Arch revival: Foster + Partners reimagines a 1960s Hong Kong landmark

Arch revival: Foster + Partners reimagines a 1960s Hong Kong landmark

Few locations in Hong Kong better capture the spirit of modernism than the Murray Building. Built by British architect Ron Phillips, the 27-storey tower opened in 1969 as a government office. Soaring, unadorned arches at ground level and a gleaming white façade lent it a handsome, almost austere, appearance, while recessed windows and the concrete fins that separated them kept out the sweltering heat, and made the building a pioneer in sustainability.

As such, it remained a widely admired landmark long after a concrete jungle sprouted in its vicinity. And once the government moved on to newer digs in 2011, it became a ripe opportunity for redevelopment. Enter local hospitality group Wharf Hotels, which acquired the building and enlisted Foster + Partners to transform it into  first-rate accommodation.

Named the Murray, the new hotel has opened to much fanfare, its 336 rooms and suites some of the most spacious in the city. The famous recessed windows have been enlarged, opening up views of Hong Kong Park and its adjacent zoological gardens, as well as neighbouring skyscrapers such as the HSBC Building, also by Foster + Partners. Inside, richly textured furnishings in understated tones, and bathrooms in black and white Calacatta marble, are a vision of relaxed refinement. The pared-back aesthetic continues through the well-appointed gym, indoor pool and five spa suites.

Eager for guests to ‘rediscover the romance of going to a hotel’, Foster + Partners devoted special attention to the arrival experience, creating a forecourt around a majestic old cotton tree (carefully sustained through the hotel’s construction), and a generously proportioned, sunlit lobby featuring a chandelier-like charcoal work by Korean artist Seon-ghi Bahk. A grand staircase leads guests to the garden level, home to a lush terrace and two restaurants – the smart European Tai Pan, and the more laidback Garden Lounge, which offers both dim sum and French patisserie.

The next few months will see more dining options open. Occupying its own glass pavilion will be a branch of Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Guo Fu Lou, with interiors by André Fu and an expansive terrace. And the rooftop restaurant and bar, serving cocktails and international tapas, will be the perfect spot to rub shoulders with Hong Kong’s movers and shakers, while drinking in the spectacular skyline.