Jestico + Whiles design first hotel carrying Starwood's Aloft brand in the UK
The brief was clear: design the best hotel for London's largest exhibition centre, ExCel, create a gateway to London's new International Conference Centre, and achieve a significant sustainable energy performance. 250 guestrooms were required including 12 suites, along with a bar, restaurant, lounge, snack bar, gym, pool, sauna, steam room, business centre and meeting rooms. ExCeL's parent company ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company) required a very high quality of finish throughout. Jestico + Whiles were appointed both as architects and interior designers. But the site was complex, constrained by a series of significant restrictions.
Situated close to the London City Airport it was subject to height restrictions on development. A major national service utility trench also ran underneath the site. The maintenance of a protected public pedestrian route across the site was required, the scheme also had to respect an east-west master planning axis linking ExCeL's main concourse to the Royals Business Park. The resulting ‘serpentine' layout cleverly addresses all these constraints and in so doing creates a real sense of place for the new entrance to the International Conference Centre.
The exhibition centre is planned with its main concourse at approximately six metres above ground level to link up with the exits from the Docklands Light Railway stations. Many hotel guests arrive by train at this upper level, but also at ground level by car or taxi. This split level approach was resolved by introducing a south facing piazza at the upper level, with a ground floor forecourt complete with a mirror polished porte-cochere, woven steel mesh water cascade and granite paved reflective pool (an extension of the internal leisure pool). An exciting sculptural oak clad spiral stair links the two entrances, investigating the space in an interesting way and providing a very enjoyable arrival for the guest.
The plan of the building has a convex central spine containing bedrooms and the vertical circulation, flanked by two concave wings which house further bedrooms and the horizontal circulation. This layout achieves shorter corridors, permits natural daylight to, and views from, the central lift lobby whilst accommodating a variety of room sizes to meet the Operator's varying requirements.