day and enjoying themselves. Although in hindsight, I wonder if it looks more like an opportune office worker has made good with a gold bar or two!
How does natural light add to the hotel?
From my very first site visit it was clear the huge windows would not only be a beautiful feature across all the floors but also afford the most wonderful light for guests in the bedrooms. This is the very opposite to the more moody experience of the public spaces and corridors.
What was the biggest challenge?
Plenty of midnight oil was burned while working on the five Inner Sanctum Suites at the core of the building. These were designed in the old light well and are meant to completely envelop the guest’s senses and overcome the lack of natural light. As guests enter a darkened suite they turn down a corridor, which opens into the main space, helping to disorientate their senses before being presented by the ‘Wonderwall’ – a wall-to-wall screen designed to emulate the building windows, complete with a skyline film of Manchester projected onto it. Then just for a bit of Gotham’s own magic, the dummy window frame slides open by remote control to reveal a huge Plasma TV.
Does the the final outcome reflect your initial design concept?
Difficult to answer, as I am sure I was still tweaking the design right up to the day Gotham opened, well in my mind anyway! But I never felt there was a compromise and any changes made only enhanced the finish.