Tag Archives: architecture

Ozone, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Unless you’ve been reading censored news, you’ve probably heard about Ritz Carlton’s return to Hong Kong, and the crowning glory of the hotel is Ozone, the highest (and quite possibly one of the most stylish) bars in the world.

Ritz Carlton Hong KongThe Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has been pretty busy of late. After the 2008 closure of their elegant property in Central the group went silent for a while both here in the city and the region, but now they have returned with a palpable bang, as The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong and their latest properties have shown. Recently the brand has changed their positioning in the market slightly and a slight shift in their design philosophy and service evolution has emerged across their stunning portfolio (particularly in the newer properties). Up on the top floor of The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, Ozone is a testament to this fact, with the bar and light eatery boasting top-notch service and a conspicuously eye-goggling design scheme.

While the ICC is sadly not the highest building in the world, Ozone is, vertically speaking, the highest bar in the world – period. This alone is reason enough to visit the 118th floor venue, but thankfully this is not the only incentive, with the stunning views complemented by top-quality drinks and food, fine service, plus a stunning interior. The interior design was overseen by Masamichi Katayama and his self-owned company Wonderwall Inc., a design company with a difference that has an incredible catalog of exclusive interiors which includes impressive store spaces designed for Bape, Uniqlo and I.T, plus a Tokyo restaurant interior for Harrods, a Parisian restaurant called Collette and more. Although Wonderwall Inc. is anything but typical, their typical atypical design style can be seen all over Ozone, with playful contemporary plastic features appearing alongside first-rate materials and creative atmosphere-building gilding. There is a distinct Alice-in-Wonderland vibe about the whole interior, which was created around the theme of an ‘Edenic Experiment’ – “a man-made environment of nature in an imaginary world,” as the designer overview states. In other words, blown-up inspirations of nature can be seen everywhere, from the dim neon color-changing forest-like entrance through to the beehive-resembling ceilings and marble-shaped bamboo.

Ozone-Ritz-Carlton-Hong-KongAfter being zoomed up to Ozone in an elevator which reaches ear-popping speeds of nine meters per second, one is greeted by an atmospheric entrance area, where layered mirror ceilings, curtain-shaped walls and rock-resembling floor patterns tease and tantalize one’s expectations before entry. Once inside one is greeted by an eccentric white pillar which resembles oversized stacked marshmallows and acts as a visual centerpiece. Further in the interchanging neon colors continue to shine out along the ceiling, where they are complemented by beehive-like ceilings, geometric shapes and flower petal patterns on the walls below. The beehive shapes run behind the bar as well where they take on a web-like appearance. Along from the main bar is a sushi bar, and things get taken down a notch here, where a whitewashed marble counter is matched by marble bamboo-shaped pillars behind. In the main dining area the hive ceiling continues, but globular bubble light fittings add a different touch here. Outside, in the semi-al fresco area where 12-foot walls of glass offer panoramas of the city, there is another bar, and this one takes on an iceberg appearance. Various bar tables correspond with the white ice theme while a few rattan seats and bar stools provide a nice place to admire the view from.

Of course all this perfection would not be complete without a good selection of food and drink, and luckily, Ozone does not disappoint in this area either. Covered with custom-made holograms, the menus contain wonders such as wines that hover around the $100’000 mark, custom-made cocktails and signature drinks, plus a fine selection of sushi, sashimi, tapas, tempura and caviar.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, July 2010
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Opening the Window – French Window, IFC

Making much better use of the space than the eatery that previously occupied the site is French Window, coming in as a grand addition to the Hong Kong fine dining scene up on the third floor of ifc Two in Central.

Like most things French, The French Window has an undeniable flair about it, with the interior bordering on art and the food quality coming close to perfection. However, while there is a touch of Frenchness about the interior and there is a French-inspired menu executed by Michelin-trained chef Mickael le Calvez, these are the Frenchiest elements of the restaurant, with the restaurant managed instead by the un-French Miramar Group; the concept helmed by Singapore’s Justin Quek; and the interior having been actually overseen by local design prodigies from AB Concept. Nevertheless, the French theme is still apparent throughout, with the interior loosely (and beautifully) modelled around a classical French château, and a erudite selection of predominantly old-world wines available to complement the food.

