The recently-launched citizenM Hotel on London’s Southbank is the pop art pinnacle of affordable luxury – a business hotel that offers all the basics, but in a candy-coloured wrapping.
Rebellion is writ large on every wall of this hotel. Cheeky teasers (“death to the trouser press”) preceded the July 2012 launch of the citizenM Hotel in London. Located on the famed Southbank of the Thames, the hotel attempts to become an irreverent symbol of the new art and the old industrial ethos of the area it is in.
The facade of the building is a six-storey high design that looks like stacked up giant Lego boxes, but are actually stone panels with glass encasings, giving it a refreshing and transparent look. A smart brickwork pattern winks at the warehouse days of this now artsy and touristy corner of London, while a huge commissioned artwork by celebrated artist Mark Titchner on its face serves to establish the hotel’s love for the contemporary.
Two wooden box doors at the entrance points to this building – one leads to the main foyer, while the other opens up to the cafe. Throughout both the sections, there is a brilliant interplay of colour and smart accessories, furniture items, and utilitarian goods.
The whole building is composed of two six-storey high structures, with a naturally illuminated courtyard with a wooden decking cleaving them into halves.
A series of suspended lamps give the open ceiling here a street-fest like feel, with red chairs and wooden tree benches inviting coffee lovers and beer buffs alike. A 25 meter long art work by the collective, Assume Vivid Astro Focus (AVAF), curtains the whole area.
The interiors of the hotel have achieved a marvellous equilibrium between cookie-cut perfection which is de rigueur at business hotels, and intrepid splashes of colour that have come to define any spot with hipster leanings.
The citizenM hotel aims to be the preferred haunt of the “mobile citizen”, and it wants to do it by cutting out all extra baggage and formalities – from the check-in counter to the cafe, self-service rules the roost here.
If combining business-like seriousness and free-spiritedness seemed like a near impossible arrangement to attain so far, citizenM has taken up the challenge with gusto, with rainbow-tinted glasses to boot.
The entrance to the main foyer isn’t even christened a foyer – the lower floor here is split into multiple ‘living rooms’. A spectacularly simple wooden helical staircase grabs all attention with the first step in. The whole space has deftly made sure that in the theatricality of all the colours and unconventional props, enough attention has been paid to the rudimentary requirements of the harried business traveller.
From the point go, the place asks you to get used to things of distinct character being peppered around – so what if they are just cushioned chairs or book cases? The main entrance faces a large book case arch which stocks up on the latest inspiration in art, design and more; while also around is a shop that ensures one doesn’t miss out on any daily essentials.
The layout ensures enough walking space for guests, but the floor space is occupied in a way that in spite of no real jarring divisions, the living rooms retain their individual bubbles. The renegade Vitra furniture pieces stick to no theme and help create the effect of a palatial home owned by well-travelled eccentrics.
An esoteric selection of lamps brings the alternating glazed and wooden flooring alive throughout the expansive seating spread. The cabinets hold in them books and artefacts, and one of the living rooms ensconced here has the casual seating arrangement of low couches, hard bodied chairs and wooden desks – it is a place to read, relax and converse.
A spectacular lamp detailing uplifts this space, with pristine white Modernica lamp shades of various bends hovering benignly over the sitting cove. Another such living room conjures up a more intimate set-up, with a mostly red and black colour tonal restraint, and a fire place for company. A lounge area sits next to the bar and is dominated by a mixed up Union Jack carpet, and cushions sporting the national flag. Another adjoining space houses long tables perfect for business meetings over a cuppa, while four Macs hold court on a nearby table at all times.
The red, wooden, granite-topped bar, with curvaceous glass vases forming its crown, is the centre point of the cafe, accessible from the other wooden box entrance. Here, non-staying guests can indulge in convivial sessions, with fresh bakery-style food aiding the fun. All self-service of course!
The colour-awash lower floor can be left behind for the more muted societyM business area on the first level, connected by the helical stairway. Here too, book cases dominate the furniture layout, but the hue scheme favours the less distracting whites and beiges. There are seven such ‘creating’ rooms, all decked up well with the usual audio-visual aids, and the unusual black board walls for notes.
All the dramatic ingenuity of the first two levels can easily make the rooms, 192 in total, look rather basic, but the core idea of saving unwanted overheads and making the most of every inch is embodied in here too.
A wall-length window looks over the super-king size bed, which has a drawer in its belly, and offers a stuffed animal named Marvin-For Serious Conversations (designed by Gewoon) to hug. The shower and the toilet area crowd one section of the room, while the washbasin, vanity and mirror face it separately. RGB LED-strings in the ceiling enable guests to change the colour of the room to ‘romantic’, ‘business’, et al.
The citizenM hotels espouse the idea that simple and clean living and eating facilities are all that the people with “wide eyes and big hearts” need while travelling. The Netherlands-based Concrete has decided to achieve this with an almost child-like celebration of colours, and avant-garde shapes, but with a well-meaning attention to convenience intact. With three more hotels planned in London, this brand of amalgamation is only set to spread. Warhol will be glad.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architect