On Top of the World
High up in the planet's tallest tower, Tony Chi brings quiet magnificence to the Park Hyatt Shanghai
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 6/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
How do you create an haute-luxury hotel in one of the newest skyscrapers in one of the flashiest districts of one of the world's busiest cities? You do it quietly. That's how Tonychi and Associates approached the interiors of the Park Hyatt Shanghai. "Our goal was to build silence," Tony Chi explains.
Soaring high above the light-bedazzled, ultramodern Pudong district, the 174-room hotel occupies the 79th through 93rd floors of the Shanghai World Financial Center—Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates's 101-story wedge of glass and steel that, until Skidmore, Owings & Merrill completes the Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, is the world's tallest building as measured by highest occupied floor. At first glance, there's nothing to suggest restraint. Yet Chi manipulated a spare palette of simple, rich materials to create hushed drama. "What we do is based on gestures and thoughts. Not how it looks but how it feels," he continues.
Among the first gestures one notices is Chi's play on scale. At ground level, a bamboo-lined driveway passes beneath an archway that's a head-craning 40 feet high. Next comes a succession of airy, decadently spare chambers where the ceiling height jumps from 43 feet down to 28, then to 11 and back up to 26. The effect is of compression and decompression, grandeur and intimacy, drawing on the indigenous tradition of courtyard houses. "I don't do 'Chinese architecture,'" Chi says, "but I'll do a contemporary hotel that reflects its location."
Subtly evoking the historic whitewashed canal towns near Shanghai, soft-glowing white plaster covers an entire wall in the ground-level approach sequence. Others are limestone, verre églomisé, or goatskin parchment. A contemporary watercolor depicts a nighttime view of the century-old mercantile landmarks on the Bund, directly across the Huangpu River. And this isn't even the hotel proper yet. Visitors enter an elevator lobby lined with horizontal bands of dark wood veneer—specially treated for a velvety feel—before being whisked up to the reception area on 87.
There, visitors are greeted by an oblong desk with a front of faux tortoiseshell. Behind and to the sides stand tall walnut armoires, closed at night but opened in the daytime to reveal mica-lined interiors. Through reception's windows beyond appears a glimpse of the top of SOM's Jin Mao Tower next door. "Framing the view, it's a Chinese thing," Chi quips.
Public spaces on this level flow seamlessly into one another, contributing to the residential feel. The tea salon is outfitted like a living room, with its chocolate-brown carpet, round black tables, and plush cream armchairs—accompanied by folding stools intended for resting handbags on. Overhead, an ethereal white lacquered ceiling seems to dissolve into the sky outside. "It's about reflectivity," Chi says.
When more than oolong tea and a lemon madeleine is required, the reception level offers two other dining options. (Not to be confused with the affiliated triplex restaurant higher up in the tower.) A café with red leather-upholstered barrel chairs and verre églomisé panels precedes the main restaurant, where high-backed chairs are covered in off-white cotton-linen, wall surfaces might be snowy lacquer or persimmon-orange shagreen, and ceiling tiles are silvered glass. Chi is clearly a master of texture, and the nearby bar reinforces the point: Recalling a gentlemen's smoking lounge, it's almost entirely wrapped—walls, ceiling, bar top—in leaf-green and tan leather.
Like several Park Hyatts, the Shanghai hotel is "upside down," meaning that the reception level is near the top. From there, a stair in blackwood and chrome leads directly down to the meeting level's multipurpose rooms. Set up rows of scholar's chairs, and a larger room is ready to host a conference; a smaller one becomes a private dining room with the addition of a round table. All eight are equipped with imposing 11-foot-tall service towers that once again help Chi express his interest in framing the view. Another level down, an 82-foot infinity pool was specially engineered so it wouldn't slosh with the building's natural sway.
The six lower levels are devoted to capacious guest rooms where Chi brought the same degree of refinement to bear. "The rooms are studies in contrast between natural wood and honed stone, blackened furniture and lacquer," he notes. Picture privacy-enhancing recessed entries, wood-veneered cabinetry, and bathtubs with infinity edges. Luxury reaches its peak expression in the sprawling suites on the 88th floor. Despite their grand scale—the ceiling is 16 feet—Chi dealt with these spaces in a characteristically understated way. "Many hotels are about more, more, more," he says. "Sometimes, there's a moment when you don't want more." Those are good and timely words to sleep on.
Photography by Michael Moran.
PROJECT TEAMJOHNNY MARSH; WILLIAM PALEY; NELSON BICOL; DAVID SINGER; NINAKO OKUYAMA; ARDEN LEE; LILIANA IVANOVSKA; JÖRN SIEBKE: TONYCHI AND ASSOCIATES. IRIE MIYAKE ARCHITECTS & ENGINEERS; SHANGHAI XIAN DI ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN (GROUP) CO.; EAST CHINA ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN & RESEARCH INSTITUTE CO.: ARCHITECTS OF RECORD. LOUEY/RUBINO DESIGN GROUP: GRAPHICS CONSULTANT. KOZO KEIKAKU ENGINEERING; LESLIE E. ROBERTSON ASSOCIATES: STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS. KENCHIKU SETSUBI SEKKEI KENKYUSHO: MEP. CHINA STATE CONSTRUCTION ENGINEERING CORPORATION: STONEWORK, METALWORK. DAHUA CONSTRUCTION & DECORATION CO.; SHANGHAI HAIHUA FURNITURE & DECORATION PROJECT CO.; SHANGHAI KANGYE CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING CO.: GENERAL CONTRACTORS.
FROM FRONT TANAHASHI CO.: CUSTOM WALL COVERING (WELCOME AREA). PERGAMENA: DESK FACE MATERIAL. TWIN FURNITURE: CUSTOM DESK (WELCOME AREA), CUSTOM TABLES (TEA SALON, RESTAURANT, MULTIPURPOSE ROOM), CUSTOM CHAIRS (MULTIPURPOSE ROOM). THROUGH STARBAY: FOLDING STOOLS (TEA SALON). TROSCAN DESIGN + FURNISHINGS: CHAIRS (TEA SALON, RESTAURANT, CAFÉ, TAI CHI AREA), DESK, ARMOIRES (RECEPTION). BLOOMSBURG CARPET INDUSTRIES: CARPET (TEA SALON, MULTIPURPOSE ROOM). SUZAN ETKIN ENTERPRISES: INGOTS (ELEVATOR LOBBY). THROUGH DUALOY LEATHER: RUG (SUITE), WALL COVERING (RESTAURANT). MINOTTI: SOFAS, LOUNGE CHAIR (SUITES). RICARDO LIGHTING CO.: CHANDELIER (MULTIPURPOSE ROOM), RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES, PENDANT FIXTURES. JANUS ET CIE: CHAISES (POOL AREA). HERMAN MILLER: TASK CHAIRS (SUITE). THROUGHOUT NEW WUFANG MARBLE: LIMESTONE FLOORING. WTP CORPORATION: VENEERS. NIPPON PAINT: PAINT.