As a a rising star and modern prodigy of French cuisine, chef Mickael le Calvez does his best to create a nouveau Gallic menu, but the real star of this eatery is the designer Ed Ng, the founder and director of AB Concepts. 
Created with his award-winning design team from AB Concept, the modishly nostalgic interior perfectly complements chef Mickael’s modern takes on French traditional cuisine – which sees thin tender cuts of lamb placed within a crispy tunnel of fried potato in one dish, and features a tantalizing combination of foie gras and beef carpaccio in another. In much the same way, the designers have also used a similar tapestry of styles and techniques in the design of the restaurant interior, with modern textures and colours effortlessly merging alongside purposely aged mirrors and gorgeous oversized hand-beaten wrought-iron light fixtures, inspired by Parisian street lamps. Alongside the antiquated mirrors there are also textured stone tiles and patterned glass screens, which resemble French windows (which are, by dictionary definition, tall glazed casement window panels). It is this kind of meticulous attention to detail that got the restaurant shortlisted for the UK-based Restaurant and Bar Design Awards in the International Restaurant category.

While these words will not be able to do the interior justice, an attempt must be made here, but do keep in mind that The French Window really is the kind of place that has to be seen to be properly experienced. Walking in from the blinding retail haven of the ifc mall outside is like going down Alice’s rabbit hole and entering another dimension, with the long entrance passageway bearing a resemblance to a French promenade (only indoors). Lush vertical garden panels and atmospheric lighting fixtures lead one down into the space of the restaurant, which emerges as some kind of château or salon, with a subtle homelike ambience permeating the space. This homey vibe comes across through the use of cosy fittings such as the soft carpeting, the mosaic floor tiles and the warm dashes of wood. Nevertheless, this homeyness is counterbalanced with a smattering of modish elements, which crop up in the form of the tantalizingly large wine cellar, the uplifting views of Victoria Harbour seen through the massive windows and the refined palette of cool grey, cream, and taupe tones. When paired with chef Mickael’s ambrosially delectable menu, this interior makes perfect sense and the aesthetic beauty of the environment is further enhanced by the food. Together, it is elements like these that give The French Window its class and finesse – this is an eatery to make Hong Kong proud.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, May 2010

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Game-changing – Mamoz, Causeway Bay

Situated atop the newly opened Cubus building on 1 Hoi Ping Road in Causeway Bay is Mamoz, the latest dining hotspot that is bringing class to the shopping district.

While mainly known as a shopping area, Causeway Bay has always had a lack of up-scale decent bars and lounges. Sure, it always had karaoke bars and cafés but, apart from a couple of outlets that are few and far between, the district has been deficient in classy lounge venues. However that has been slowly changing over the last few years and Mamoz is a testament to that fact.

Designed to impress from the moment of entry, Mamoz takes class and chicness to a whole new level, with the two-floor 5,000 square-foot space featuring an impeccable design scheme from end-to-end. These design features include plush black marble floors, an eight-meter-long bar counter carved from a single piece of lacquered Indonesian timber, beautiful patterned damask leather walls and ceilings, unisex bathrooms lined with burgundy and gold mosaic tiles, plus a vertiginous section of glass floor on the landing of the connecting staircase.

The interior decoration was overseen by the team from Gettys Hong Kong (a firm that is most known for their luxurious work with hotels, resorts and casinos who worked on the Hard Rock Hotel in Macau and the Peninsula Hotel in New York), and they really pulled out all the stops, with classiness and luxe into overdrive throughout. As soon as one exits the elevator on the 27 floor, sculpted wall panels and metal partitions greet one in foyer, where subdued lighting enhances the atmosphere further. One past the foyer, the attention-getting space of the bar immediately grabs the eyes, with more subdued lights working alongside Tetris block-shaped metallic bar stools and subtly retro table lamps and paintings. One is also immediately drawn to the large floor-to-ceiling windows which not only bring natural light into the interior, but also provide dramatic views over Hong Kong. Other highlights on this floor include the slightly oriental chandeliers on the corner tables, the pirate wheel-like chandelier in the private area, plus leather-covered seating and glistening cushions. After scaling the frosted stairs to the second floor, the second floor is just as dramatic with more light oriental decorative motifs, more atmospheric lighting and of course, the main feature glass flooring as well.

While the design certainly makes a visit to this place worthwhile, there is also a top quality selection of drinks on offer with some decent food offerings as well. These include liquid concoctions thought up by expert mixologists and a wine list conjured up by local sommeliers.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, June 2011

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Boutique Restoration – The Waterhouse, Shanghai

Proving once again that Shanghai has a better idea of heritage preservation than Hong Kong, The Waterhouse is another boutique design-led commercial restoration project that has rocked the economic powerhouse in the mainland.

As the pride and joy of Shanghai, the Bund has always played an important role in the city, and held a special place in the heart’s of residents. Back in the day the riverside strip was home to trading firms and financial houses, and further along there were factories and working houses. Now, all those places have long-gone, and as gentrification sets in, many of the interesting Art Deco edifices are being done up and converted into unique commercial projects. The Waterhouse is precisely one of these and, as the most recent and possibly most attractive addition to the area, the boutique hotel is already turning heads.

