The Hong Kong-based hotel brand, Rosewood, finally opens a home-market property, aiming to set a new standard in luxury hospitality
“People today believe in visual clutter. When we were designing Rosewood Hong Kong, I spent a lot of time explaining where I thought the [Cheng] family's art could go and where it shouldn't. You can't put it just anywhere. Because this is [the Cheng] legacy, I did everything I could to represent all the generations and create a harmonious single." This is how interior designer Tony Chi of New York-based tonychi studio describes the guiding principle behind the new hotel, owned by New World Development (NWD) and helmed by Adrian Cheng. Described as a vertical estate, the 65-storey tower designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is the brand's flagship home-market property, its 26th, which rolls Hong Kong history and the Cheng family legacy into the city's newest luxury hotel.
Seven years in the making, Rosewood opened its doors in March.
Located at the new Victoria Dockside, an art-forward mixed-use project overlooking NWD's revitalised Avenue of Stars, the Rosewood Hong Kong has an enviable harbourside location at the tip of Tsim Sha Tsui, of which both KPF and Chi took advantage. Situated on the site of the former New World Centre (and before that Holt's Wharf), the hotel's overall design ethic marries the heritage of the location with its future. Its 413 rooms and suites, quartet of food and beverage outlets and nearly 3,200sqm (34,400sqf) of event space (an Asaya spa is forthcoming) all reflect the property's history as well as the Hong Kong clan that owns it."We crafted it as an estate," Chi says. "The driveway is important, the gardens are important, the family-curated [art] collection is important. Buildings often have no chance to sustain themselves through a new era. We built this with one purpose: it's an estate. It was never meant to be a hotel. So, what would the estate become if it were to become public? And how do I make a big hotel feel small."
Despite its size, the Rosewood does feel intimate. It exudes an understated tone that favours old-world elegance combined with Asian cultural accents and undertones, which also support Rosewood's signature ‘sense of place' philosophy. As with the Rosewood's London location, Chi exploited the details – though new this time – that would identify the property. In the repurposed insurance building in London, Chi opened up the main courtyard by eliminating a glass canopy that was "ugly as you can imagine. It looked like something from Flash Gordon." It made room for the classical door service that now gives the hotel a personality at first glance. "Can you imagine the British doorman leaning over with an umbrella for a car that just pulled up?" Chi asks. "Just the gesture? It's very elegant. But there are certain things I did there that I didn't do here. This building was ground up."As an estate, Chi had to incorporate three generations' tastes and attitudes into a coherent scheme, one that paid homage to NWD and Cheng patriarch, Cheng Yu-tung, and also recognised Henry Cheng and Rosewood Hotel Group chief executive Sonia Cheng's brand vision.
"How do I reflect that her father bought the land 40 years ago? He was a jeweller, so I incorporated a lot of patterns and small-scale intricacies, the jewel-like chandeliers. The clean wrought iron represents Sonia's more contemporary taste," explains Chi.
Rosewood Hong Kong's personality also begins outside, with its circular driveway and limestone facade and bronze door fixtures, continuing an estate-home atmosphere after stepping through the main doors. Art deco-patterned marble floors, detailed tiling, coconut wood, the recurring octagonal ba gua and eternal knot motifs on walls and ceilings blend East and West, and carefully placed art by British sculptor Henry Moore, painter Damien Hirst, modern American artist Joe Bradley, Indian artist Bharti Kerr, China's Wang Keping and Hongkonger Wilson Shieh enhance the old family home aesthetic. Gardens and terraces on multiple levels give off the feeling of hidden corners that only long-term residents would know about.The Rosewood event spaces are designed to function and respond in the same familiar, intimate way. The library-like gallery meeting spaces can be accessed through a hallway curated with artefacts from the other hotels, or by the grand corridor that recalls the 1920s (when Holt's Wharf would have been in full swing). The open kitchen within the meeting room recalls the kitchen of any home – usually its hub of activity and an intentional connection, according to Chi. Each event space is designed for its location: inside rooms are richly appointed with eye-catching light fixtures and textured wall coverings. Outside rooms are toned down so as not to fight the views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. "Interior design doesn't stop at the glass. It goes as far as the eye can see," Chi points out.
The Grand Ballroom also boasts its own entrance, directly from the main driveway, and via a curvilinear staircase in gleaming white stone, custom-designed for statement moments. "I don't care about Instagram. How people live in the space and how they build memories in that space is up to them," Chi says. Secondary private bars, lawns and meeting rooms outfitted with plush furnishings rather than standard conference interiors crown the homely tone.
I don't care about Instagram. How people live in the space and how they build memories in that space is up to them
Scaling down, Holt's Café, The Butterfly Room and DarkSide each reflect the tapestry of Hong Kong just outside in its unique way. Holt's, named for the wharf, spins traditional cha chaan teng dishes into fine dining in a turn-of-the-century international environment paying tribute to its past, stylistically bouncing off the brighter, modern all-day dining at The Butterfly Room. As the Rosewood's in-house lounge, DarkSide specialises in rare dark liquors from within its deep blue and woodaccented space, also recalling old-world colonial whisky bars.
The hotel's fine-dining restaurant, The Legacy House, was designed separately by Melbourne-based BAR Studio. Its seven private dining rooms are each designed to mark a landmark in the Cheng patriarch's life, from the year of his first development to a long connection to equestrian sport (also reflected in the executive lounge's wood and saddle-leather style). As the element most closely connected to the Cheng family, BAR was required to balance its history in Hong Kong, the brand's Sense of Place and its own design aesthetic. Director Stewart Robertson notes family lore and local heritage were integral for BAR as well.
"There's inspiration drawn from the idea of shophouses and the old family homes of Hong Kong — or of Dr Cheng's hometown of Shunde — where hospitality and family gatherings are the soul of the space," he says. The Legacy House is rooted in layering that re-engages diners with every visit, juxtaposing rustic and refined materials such as fine glass sculptural details with natural stone. Welcoming warm timber is used throughout, accented by custom glass fittings that reflect and refract light bouncing off the harbour depending on the time of day."The seven private dining rooms are accessed via a 'streetscape'-like corridor, and while the sunlit restaurant is generally relaxed and modern, the private dining areas feel more formal, classic and richly toned, ideal for a smart business lunch or spirited family gathering while soaking up the exceptional views," Robertson says. "The Legacy House [is] a contemplative study of place and history. The design resonates with a sense of nostalgia, but it is also strongly contemporary, it speaks to generations of the past and the future." Scaling down further still, it is on the guest-room floors where Rosewood's estate vibe shines brightest. Flattened elevator bays create wide guest-floor lobbies, or salons, where old-world living comes into play in spaces designed for use as semi-private salons.
The design resonates with a sense of nostalgia, but it is also strongly contemporary, it speaks to generations of the past and the future
"Function is important in design. The way people use the word is wrong," argues Chi, defending what many would call a waste of floor space: the guest floor elevator lobbies are enormous. Dark wood, low-focused lighting and tempting armchairs surrounded by cases containing more museum artefacts, essentially in the middle of the hallway, do indeed have a function. The salons provide a sophisticated respite from guestrooms, defined by contrasting textures (marble, hammered-copper basins, chequered wool) and individualised art, all in careful balance to the harbour views, available from most rooms.
"Rosewood Hong Kong sets bold new benchmarks for design, guest experience, cuisine and culture," Sonia Cheng remarked on the hotel's opening day. "Our ambition is to create a new world standard for ultra-luxury hospitality."