Arrival at the Londoner with Yabu Pushelberg • Hotel Designs
With the UK premier of Top Gun Maverick taking place just 100 yards from his doorstep that evening, there has arguably not been a more appropriate time to check in for the latest groundbreaking offering (in all meaning of the term) of Edwardian Hotels London, The Londoner.
The glamor and excitement outside of Leicester Square is fully reflected in the space that greets the guest as they walk through the hotel’s doors – something that was always the intention of its designers at Yabu Pushelberg , who describe the entire project as “an ode to performance art”.
This remarkable, one-of-a-kind super-boutique hotel — 16 stories tall (and deep) and with a staggering 350 rooms — manages to be both spectacular and cocooning at the same time, thanks to thoughtful zoning, exquisite works of carefully curated art and a rich yet understated color palette using – of course – the finest materials. I caught up with the Yabu Pushelberg team, as well as George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg themselves, to find out how they managed to create individuality and intimacy, but on such a breathtaking scale, in this project. unique.
Anna Lambert: Tell me about the team involved in creating the design of The Londoner…
Yabou Pushelberg: We are a highly collaborative practice, so although the core team was from our New York studio, the entire project team spanned our two offices and also drew on the expertise of all of our specialist teams: in lighting, in fashion design, in industrial design, in textiles. The core interiors team is around 10-12 people, but considering all the other hands that have touched the project, it’s a bigger number. For us, this way of working is really exciting and is at the heart of our practice. All of these varied perspectives and areas of expertise really shine through in the final design. It’s extremely textured and thoughtful. No detail has been spared.
“The one financial risk of this business really tied us all together.” – Yabou Pushelberg.
AL: Can you tell me about the budget, and the particular design challenges that the site posed?
PC: We can’t talk about budget for confidentiality reasons, of course, but many factors create an exceptional project. Our client took a risk on this project, digging many levels underground – and in the heart of London! – in order to accommodate an expanded accreditation offer [multiple restaurants and lounges, a rooftop bar and underground spa with swimming pool and a vast ballroom are just some of those amenities]. The only financial risk of this endeavor really tied us all together. We were encouraged by their commitment. This is a new kind of luxury hotel for London and also a legacy project from Edwardian London Hotels. The client treated us as true partners in realizing this vision, so it was of the utmost importance that we deliver it.
AL How did you come up with the overall concept of the hotel?
George Yabu: The hotel was designed to play on Leicester Square’s roots as London’s historic theater district. We’ve created layers of programming in the sky and deep in the earth that emphasize that outgoing, seductive, and playful voice.
AL: That sense of playfulness, theatrics and generosity is evident from the start: on taping, you’re greeted by the sight of Andrew Rae’s giant metallic moonhead, benevolently floating above- above your head, and I also loved how the lobby bar is like a stage in itself, with the guests as ‘living theatre’. From this lobby to Bar 8 on the rooftop terrace at the top of its building, with its extraordinary sculptural rope installation, there is a tremendous energy to the place.
Glenn Pushelberg: The hotel is a tribute to performance, with each public space imbued with the persona of someone essential to bringing a production to life. For example, Whitcomb’s All-Day Dining Room is an ode to the screenwriter. Its poetic layered design gives the space a unique character and scenario, with specific decorative details, such as the abundant harvest table, introducing elements of whimsy and whimsy.
AL: I also liked the flexibility of Whitcomb’s as a space – there was a totally different vibe at breakfast, when those harvest tables you mention were loaded buffet style, than in the evening when the tables were reduced and the portraits and sculptures (especially the wire faces visible on the ceiling) came into their own. So there is so much to offer in terms of service and experience to a Londoner customer, but what is for YP the most important aspect of this type of project?
Glenn Pushelberg: It was very important to create an exuberant place, a joyful expression not only of its location but also of its cultural context. The history of London theater offers such rich material. We wanted to create an experience with thoughtful substance, transcending the moment through its design.
AL: And you certainly did. The residence, for me, sums up this sense of thoughtful design. Yes, it’s an intimate club-like space for hotel guests only – a place where they can relax, socialize, do business if they wish – but then, as part of it, you have the Y Bar, which is neutral by day, but with these amazing symbols and characters on the walls, it really becomes visible at night. Everything is stimulating without being too much. Even in large public spaces, this feeling of intimacy and originality is always present. What techniques did you use to ensure that, despite its scale, The Londoner still had that enveloping, intimate feel?
George Yabu: We divided the public spaces into several smaller interconnected spaces, giving each area individual personalities while creating connectivity through an overarching design narrative. We relied on seduction as a means of attracting visitors through the giant hotel. Through carefully curated view corridors, for example, there is a sense of veiling and unveiling, so that one can take in and absorb every detail. There’s a real sense of discovery as you wander through all the rooms – like quiet book chapters instead of a brief summary of the hotel’s overall narrative.
AL: Yes, and it’s the painstaking attention to detail that’s particularly impressive and leaves customers guessing what they’ll discover next…
Glenn Pushelberg: One of the things we cherish the most about the Londoner is the incredible layer of style we were able to apply to each space. Our decorative arts team touches on each of our projects, but the Londoner served as a unique canvas to fully explore our stylistic creativity. From custom gramophones in the club to playful oversized fruit slices carved into the colored stone of the spa, this final layer of style is what really brings every space to life with an exceptionally unique personality and afterward. [for the guest] a unique experience.
AL: And of course, in addition to the style, a lot of the vibe is achieved through your choice of color palette and materials – what was your main goal in selecting these?
George Yabu: Materiality was essential to give each space a distinctive energy. The club features bright yellows while the whiskey bar is completely wrapped in mirror, creating an intimate jewelry box of alcoholic treasures. The rooms adopt a neutral palette to invite rest and relaxation. They feature bespoke artwork that doubles as headboards and depicts nature scenes to enhance comfort and introduce a more personal touch to each private space.
AL: Yes, the look of the room I stayed in certainly couldn’t have been more relaxing – understated opulence meets supreme comfort, is how I would describe it. I appreciated the attention to detail – those handles on the cabinets that gave a nice “ting” when you touched them; the feeling that everything was beautifully finished. As a guest, the room was my space and mine alone, and as such it was special to me. You have a lot of space to choose from, I know, but which areas of The Londoner give you particular satisfaction and why?
George Yabu: The pool level is spectacular. It’s in one of the basement levels, but it looks like it’s above ground – magic! The presidential suite is one of the most original spaces in the hotel. It’s playful but still elegant and refined. You can really feel the theatrics of The Londoner here.
Glenn Pushelberg: I love the cocktail bar. The space is very small and intimate, entirely covered with wooden panels. Hidden inside the panels is a lighting effect that looks like graffiti. It’s crazy artistic…it doesn’t fit the mold and completely transforms from day to night. In my opinion, this is the best room in the hotel. As a general rule, all of Londoner’s food and drink spaces are quite special. There, the hidden whiskey room that George mentioned – I won’t tell you where it is – is well worth discovering. It has mirrored walls and plush green velvet. Really fun and unexpected.
AL: Yes! I found it: a discreet door that led to a glamorous, theatrical, unexpected sanctuary. And I guess that’s an expression that could be used to define The Londoner as a whole.
The arrival of the Londoner is much more than one more luxury hotel in the capital. Its meaningful design and effortless style have the power to shake up – even transform – the local neighborhood that has for years been considered a tourist trap.
> While you’re here, why not find out more about how The Londoner created a new dialogue between design and well-being, or a case study of how bathrooms were designed?
Main image credit: Yabu Pushelberg/Henry Bourne Images