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Luxury Hotels

Top architect Norman Foster transforms Hong Kong’s colonial-era Murray Building into five-star hotel

Structure designed in late 1960s is being turned into a five-star hotel called The Murray, which will open later this year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 10:49am

The design of a new five-star hotel at the former Murray Building has involved world-famous architect Norman Foster and the original architect, who is now 90 years old.

Close to the Bank of China Tower, the US embassy and Hong Kong Park, the building used to house various government ­departments.

Duncan Palmer, managing director of The Murray, the new hotel, said it was important to ­engage the original architect, Ron Philips, who designed the building in the late 1960s for the colonial government.

The site and the building cost developer Wharf Holdings HK$4.4 billion in 2011. The firm then spent about HK$3.4 billion on developing the premises into the 336-room hotel, which will open later this year.

“I went down to [Philips’] apartment in Eastbourne [in England] to spend time with him to understand the DNA of his design thoughts,” Palmer said.

“He looked at the floor plans and made sure they translated well in terms of getting light into the bedrooms,” said Palmer, who has worked for the Mandarin ­Oriental Hotel Group and The ­Savoy in London. The Murray was positioned at the level of the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.

He said Philips offered his “ethos and spirit”, which have been adopted by project designer Foster and Partners, and Foster had playing an important role in the project.

“I think Foster, who was ­designing in the 1960s around the same time as Philips, has the empathy,” Palmer said. “He has had a hand in the overall design. You will see in the final product ... the furniture pieces, chairs, tables and iconic individual pieces.”

The Murray is part of the Conserving Central project, which aims to preserve what remains of the historic heart of the city.

The Murray is part of the ­Niccolo Group under Wharf Hotels, which owns Marco Polo Hotels and its three establishments in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Dr Jennifer Cronin, head of Marco Polo, is also president of Niccolo.

The Murray will add to the supply of premium rooms in Central. The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons opened in 2005, but the Hilton, Furama and Ritz-Carlton closed to make way for offices.

“Hong Kong has over 70,000 hotel rooms now and there will be about 95,000 in 2019, so there is plenty of supply,” Yiu Si-wing, lawmaker for the tourism sector, said.

“But since The Murray is right in the heart of the business ­district, I expect demand will be strong, especially from exhibition and convention visitors.”