The harbourside property has unveiled sleek new guest rooms as part of a phased hotel revamp. Carolynne Dear spoke to chief designer, Peter Remedios, to find out more.
One of the new-look hotel rooms at Four Seasons Hong Kong.
What was the brief?
When we start on a project, we are rarely given a specific design brief. Clients come to Remedios Studio because they are looking for innovative ideas and our expertise to position hotels for success.
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong wanted to regain their position as one of Hong Kong’s top hotels. There’s been an increase in competition in the city recently, with several five-star deluxe properties opening over the last few years.
As we would be working on an operating hotel, rather than starting from scratch with a new construction, and would be inheriting existing constraints and having to mitigate noise and disruption, it was decided to carry out the renovation in three phases.
"We set out to create Four Seasons Hong Kong as a homecoming" - Peter Remedios, founder Remedios Studio.
How did the pandemic impact the project?
We actually started work back in 2017, but as we moved forward supply-chain issues most definitely began to affect the construction industry. In particular, border restrictions created real challenges.
What I found interesting was that the emerging sentiment of a post-Covid world married with our own design ethos. I’ve always been inspired by nature and the outside world. To be able to capture that in our work - perhaps through biophilic design (connecting occupants to the natural environment) using materials that are natural or feel organic - is important to give the end user a reassuring sense of serenity and security in these uncertain times.
What design challenges did you face?
Eighteen years ago, while I was based in the US, we worked on an interesting project in Hong Kong converting an office tower into what is now the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Central. With a lack of views, our design concept had to rely on some pretty avant-garde layouts built around providing natural light. We decided to move the bathroom to the window, for example, an innovative concept that had never been done before.
At the same time, Four Seasons Hotel Hong was being built on a spectacular piece of land right on the harbourfront and boasting the most spectacular views of any hotel in Hong Kong. Today we find ourselves on the other side of the fence but competing with other hotels with equally stunning views.
I love challenges, in this case working on a redesign rather than the luxury of a blank canvas to rival the best of what Hong Kong has to offer. In many respects, the competitive challenges we have faced with Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong remind me of our successes more than a decade ago at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
Where did you get your inspiration for this project?
At Remedios Studio, we do a lot of research before we start on any project as we approach each project in a very bespoke way. We eschew a standardised process as we consider the end-user first and foremost and curate a design that delivers an immersive experience inspired by the location or a specific theme, delivering it in a way that is consistent with the brand DNA. In the case of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, it’s about a timeless luxury experience.
I remember very many years ago as a young designer working on the Four Seasons New York where we were tasked with creating a landmark property, one that would not just rival but also withstand the test of time against all the very famous hotels in New York. The Four Seasons New York became a landmark hotel and is today still one of the luxury benchmarks in that city. With that in mind, and an intimate understanding of the brand, we set out to create a sense of approachable luxury with the unmistakable Four Seasons style to deliver an immersion of what is Hong Kong to the end-user.
Chinese style marries with modern aesthetics in Remedios' designs.
We set out to create a sense of approachable luxury and deliver an immersion of what Hong Kong is to the end-user. The ‘east meets west’ style is an oversimplified pastiche of what Hong Kong is; for me, it’s a city of contrasts, of old versus new, of traditional culture versus technologically advanced, of western versus Asian.
I was also inspired to create a hotel that embodies the people of Hong Kong. They are modern, tech savvy, stylish, sophisticated and well-travelled. But deep in their hearts, they hold the most traditional Chinese values.
We wanted to create a subtle Chinese aesthetic sensibility within a thoroughly modern design, showcasing a contrast of materials, tones and textures. This captures - in my mind - the design contrasts reflective of the spirit of Hong Kong.
You’ve worked with a number of hospitality groups. Do you have a key ‘look’ or is every project different?
We approach every project uniquely to create innovative and bespoke solutions, driven perhaps by its location or a unique theme. The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto comes to mind as a project with a strong sense of place. We dug deep into the culture and what Kyoto is all about and I came up with one word, ‘mysteriousness’. For me, Kyoto is a city of mystery. As we developed each and every element of the design, we asked ourselves if it felt mysterious. As a result, the hotel is much darker than one would usually expect to create that air of mystery and to immerse the end-user into the city’s thousand year old Heian culture.