Designed within a restored 1930s Waterhouse, this boutique hotel project was destined to stand out from the start. Much of the original Art Deco appeal has been retained, and the internal and external spaces stylishly merge together with designer furnishings throughout. Looking onto the public areas of the hotel is a bit disorientating, but the guest rooms all have adjustable shutters faced with mirrors. There are 19 rooms in total, and these have each been designed differently, but collectively together all still ooze the same rustic designed chic. With designer furnishings clashing with rustic bare walls, dated fixtures and copious amounts of space, there is a distinct sense of minimalism – the kind commonly found on the pages of Wallpaper Magazine.

The hotel was designed by the Shanghai-based Neri & Hu design firm, and they choose to keep many of the original fixtures, with bare walls cropping up alongside dated oxidized fixtures. The hotel is also home to one of the largest authentic collection of designer furniture in any hotel inChina, with the management and designers having thoughtfully selected works by leading designers and legends such as Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, Antonio Citterio and more.

Of course, a designer hotel would be nothing without some tempting dining options, and these come in the form of Table No. 1, The Roof and the Lounge, which together form quite the alliance. While the formal European restaurant Table No. 1 boasts a sleek and simplistic interior, with select glimpses into hotel rooms and onto the street; The Roof and the Lounge are more informal, with the Lounge coming complete with a fireplace and books, and the wooden-decked rooftop bar providing stunning views of the Huangpu River.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, August 2010

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Architecture Supplement – Building Blocks of the Future

Hong Kong has always been an architectural hub, with some of the best talent in Asia and the world, and, today, its architecture industry is alive and vigorously kicking.

“With its mixed international pool of architects and proficiency gathered over time, the Hong Kong architecture industry is perfectly set up as a hub to serve the region,” says Dominic Lam, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA).

“In fact, more than 50 per cent of Hong Kong architects end up working on projects outside Hong Kong,” he adds.

The CEO of architecture global giant Aedas, David Roberts, shares the same sentiment, describing Hong Kong as a “strategically-placed business destination”.

“The proximity to Southeast Asia is important,” he says. “A lot of clients [from there] look to Hong Kong professionals to provide provisional services for their projects. Hong Kong has a huge advantage in terms of its geographical location.”

However, this regional market is dwarfed by business in China, which has surged two-fold in the past few years. “The workload from mainland China has been increasing, and 60 per cent of the work in our Hong Kong office is from the mainland,” says Roberts.

“Ten years ago, this would have been only about 10 per cent and, looking ahead, the 60 per cent might become 70 per cent soon,” he adds.

This is felt throughout other practices in Hong Kong, too. Kenneth Lui, a director with the P&T Group, even points out that increasing mainland work is putting pressure on local and international architects to learn Putonghua.

“One of the most important things for an architect in Hong Kong now is language – even locals need to learn Putonghua,” he says. “One must also be willing to travel and to work on the mainland.”

Lucy Richardson, managing director of Bespoke Hong Kong, is seeing the same trends at her local architect and designer recruitment firm. “At the moment, 80 to 90 per cent of candidates we place are Chinese, and this is mainly because of the language factor,” she says. “We are finding it more and more difficult to place international architects because they don’t have the language skills.”

Candidates need to know more than just Putonghua though, as Richardson points out. “Those who are most in demand are the locals who have trained overseas, who have had experiences with international practices and are returning home to the mainland or Hong Kong,” says Richardson.

“Although graduates are of interest, the Chinese market is looking for broad-minded architects who have done two to 10 years in a practice overseas, and have come back with understanding, training and experience.”

Richardson also points out that while there are some strong candidates coming out of local schools, Hong Kong-educated students are slightly weaker than their international counterparts.

“I think that the brief set in universities here is a bit basic, and does not really get people thinking – it is a lot more challenging at Australian, British and American universities,” Richardson says.

P&T Group principal designer Remo Riva agrees, adding that creativity is somewhat disregarded in Hong Kong.

“At universities here, they teach that management skills are very important and creativity is more a by-product because it is not so needed or expected,” Riva says. “Even at the University of Hong Kong, the emphasis is not so much on teaching or on creativity, but about training for management skills.”

Creativity is also lacking in the field, where developers dominate and tough regulations restrict architects. “Basically, to be approved, the architecture has to work around and within the regulations and demands of developers, which reduces creativity. In other places, you look at buildings and you can see the developers are more open,” says Lui, of P&T Group.

He adds that developers are also snapping up talent, which means that local demand for architects remains strong.

Nevertheless, HKIA’s Lam says that the architectural scene is healthier than it has ever been, and fresh graduates can expect to start at a competitive monthly rate of HK$30,000 minimum, which is the highest that entry-level salaries have been in the sector.

