ME London is situated in Marconi House, the original London home of BBC radio. The property has 157 guest rooms, including 16 suites and ultra-luxurious Suite ME, a two-storey penthouse located in the turret of the building. All have sumptuous bedding, bathrooms with spa-like rain showers and premium amenities, as well as access to the hotel’s integrated digital media hub.
The project is the first flagship hotel in which everything, from the shell of the building to the bathroom fittings, has been designed by Foster + Partners – the result is an elegant fusion of interior and exterior design that signals a new contemporary approach for London’s boutique hotels. Interestingly it is Foster + Partners’ first UK hotel.
The design seamlessly integrates the construction of a new 157-bed hotel with the restoration of the adjacent 1904 Marconi House, whose interior has been entirely restructured to accommodate 87 apartments. In the 1970s, the building’s facade underwent considerable alteration – the project involved reinstating the mansard roof in natural slate tiles, recreating the original dormer windows and restoring the masonry using carefully matched Portland stone.
The new hotel building corresponds in height, scale and materials to its neighbour. Its minimal detailing, simple, triangular oriel windows and Portland stone facade give a sense of cohesion, and the setback of the hotel’s upper level terraces follows the mansard roof of Marconi House.
Internally the windows can be screened by two layers of opaque glass sliding panels, rather than curtains, in keeping with the minimal, elegant design of the rooms.
The arrangement of functions establishes a natural hierarchy of privacy, which extends from the public spaces at street level to the guest terraces and roof garden at the very top of the building. Arriving guests pass through the ground floor
Marconi lounge, and ascend to the dedicated hotel lobby and champagne bar, the Atrium, on the first floor. The Atrium is a minimalistic but remarkable space housed within a nine-storey high pyramidal space, clad entirely in white marble with impressive light shows bringing the space to life.
The interior concept of the hotel fuses contemporary detailing with classical traditions, its dramatic monochrome palette a combination of rich textures and luxurious natural materials. The experience draws on the idea of yin and yang, as guests move from dark to light spaces – the crisp white bedrooms are reached by reflective black marble corridors, sculpted by the angled walls of the central pyramid.
The hotel offers a variety of room types and layouts, from rooms with private terraces on the upper two levels, to individual suites with large, separate marble bathrooms.
Suspended from the white leather walls of each room, there is a black lacquered cabinet, which incorporates a television and entertainment system, back-lit onyx shelves and mini bar. Discreet lighting and services are seamlessly integrated, including the FLO table light by Foster + Partners.
On the top floor, the hotel’s rooftop terrace Radio is an urban oasis, with a sky bar with spectacular views of the river and Westminster skyline. The light, white interior of the bar creates a relaxed environment and draws the focus outside, while onyx wall detailing and a bold black counter continue the hotel’s interior themes. Further guest facilities are located directly beneath the central atrium at lower ground level and include versatile conference suites and a well-equipped gym.
The interiors fuse contemporary detailing and classic traditions, with a dramatic monochrome palette, as guests move from dark to light spaces. Exceptional dining is located within the hotel including Radio roof top bar, offering a breath-taking panoramic view of London; STK steakhouse and grill which is celebrated for its lively vibe; Cucina Asellina for a contemporary take on rustic Italian food and the Marconi Lounge, an ideal meeting place, open all day.
David Nelson, head of design, senior partner, Foster + Partners, says: “The project represents a number of firsts for our practice – ME London is Foster + Partners’ first London hotel and the first for which we have designed everything, inside and out. We have also collaborated with STK, integrating their unique identity and service in all food and beverage locations.
“Our intention has been to make sure that the hotel will be a unique experience, efficient to run and appropriate to the level of service that ME London wishes to deliver. We put ourselves in the guests’ position to make sure that their experience would be exceptional – we extensively prototyped the rooms and made many changes to improve design and to stay within agreed budgets. The result combines a high level of functionality with a simple, refined aesthetic.”
Nigel Dancey, senior partner at Foster + Partners, says: “We took the city as our inspiration: the grand scale of Aldwych, the detailing of neighbouring Marconi House, the views over the West End from the roof, and drew on these to give ME London’s guests a unique experience of London. The site is right in the heart of Theatreland and has a fascinating history, most notably as the home of the Gaiety Theatre – we tried to recapture a little of the spirit and glamour of the stage.”
“Foster + Partners has an unusual approach in that we bring together architects, engineers, interior designers and a range of in-house teams from the earliest stages of a project to deliver a completely integrated design. The opportunity to define both the interior and exterior experience of ME London meant that we could focus on quality in every detail. The result is uncompromising.
“The design balances a contemporary interior with a more monumental, more outwardly traditional exterior – there are clues about what is happening behind the facade, but the full drama of the lobby and reception spaces is not revealed until you step inside.”
“The nine-storey atrium is the hotel’s elegant internal focus. Its pyramidal form follows the triangular footprint of the building – everything radiates from this core: the black marble corridors wrap around it; the rooms extend from the centre towards the street to take advantage of views; and the angled windows project outside, flooding the rooms with daylight and hinting at this underlying plan.”
Giles Robinson, partner, Foster + Partners: “By designing the hotel inside and out, down to the last detail, we were able to maintain a high level of quality and continuity. Inside, the bold black and white interior palette establishes a strong identity – we defined the individual character of each space through variations in tone, texture and scale. This commitment to quality throughout would not have been possible without the encouragement of our client and our shared goal to create an exceptional experience for guests.”
Completing the grand sweep of buildings that make up the 1920s crescent, ME London repairs the urban grain and restores a little lost glamour to the heart of the West End.