ISSUE 4  |  Chinese New Year

Beautiful Ruin: The Waterhouse in Shanghai

January 29, 2014 8:00 PM

BY Margot Guralnick

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As editor of Travel + Leisure magazine, Nancy Novogrod seems to be eternally leaving for or returning from Asia (I know this because I had the pleasure of working for her at T + L for 14 years). So, of course, when we were scouting for projects in China, I gave her a call. Formerly the editor of House & Garden, she’s always on the lookout for arresting design and immediately pointed us to the work of Shanghai architecture firm Neri & Hu Design and Research Office. This is what we found:

Photographs via Neri & Hu, unless noted.

Above: The Waterhouse at South Bund hotel is housed in a former Japanese army headquarters located in the Cool Docks, the city’s revitalized and very happening old port. Photograph by Pedro Pegenaute.

Above: Neri & Hu preserved the three-story 1930s concrete structure while inserting a new floor and roof deck of Cor-Ten steel.

Above: The towering lobby presents a striking combination of the crumbling and the contemporary. The long window above the reception desk supplies a glimpse into a guest room. Neri & Hu explain that their design introduces “a blurring and inversion of the interior and exterior, as well as between public and private realms, creating a disorienting yet refreshing spatial experience.”

Above: A white chandelier floats in the space lending a note of ghostly grandeur. 

Above: There are 19 guests rooms, each with minimalist furniture that lets the views dominate. In this example, the floor, bed, and viewing platform are all made of the same pale wood.

Above: Frameless windows are one of the structure’s signature design elements. This one offers bathers the full sweep of the city, from ancient rooftops to sparkling skyline. Photograph by Tuomas Uusheimo via Arch Daily.

Above: An ode to an old Italian courtyard? Neri & Hu inserted shuttered windows in the center of the building which overlooks the Huangpo River. Photograph by Derryck Menere via Dezeen.

Above: A new version of the ensuite bathroom: a glass bathing chamber that divides bedroom from bath.

Above: The hotel’s restaurant, Table No. 1—singled out by Travel + Leisure as the best restaurant in Shanghai in 2011—has communal tables of unfinished wood. The space is made intimate by a wood ceiling and gray-washed brick floor, while a wall of windows floods the room with light.

Above: No design detail was overlooked, down to the rustic pencil selection.  

Above: Views of the Huangpo River from the rooftop cocktail bar. The architects’ choice of brown steel is a salute to the setting’s industrial past as a dockyard. For additional information and reservations, go to The Waterhouse at South Bund.

For more of Neri & Hu’s work, see today’s post Strange but True: Tapas in Shanghai. And if you like the idea of a concrete chic hotel, have a look at The Line in LA’s Koreatown.