Roberts of Aedas has the same positive viewpoint. “Hong Kong has been able to grow domestic talent through the universities and educational establishments here, while also attracting international talent, even as markets are quiet in places like New York and London,” he says.

“We have some of the best infrastructure, and investment is continuous with strong all-round optimism and energy levels. This is certainly the place to be right now,” Roberts adds.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, March 2012

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A Cut Above – The HarbourView Place Presidential Suite

Taking luxury further once more, the leading Sun Hung Kai Properties have set the new benchmark for hedonism with this exquisite Presidential Suite, located in the stunning development of The HarbourView Place that just opened last year.

Located next to the third tallest building in the world and above one of the most luxurious shopping malls in Hong Kong, The HarbourView Place is worlds apart from your average serviced accommodation – and not just in terms of elevation.

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Fashionable Gastronomy – Armani/Aqua & Armani/Privé

As the fine-looking end product of a fruitful collaboration between luxury gods Armani and the arbiters of restaurant taste, the Aqua Restaurant Group, this restaurant was set to be a hit before construction work even began.

If the Greek legend King Midas was a corporation he would most likely be the Giorgio Armani Group, that ubiquitous oh-so-familiar fashion and luxury goods company that needs no introduction. Pretty much any project that gets the Armani seal of approval is bound to be a success in some way or another these days, and this even counts in areas outside of their domain – with their young yet successful collection of restaurants being a perfect case in point. As a fairly new venture for the company their thriving restaurants all boast the Armani signature lushness, with three gourmet restaurants at the Armani Hotel in Dubai plus a flourishing Armani and NOBU venture. They also recently and fittingly moved into bars, with three Armani/Privé’s located in Milan, Tokyo and Dubai, plus the recently-closed Armani Bar in Hong Kong, which was doing well even up to its close.

Not being ones to stand still, Armani have again taken things a step further and, following in the footsteps of the previously closed Armani Bar, they have just launched a new restaurant concept in the heart of the Hong Kong city centre as well – a massive 14,000 square-foot combined bar and restaurant called Armani/Aqua and Armani/Privé. The new innovative luxury restaurant concept is the result of a partnership between Armani and Aqua Restaurant Group, and their could be no better pairing, with the designer David Yeo behind Aqua being a man with flair and finesse, much like Giorgio Armani. In fact, as one of the main masterminds behind the ultra-stylish Hullett House, Aqua and the Michelin-starred Hutong, much of the phenomenal success of the Aqua Restaurant Group can be attributed to David Yeo alone.

Upon entering Armani/Aqua and Armani/Privé it is clear to see Armani made the right choice for a partner, as David Yeo’s design magic has been successfully conjured up again. Much like the atmospheric interiors of restaurants Aqua and Hutong, subdued romantic moody lighting runs throughout, complementing a dramatic design scheme that catches the eyes from the get-go. A fine polished Italian veneer greets one at the entrance and a plush red carpet leads one into the restaurant. Further in a the dynamic design continues where a long black and orange carpet ushers one into the restaurant, which stands out with arches on either side and mirrors behind – a surreal train station resembling space. Inside in the main dining one is greeted by a lava amber bar, which stands out with its light oriental motifs. Behind this more blood reds crop up in the dining area where they are complemented by cozy booths and an abundance of natural stone, wood, glass and steel.

The other main area of the restaurant is Armani/Privé which has more of a club vibe. As the fourth Armani/Privé in the world Armani wanted things to be a bit different and so the space is split into two main parts – an up-beat lounge and a 5,000 square-foot rooftop terrace which offers skyscraping city views reminiscent of a scene from Blade Runner. Inside chic sleek blacks are matched by lush velvet chairs, while outside wooden decking, rattan furnishing and candlelit containers create a romantic yet futuristic mood.

Of course, they do not disappoint in the food arena as well, with an extensive menu that boasts a wide selection of Italian and Japanese fare. While their Italian cuisine focuses on simple, traditional techniques incorporating influences from the different regions of Italy, their Japanese dishes are more experimental, with beautifully fresh ingredients matched by elegant and innovative presentations. This is one powerhouse that deserves to be visited at least once.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, November 2010

Dramatic Designs – The Great Hill

Idiosyncratic decorations and distinctive materials give this home an aura of prestigiousness.

This is another luxurious design project from the high-class realms of The Great Hill residential complex in Sha Tin. At 4,380 square-feet, the entire stand-alone house is seeped in distinction, with slick licks of style emerging throughout. The interior design was overseen by Jason Lee of J’s Design House and he successfully merged interesting materials, innovative light fixtures, neoclassical chic and plenty of natural touches to give this home the refined appeal it now has.

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