Morpheus Macau is the latest hotel to join the country’s City of Dreams resort complex, setting new standards for the entertainment enclave with a remarkable exo-skeletal architecture designed by Zaha Hadid
Lawrence Ho is a staunch believer in the adage 'go big or go home'. After receiving one of Macau's highly prized gaming concessions at the end of 2001, he launched Altira in 2007 with interior design by Peter Remedios; it was soon followed in 2009 by integrated resort City of Dreams. In 2018, Ho unveiled his most ambitious project to date: a 770-key luxury hotel casino in the City of Dreams complex and one of the late Pritzker Prize-winner Zaha Hadid's final projects.
Named Morpheus after the ancient Greek god of dreams, it boasts a panoramic rooftop swimming pool and guest rooms designed by Remedios alongside an Alain Ducasse restaurant by Jouin Manku. "We wanted to be different," said Ho one month prior to the property's June 15 opening. "The hotel is a landmark for Macau; while most integrated resorts are huge boxes, Morpheus is set to be an icon for Asia."
The hotel is a landmark for Macau; while most integrated resorts are huge boxes, Morpheus Macau is set to be an icon for Asia
The faceted reception desk and wall of white Chinese marble echo the building's exo-skeleton Hadid worked closely on the development of the structure and completed the design. The world's first freeform exo-skeletal high-rise building realises her oeuvre of sinuous, space-age curves in a 160m-tall structure. In elevation, the building recalls the external ribs favoured by luminaries such as Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano and seen on their Pompidou Centre in Paris, or on Norman Foster's HSBC Headquarters in Hong Kong. It is also reminiscent of the vaulted roof of Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Yet the criss-crossing metal frame embracing the curtain wall is pure Zaha Hadid; it reaches skywards, framing three apertures that shape unusual voids and volumes within the hotel. Essentially two towers connected by sky bridges to either side of the openings on levels 21 and 30, the lobby boasts a 35m-high atrium flooded with natural light from the glazing above.
"This sculptural form has an intriguing, mysterious allure because it makes no reference to traditional architectural typologies," says Viviana Muscettola, Associate Director, Zaha Hadid Associates. "The proposed volume maximised the number of hotel rooms with external views, and created a series of special areas where bridges connected the circulation cores, which could be used for communal activities such as dining. The large volumes carved out of the atrium and in the swimming pool area at level 40 emphasise the constant game of 'solid and void' inside and outside the building. The underlying diagram thus comprises a pair of towers connected at ground and roof levels, with two intermediate bridges from which the three horizontal voids – or urban windows – can be observed and experienced viscerally at close quarters, looking out and also in through the external faces of facades. In loose counterpoint, the floor plates sit alongside large vertical internal spaces which tunnel through the height of the building lined with panoramic lifts."
On opposite sides of the lobby are a series of backlit pyramids making up an internal 40m-high facade, framed by the same aluminium cladding of the exterior skeleton. The glowing, jewel-like pyramids are echoed by a Pierre Hermé lounge at one end of the lobby. Constructed with a series of open aluminium triangles that frame a permeable space, the lounge is a play on the morphing of its surrounding geometric shapes.
"The lounge, requested by Lawrence personally, is like a matryoshka [Russian] doll – a smaller version of the larger volume," says Muscettola. "The lounge is enclosed without losing the overall effect of the atrium's volume. The pyramids vary from large to small scale."
The long reception desk and pyramidal wall behind it is composed of Chinese white marble, manufactured off site and installed in situ. The geometric white-marble floor pattern is another nod to the exterior's frame, while lift lobbies were clad in a transparent red glass to add warmth and colour to the space. "This was an intentional tribute to Chinese culture," Muscettola explains. "When viewed from the lift, the entire lobby space gets this fantastic hue of Chinese red."
On level 40, an outdoor swimming pool offers panoramic views of the city. Ensconced within the top of the exo-skeletal structure and dominated by the criss-crossing frame, the pool spans nearly the entire length of the floor. "We took cues from Zaha's architecture and played with 30° and 60°angles to make the pool area more cohesive with the building," notes Remedios. "The entire pool was enlarged and raised to fit the structure. Due to loading challenges on top of the building, we had to eliminate the trees I had planned." The sheltered end of the pool is outfitted with loungers set within the water, allowing guests to see and be seen while protected from the sun's rays. "The finishes include polished stainless steel, like you would find on a super-yacht," states Remedios.
For the guest rooms and suites, three pool villas and six duplex villas, Remedios wanted to explore the concept of hedonism rather than luxury. "The design is based on self-indulgence – the pursuit of pleasure," he explains. "I designed a furniture collection for Morpheus that reflects this philosophy." Duplex villas include lounges with an L-shaped sofa encircling a pair of mirrored hexagonal coffee tables above a black-and-white area rug reminiscent of Chinese landscapes. Mirrored ceilings framed with ref lective champagne, backlit open bookshelves and cove lighting together cast a subtle golden glow upon the room.
"Great design should be aspirational," Remedios believes. With the opening of Morpheus as the jewel in the City of Dreams crown, it appears this hope has been realised.