By contrast, for the Morpheus in Macau, we set out to create a hotel not reflective of some other locale, the norm perhaps for casinos, but to create a hotel that is driven by an aspirational lifestyle, capturing our concept of ‘The art of Hedonism’. The interiors that we created feel like a super yacht.
We curate different designs for every project through choreographing real life experiences. I’m a very ‘hands-on’ design principal and relentlessly pursue a bespoke approach for all our projects to achieve my personal
goal of creating benchmark quality work.
Of all your hotel-based projects, do you have a favourite?
In recent years, the project that’s received the most attention is probably the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. It’s a project that is very dear to my heart as I have long considered myself to be quite knowledgeable about Japanese culture. I remember when I started on the project, the client said to me that they recognised that I understood Edo culture very well but maybe not Kyoto culture as much. I saw the project as an opportunity to learn more and to immerse myself further into the ancient culture of Japan. I’m proud to say we received the Virtuoso Award for the best hotel design worldwide in 2015 after it opened.
But perhaps the greatest accolade for me wasn’t the award, but the fact that most Japanese - including those who live around Kyoto - simply assumed that the hotel was created by a Japanese designer. They were very surprised when they found out that it was in fact designed by a foreigner; they found it hard to believe a non-native could understand their culture so well.
Has your time in Hong Kong affected your style or the way you work?
I’ve completed projects in many parts of the world from what was then my base in the US. I think where I am based is more a matter of being geographically convenient more than anything else. I have always been inspired by the places in which we carry out our projects and found the opportunity to immerse myself in those cultures to be both exciting and inspiring as well as a reminder of why I love what I do.
What do you hope guests feel when they enter a guest room at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong?
We set out to create Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong as a ‘homecoming’; when you walk into a room or suite at Four Seasons we want you to feel like you’re home. It’s a concept we’ve worked on in the last ten to 15 years, creating spaces where you can work but without it ever feeling like a workspace. As a traveller myself, after a hard day of meetings, the last thing I want to feel is that I’m sleeping at the office!
Bathroom detail inside a Grand Harbour View Suite.
And so there are no desks and no ergonomic desk chairs. In the rooms we design, we want you to be able to relax or work or eat from the sofa, the lounge chair or the table. To enjoy the luxury of multi-tasking and doing everything you need to do from wherever you want to do them.
Which design elements are you particularly pleased with?
We recognise that everyone will have a different take on a design. For some, the most memorable aspect might be the revolving daybed in the bedroom, from which you can eat breakfast or fire off a few emails as you rotate it towards the spectacular views or watch tv.
For others it might be a functional element like having adequate luggage benches; in most cases the suites can accommodate two suitcases.
Overall, a room should offer a plethora of design elements that will have different appeal to different people. In the deluxe suite we have created an amazing island bar almost three metres long that’s unprecedented in a hotel suite. There’s a very Zen piece of modern Chinese art behind this ‘mother of all bars’ that I particularly like and which is something of a signature element in all the rooms and suites at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.
You’ve worked in Hong Kong for a decade, will you be staying?
Fifteen years ago I was living in LA with plans to move to San Francisco. The city has a lot that parallels Hong Kong in my opinion, with a relatively compact urban district bordering an amazing harbour with water view homes in close proximity. I didn’t think of Hong Kong at all at that time. With the global financial crisis in 2008, the hospitality industry crashed with it and my plans changed. I looked at the bigger picture to identify where I should ideally be coming out of that recession and where things were happening the most. In 2010, Asia was definitely the place to be.
With that in mind, I set up a satellite office in Hong Kong and split my time between our US and Asian offices, eventually preferring to spend my time in Hong Kong as I found myself increasingly needing to be in Asia. Hong Kong is a world city and one of the most cosmopolitan and international cities in Asia. Covid has changed how we think of how we live and how we work and has made us ponder what’s most important in our lives. Who knows what the future will hold.
Being an optimist, I think I would want to be where things are the most alluring, both from an opportunity and personal standpoint.
This interview features in our Summer issue, out now.